The Desert of Paran or Wilderness of Paran (also sometimes spelled Pharan or Faran; מדבר פארן) is in the Sinai Peninsula 35 miles from Mount Sinai. The Paran Monatery in the Judean Desert was named after the Wilderness of Paran in Sinai. Obviously, the early Christian hermits were familiar with Jewish literature.
The Paran (Firan) Monastery at Ein Prat (Ein Fara)
The Greek-Orthodox Paran Monastery (Dir Farah) at Wadi Qelt was built by the monk St. Haritun (St. Chariton) in the fourth century CE and is the earliest of the Judean Desert monasteries. He dedicated the monastery to Makarius, then bishop of Jerusalem.
Legend says that he built the monastery on this spot became he was miraculously saved after being brought here by highway robbers who imprisoned him in a cave.
According to one legend, Haritun, a secluded hermit, was caught by band of robbers who left him imprisoned exactly here at his hermitage. One day after the brigands left him all tied up in this cave a viper snake entered it; It did not bite Haritun, and instead spilled its venom into one robbers’ bottle of wine. After the brigands returned from looting they drunk the wine and Haritun was saved. Haritun understood on the spot that he must build a monastery in the cave where he was imprisoned and saved from the brigands, and so he established there the Laura of Farah.
The monastery is surrounded by orchards, agricultural terraces and cisterns, as well as the remains of buildings that once housed pilgrims, revealing its importance on the ancient pilgrims’ route
The monastery was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 614 CE. The monastery was restored in the 19th century by the White Russian Church funded by donations of the Russian Czars. Part of it is built over the Byzantine monastery; some of the rooms and chapels are built around caves in which the first monks lived. At the heart of the monastery is the traditional tomb of Haritoun. The monastery is still intermittently inhabited.
Nahal Prat (WadiQelt) Nature Reserve
Ein Prat (Ein Fara) Nature Reserve is near Near Almon (Anatot). Ein Prat is a layer spring, constant year-round, with an average annual daily flow of approximately 1,500 cubic meters. Until 1970 it provided water to the eastern and northern neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Ein Prat (Ein Fara), the largest of the three most important perennial springs in the Prat stream, has given its name to the entire stream.
Nahal Prat features three different sites:
- Ein Prat (Wadi Fara): Long trail for expert hikers – from Ein Prat to EinMabua, 5-6 hours and requires pickup at the end of the trail. The eucalyptus grove was planted by the British in 1917.
- Ein Mabua (Ein Fawwar): Long trail for expert hikers from Ein Mabua to EinQelt, 5-6 hours and requires pickup at the end of the trail.
- Ein Qelt: Long trail for expert hikers from Ein Qelt to St. George, 4-5 hours, requires pickup at the end of the trail.
There are also short circular routes at Ein Prat and Ein Mabua.
- Summer – Sunday to Thursday and Saturday, 8 AM until 5 PM Fridays and holiday eves: 8 AM until 4 PM
- Winter – Sunday to Thursday and Saturday, 8 AM until 4 PM Fridays and holiday eves: 8 AM until 3 PM
- Ticket office closes one hour before listed closing times.
Admission: fee required
Wheelchair accessible: no
Restaurant, restrooms, gift shop and the offices of the Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority are located at Ein Prat. Until 1970 this building was used as a pumping facility for the water-pipe that supplied water to Jerusalem.