If we want to visit the Sorek Cave, Israel’s most beautiful stalactite cave, we must turn left at the junction. After visiting the cave, we’ll return to the junction by the same route, then turn left along the dirt road that will take us to Forester’s Hill (Har Ya‘aran), the highest point in the park. From here we have a magnificent view of the area: the Judean Plain and the southern Coastal Plain to the west, Sorek River and the Jerusalem Hills to the north and Mount Hebron to the east. A natural footpath provides a route around the top of the hill, and it is here that KKL-JNF has situated its firewatchers’ lookout (please don’t try to climb the tower!).
Here, at the top of the hill, an explanatory sign describes the battle sites in the region, while the many remains scattered around are reminders of the Arab Village Deir al-Hawa, which was occupied in the 1948 Hill Campaign. At the height of Israel’s War of Independence, until Succoth 1948, the area south of the railway line from Jerusalem to Hartov station was “the other side of the border.” At this stage in the fighting, the Egyptian army had reached Ramat Rachel at the southern approach to Jerusalem, and the “shared fortified height” (i.e., “shared” by the Jewish Harel Brigade in the north and Egyptian forces in the south) where the town of Beit Shemesh stands today. During the Hill Campaign, which took place on October 19th-22nd, 1948, the IDF extended its control into the area across the Sorek River and the railway line all the way to Sansan Ridge, to the south of the highway from the Ela Valley to Bethlehem (Route no. 375). This, in effect, completed the creation of the Jerusalem Corridor.
The remains of the village and remnants of a more ancient settlement from the Byzantine period have been restored by young volunteers from overseas who have been working here for a number of years.
From the top of Mount Ya'alah we can descend on foot, following the footpath marked with a broken green line, which joins up later with another footpath marked in black that allows us to enjoy the wonderful meanderings of Sorek River gully – a three-hour route for experienced walkers. We can climb up to the ruins at Khirbet Tura and visit Dar al-Sheikh. Our route concludes at the KKL-JNF Bar BaHar Information Bureau.
As we walk along, we can observe the railway line that was first laid here in 1880s, and which is undergoing improvements and upgrades in preparation for its return to service.