Walking from Har Tayyasim to Ein Tayyasim

Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.

Har Tayyasim

Har Tayyasim, whose summit is 795 meters above sea level, is a nature reserve in the very heart of the Jerusalem Hills. Near the large parking lot is a stone monument that commemorates Israeli Air Force pilots who fell in the Jerusalem Hills during Israel’s War of Independence. This site was chosen for the memorial because of an Israeli plane that crashed nearby during the War of Independence. Sections of the plane form part of the memorial at the site.

Today the site is a major monument to the memory of those who fell in the service of the Israeli Air Force. Their names are recorded on four-sided pillars in accordance with the dates on which they died. Each pillar stands in its own separate plaza, with a seat opposite for those who wish to sit and remember. Two audio facilities provide information about the site.

In the southwesterly section of the hill is a lookout point that provides a wonderful view of the meanderings of the Sorek River (Nahal Soreq) and the expanses of the Jerusalem Hills. From here we can identify sites such as HaMasrek Nature Reserve, Moshav Ramat Raziel, Moshav Nes Harim, Moshav Ora, Aminadav Forest, the Kennedy Memorial, Nahal Ketalav and Mount Giora, with the tomb of Sheikh Marzuk on its summit. Further away in the distance we can see the Gush Etzion communities, the villages of Husan and Batir, Mount Gilo and the town of Al-Khader. These vistas provide a veritable feast for the eyes.

At the top of Pilots’ Mountain is Khirbet al-Akrad (“The Kurd Ruins”) and to the south of the memorial a small scenic vantage point overlooks the Sorek River, the southern part of the Jerusalem Hills, the Hebron Hills and the Judean Foothills. As winter ends, in March and April, over ten varieties of orchid can be seen growing in the nature reserve. The most common are the early spider-orchid (Ophrys sphegodes), the three-toothed orchid (Neotinea tridentata), the butterfly orchid (Anacamptis papilionacea) and the pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).

On the northern flank of the mountain, close to the road that links Moshav Ramat Raziel to Kibbutz Tzuba, is an impressive grove of Greek strawberry trees (Arbutus andrachne), which are easily recognizable by their red trunks. The largest and most famous of them, which grows close to the paved plaza to the east of the aircraft memorial, has lost much of its vigor in recent years. Some of its branches have died, but as others have grown in their place the tree is still hanging on.

The story of the aircraft

In early May 1948, just a few days before the State of Israel was declared, Jewish forces attempted to break their way through to Jerusalem. To step up the pressure, a decision was taken to bomb Arab positions in the area of Beit Mahsir (today Beit Meir), which was situated on a bluff overlooking the highway. On May 9th a plane was sent to bomb the area, but unfavorable weather conditions prevented the crew from carrying out their mission. Another plane dispatched a few hours later was no more successful.

The following day another plane was sent up – a Norseman aircraft that had arrived from Italy only the previous week after having had a fuel leak repaired. This light plane, whose wings were made of wood, had barely landed after an eleven and a half hour flight from Italy to Israel’s Sde Dov airport before it was hastily prepared for its first mission: dropping supplies and ammunition to the beleaguered communities of Gush Etzion. The plane’s captain, Yariv Sheinbaum, was a former British Royal Air Force pilot, and his co-pilot was Daniel Buchstein, commander of Sde Dov Airport at the time. The other members of the crew were radio operator Shlomo Cohen and three men from the ordnance corps: Zvi Shusterman, Yitzhak Shakenowitz and Shlomo Rothstein.

When the plane reached the area of the Jerusalem Hills it sent a message that proved to be its last: all contact with it was subsequently lost and it disappeared among the mountaintops with all its crew.

No one knows why the plane crashed. There may have been a technical failure, or perhaps bad weather drove it to the ground. The “bomb” it carried was a barrel filled with two hundred kilograms of explosives; perhaps when it was dropped the plane went into a tailspin and tumbled into one of the hillsides.

In the heat of battle there was no time to search for the remains of the aircraft. Isser Halamish, the intelligence officer of the Palmach’s 6th Battalion, wrote that Ahmad Sameh Al-Khalidi, principal of the orphanage at Deir Amr (today Eitanim) told him that he had seen the plane crash near Saris (today’s Shoresh). With the help of this information the remains of the aircraft were found, and local residents led the searchers to the cave where they had placed the bodies of the dead airmen. The plane’s engine, which had survived almost intact, can be seen today at the memorial on Har Tayyasim.

Walking from Har Tayyasim to Ein Tayyasim

The summit of Har Tayyasim (795 meters above sea level) is famous for the wide variety of wild orchids that flower there in springtime. Good walkers can make their way on foot along a steep black-marked path one and a half kilometers long that leads from the top of the mountain to the Ein Tayyasim spring below. The path should not be attempted immediately after rain, as it becomes very slippery.

Our route begins at the monument on Har Tayyasim. From the once magnificent veteran Greek arbutus tree in the plaza behind the monument we make our way downhill through open woodland, walking for about 80 meters alongside a large water pipeline before we pass over the top of it and descend to a spot where there is a high tension cable. We are now on top of a protruding shelf that offers a magnificent view of the countryside. Below the shelf is a dirt track marked in blue, on the other side of which we find a very steep slope than we can descend only with the help of our hands. Further on, the slope becomes more moderate, and we can walk more easily among terraces and forest trees until we reach the spring. Because of the considerable difference in altitude (about 150 meters from Har Tayyasim to the path beside the spring) it is best to arrange to have a vehicle waiting to pick us up on the red-marked dirt road below Ein Tayyasim.

Ein Tayyasim

Ein Tayyasim is a small spring in Sataf Forest. It was originally known in Arabic as Ein al-Joz (“Nuts’ Spring”), because of the large walnut tree that grew beside it. It was also sometimes referred to as Al-Ein al-Jadida (“The New Spring”). Its Hebrew name is taken from the mountain below which it flows. The water emerges from a small cave into which a tunnel has been hewn in order to increase the area of the water-bearing layer and enhance the rate of flow. The tunnel ends in an arched opening faced with hewn stones.
The spring water collects in a small square pool slightly more than half a meter deep. In the past this water was used to irrigate agricultural terraces on the hillside, where the remains of a farm can still be seen and almond and lemon trees grow. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority has restored the site. It is possible to travel by private car from Ein Tayyasim to Nahal Refaim and come out on to the highway from Ein Kerem to Bar Giora (Route no. 386).

Camping overnight

Beside Ein Tayyasim KKL-JNF has provided an open area for use as an overnight campsite. It is situated beside the red-marked dirt road that leads from Kibbutz Tzuba to Ein Tayyasim, about 800 meters distant from the spring itself. The site has no facilities at all, as it is designed to allow campers to spend the night in natural surroundings without disturbing the local wildlife that depends on the waters of Ein Tayyasim. Please keep the area clean.