Having lived nearby almost twenty years, I as sure that I had visited all the local attractions. We even made a family trip to the outlook at Hararit and picniced nearby. Somehow Mivdad Netofa escaped me. Last week I discoved a very mystic religious retreat. Mivdad Netofa – מבדד נטופה also know as Lavra Netofa (Laura Netofa) or The Netofa Retreat: A ten to fifteen minute walk away from Hararit, on a narrow dirt road on the edge of the village, there is an old looking stone structure, built from local stones, most of it constructed underground. The place is called Mivdad Netofa (Lavra Netofa or The Netofa Retreat), a monastery and church built in 1967 by two monks who believed that it is their duty to help the people of Israel and to take a part in its revived existence in its ancient homeland. They sought to live as Christian monks in Eretz Israel, the land of Israel.
The two monks were the Dutch Father Jacob Willebrands and the American Father Toma Farelly. They sought a place where they could settle and live in, and finally they found a rocky piece of land on top of Mt. Netofa. They bought the land in order to make it a retreat for Christian monks and worshippers. While preparing the land, they found a deep ancient water hole from the Byzantine area and decided to clear it and make it an underground chapel. They dug up other water holes for the purpose of collecting rain water for their use.
Later, additional structures were added – small huts as living quarters for the monks, another (above ground) church, a dining room, a library and a winery. When climbing down the spiral stairs deep into the cave chapel, the air becomes chilly and cool. During day time beautiful rays of light penetrate the church as the sun makes its way through the entrance way upstairs and fill the air with charming spiritual atmosphere. Down inside there is a small stone podium and three stone stairs that lead up to it, a podium from which prayers are lead daily.
Today a few monks and nuns live in Mivdad Netofa, most of them came from the Bet Jamal Monastery on the Judean Hills after the death of father Jacob Willebrands in 2005. In addition to them, it is not uncommon to find here volunteers from all over the world who participate in the daily maintenance works around the monastery and church and take part in the spiritual life here in return for a bed to sleep in and three meals a day.
Life in Mivdad Netofa is lived as close to nature as possible, with no running water or electricity in most living quarters. Spiritual and religious life is central to the monks’ daily existence and is made of daily prayers and readings of the bible. The people of the monastery welcome visitors of all religions and promote peaceful, harmonious existence and a sense of tolerance, modesty and peacefulness.