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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ein Lavan: A Wonderland within the Jerusalem Municipality©

 Written by Vardah Littmann    Photos by Rimonah Traub

                 With the almond trees blossoming and the sun shining, it’s a sapphire blue, clear day in Shvat for our hike in Emek B’Lavan, better known as Ein Lavan. This beautiful valley opposite Kiryat Menachem is located in one of the suburbs of West Jerusalem, nearby to the Hadassah Ein Keren Hospital. Containing the river-head of Nahal Sifan, Ein Lavan derives its name from the fact that the numerous almond trees blooming here turn the whole valley into a sea of white.  
                  The trail through Ein Lavan starts up at an ancient wine press at the top of the hill. This press dates back to the time of the First Temple. It’s believed that wine was produced here for the libations in the Beis HaMikdash at the time of King Chizkiyahu. That would make this winery almost 2,700 years old.
                   At the beginning of the hike and the descent into the valley, man-made stone terraces crown the top part of the slope. These terraces were built by the ancient farmers every 15 or so feet. Between the large, carefully placed rocks that form the terraces, different types of plants and flowers grow, from herbs to daises and mustard.
                  About one third the way down the hill, the terraces peter off, and we follow a dirt trail that leads to a stand of beautiful almond trees. The ground around their trunks is covered in deep drifts of their fallen blossoms. The scent of the gentle pink flowered almond trees mingles with that of the freshly stepped on grass. Further down when the ground levels off in the valley, we discover a cave with its entrance covered in iron bars.
                    Not far away is a splendid natural flower arrangement put together by The Master Florist with the pink crowns of cyclamens complimented by the grey-brown bark of the trees. The arrangement includes large emerald callah leaves and curly light lemon-green clover.  Nearby are a number of pools of water resulting from the natural springs in the area.
                     We begin our walk back to our waiting bus parked below the Biblical Zoo. On either side, pink and white bellflowers grow among the mustard plants that reach almost to our shoulders. We see more almond trees perched above the rocks that flank our path. And we notice that we’re sharing this little piece of Gan Eden with a little purple/turquoise headed bird.
Published in 'The English Update' 27 January 2011

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