In 2002, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority established a 130-dunam national park in the area, known as Horvat Beit Itab – בית עיטאב – بيت عطاب – (Horvat Itab). The Hurva (ruins) is built on the foundations of a Crusader castle, built of beautiful hewn stones.
Horvat Beit ‘Itab is located c. 17 kilometers west of Jerusalem, near the settlements of Nes Harim and Bar Giora, on a hill 665 meters above sea level. The Crusader fortress overlooked the road from the Valley of Ella to Jerusalem and the Arab village of Beit ‘Itab, which was abandoned in 1948.
The Ruins of Horvat Beit Itab
The remains at the site include the ruins of a Crusader fortress, vaults, remnants of a wall and towers, tunnels, a columbarium and an olive press.
The Observation Deck
At the top of the Beit Itab Hurva (Hebrew for ruins), there is an observation deck on the Crusader Fortress, which offers one of the most beautiful views of the Jerusalem mountains. From here, you get a panoramic vista of the mountains of Hebron and Jerusalem, the lowlands and the coastal plain. This fortress was built by the Frankish Crusader knight Johaness Gothman during the period of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the middle of the 1100’s.
The Hidden Tunnel
There is also a building with a barrel vault ceiling, whose construction date has not been determined (it is probably part of the Crusader fortress). It is 15 meters long and approximately 4.5 meters high. It is likely that the Crusaders in the Levant did not feel secure even in their massive fortresses. At Beit Itaab they constructed a long underground escape tunnel.
Ein Hod Spring
At the foot of the Hurva, there is the Ein Hod spring surrounded by orchard trees. This spring is known as Ein Bet Itab, and in Arabic En Khod, which means Spring of the Water Trough, and it was the spring for the Byzantine, Crusader and Arab villages once here. An above ground shallow pool is evident. Underground is a reservoir from where a 40-meter tunnel leads to the source of the spring. Adjacent to the pool is a shaft to the underground reservoir, although this is now closed off by a metal grid.
Circular Hike of Horvat Beit Itab
Distance: 5½ km Time: About 2½ hours Type of hike: Circular
Difficulty: Easy walk along jeep trails and footpaths. The ascent to the crusader ruins is moderately steep.
Starting point: The parking lot by Bar Bahar. There are WC’s here, a cafe, dairy restaurant, information center, nature exhibits (in Hebrew), and picnic areas. The cafe is open Saturday and has no kashrut supervision.
|Starting Point||Nes Harim Parking lot|
|Ending Point||Nes Harim Parking lot|
|Suitable for Children||Yes|
|Trail Length||About 2 KM|
|Trail Duration||About 2 Hours|
|Address||Nes Harim, American Independence Park, Jerusalem Mountains|
Enter “Bar Bahar” into Waze and click on “Bar Bahar, Bar Giora, Israel
|Suitable for Children||Yes|
|Best season||All year long|
|Suitable for Picnics||Yes|
|Parking||Free of Charge|
Bayt ʿIṭāb – بيت عطاب)
Bayt Itab – בית עיטאב – بيت عطاب) was a Palestinian Arab village located in the Jerusalem Subdistrict. The village is believed to have been inhabited since biblical times. An ancient tunnel which led to the village spring is associated with story of Samson. Both during and after its incorporation into Crusader fiefdoms in the 12th century, its population was Arab. Sheikhs from the Lahham family clan, who were associated with the Qays tribo-political faction, ruled the village during Ottoman era. In the 19th century, this clan controlled 24 villages in the vicinity. The homes were built of stone. The local farmers cultivated cereals, fruit trees and olive groves and some engaged in livestock breeding.
After a military assault on Bayt ʿIṭāb by Israeli forces in October 1948, the village was depopulated and demolished. Many of the villagers had fled to refugee camps in the West Bank less than 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the village. In 1950, an Israeli moshav, Nes Harim, was established north of the built up portion of Bayt ‘Itab, on an adjacent peak.
Nes Harim (נֵס הָרִים), literally – Banner of the Mountains, is a moshav. The name derives from Isaiah, XVIII,3: “When a mountain banner is raised, you will see it.” The moshav was established in 1950 by immigrants and refugees from northern Iran (South Kurdistan) and Morocco, on the lands of the Arab village of Bayt ‘Itab, which had been depopulated in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence in Operation: Ha Har.