There is nothing quite like Passover in Israel. The winter has come to an end, and the whole country is green. The sun is shining, the weather is warm, and holiday spirit surrounds you. Evidence of the Passover is everywhere you turn – supermarkets have hidden all of their chametz (leavened food which is prohibited during Passover), restaurants have changed their menus, and many businesses are closed for the week-long holiday.
Israelis take this opportunity to head outdoors and explore their own backyards. Families pack up picnics with matzah sandwiches, and go on hikes and day trips across the country. Israel is very small, and one of its advantages is that nothing is too far away! No matter where you are located, the central heartland of Israel, the region of Yehuda V’Shomron (Judea and Samaria) is within your reach.
One very popular Passover day trip is Shiloh. You can opt to hike along Nahal Shiloh, through vineyards, olive groves, and natural pools. Rest at a pool, cool off, and recharge with a picnic, before continuing on to Ancient Shiloh.
The ancient city of Shiloh appears in Sefer Yehoshua (the Book of Joshua) as a holy city where the mishkan (tabernacle) was kept, and was the first Israelite capital city. Visitors from Israel and all over the world enjoy exploring the archaeological site and museum, taking guided tours, and watching 3,000 years of Jewish history come to life before their eyes. During Jewish holidays, the ancient city provides special programming. This Passover, the program included a farmers market, as well as actors dressed in Biblical Era garb.
Another amazing destination is En Prat, also known as Wadi Qelt. Located on the edge of Southern Samaria and the Northern Judean Desert, this gorgeous ravine offers a less busy alternative to the famous Ein Gedi hike. En Prat is actually the most important perennial spring of the Prat Stream, which is mentioned in Sefer Yirmiyahu (the Book of Jeremiah).
“And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying: ‘Take the girdle that thou hast gotten, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Perath, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.’ So I went, and hid it in Perath, as the Lord commanded me.” (Jeremiah 13:3-5)
Ein Prat, Israel Gantz
From the parking lot, visitors hike along pools and mini waterfalls, with several places to stop to have a picnic, bbq, or go for a swim. This Passover was especially warn, and the pools were full of hikers, cooling off and enjoying the weather. As you continue along the eastern side of the hike, you will enjoy the dramatic setting of towering cliffs and glistening pools.
During the hike, you can enjoy views of the nearby Chariton Monastery, the first Christian monastery in Israel. If you continue the hike to the end, you will reach the Greek Orthodox St. George’s Monastery.
The Schwartz family of New York visited Shvil HaMaayanot this Passover. It was an easy hike in the Female Bible Heroes Park, which was perfect for them and their toddler. The hike is easy, and it winds along five pools, named for Biblical characters. They said that although there were tons of families, it did not feel overly crowded. The holiday spirit was palpable as children froliced in the springs and families enjoyed their picnics in the warm sunshine.
Shvil HaMaayanot – The Spring Trail, Risi Adler
A hike that features gorgeous flowers, ancient artifacts, and spectacular views, take the circular hike from Mount Kochav to Vineyard Spring. This path is somewhat challenging, but definitely rewarding. Everyone agrees that the best part of the hike is the stunning panoramic view that includes Jerusalem, the Binyamin mountains, and stretches all the way to the Dead Sea and Jordan. Reward yourself at the end of the hike with your lunch and a dip in the spring.
There is no better way to get to know your country than by exploring its nature and history. Israelis embody this value, and head out at every chance they get. From the ancient Jewish sites of Shiloh, to the Fifth Century St. George’s monastery, explore Yehuda V’Shomron, Judea and Samaria, to travel through thousands of years of fascinating history, culture, and spectacular scenery.