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Beit Itab National Park Nes Harim *

Bayt 'Itab Photo: Danny Lyulev

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.

Crusader ruins at Bayt Itab. ייחוס: צילום: אורן פלס, Oren Peles

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. 

Bayt ‘Itab Photo: יעקב

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. 

Trail TypeWalking
Starting PointNes Harim Parking lot
Ending PointNes Harim Parking lot
Difficulty LevelEasy
Suitable for ChildrenYes
Trail LengthAbout 2 KM
Trail DurationAbout 2 Hours
AddressNes Harim, American Independence Park, Jerusalem Mountains
Enter “Bar Bahar” into Waze and click on “Bar Bahar, Bar Giora, Israel
Opening Hours24/7
Suitable for ChildrenYes
Best seasonAll year long
Suitable for PicnicsYes
ParkingFree of Charge
Drinking waterAvailable

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.[citation needed] Both during and after its incorporation into Crusader fiefdoms in the 12th century, its population was ArabSheikhs 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.

An 1870s map of the area of Bayt ‘Itab from the PEF Survey of Palestine. Public Domain
A 1940s map of the area of Bayt ‘Itab from the Survey of Palestine. Public Domain

After a military assault on Bayt ʿIṭāb by Israeli forces in October 1948, the village was depopulated and demolished.[6] 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 moshavNes Harim, was established north of the built up portion of Bayt ‘Itab, on an adjacent peak.

Nes Harim

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.

Nes Harim Photo: idobi 

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