One of the elements that makes the Israel National Trail such an attractive hiking option is the flexibility that it provides for hikers looking to try a short day hike at any part of the country. One such section of the trail that just you can’t miss out on takes you from Sataf to Yad Kennedy, near Aminadav. This beautiful hike through the Jerusalem-area mountains passes by several springs and old villages, as well as many beautiful wooded areas. It’s of medium difficulty, and is a great hike for the whole family. Yad Kennedy, the hike’s end point, is a uniquely designed memorial built to commemorate President John F. Kennedy’s legacy in 1966, just a few short years after his assassination.
This hike starts right next to the Sataf Junction, and is, therefore, incredibly easy to access via public transportation and private vehicle alike. To get there by bus, take the 405 bus to Mahlaf Har’el in Mevaseret Tzion. From there, take the 183 to the Sataf Junction. At the roundabout, walk south for two minutes until you see the meeting point of a few trails. You’ll find a big map of Sataf and the many trails that pass through it. If you choose to get here by car, leave your vehicle at the parking lot right next to the Sataf starting point and make sure to leave a second car parked by Yad Kennedy.
Head out down on the Israel National Trail. You’ll first pass through the reconstructed Sataf village. Many old houses sit along the trail, along with a number of olive groves and cultivated plots. Sataf was an ancient mountain farming community that was abandoned in the 1948 War of Independence. As you walk through it, you’ll come across a number of streams and irrigation channels. Make sure to bring a flashlight/headlamp, as Sataf’s northernmost attraction, Sharkia Spring, is a small cave that allows visitors to crawl through a small shaft filled with low levels of water. You’ll see the remains of many old houses in the Sataf area, as well as big almond and olive trees that were once the source of income for many of the people who inhabited this area. The big spring that you’ll see nearby is not for swimming; however, you’ll have plenty of chances to swim later on in the hike!
The trail will take you down a long set of stairs. If you look out at the mountain across from you, you’ll see a number of buildings clumped together. This is the Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness, named for St. John the Baptist, who was born and raised in nearby Ein Kerem.
When you reach the parking lot down below, turn left to continue on with the Israel National Trail. You’ll now be walking in between Highway 386 and Nahal Soreq. After a few hundred meters, turn right to stay on the Israel National Trail (this turn is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, so be on the lookout for it!).
You’ll walk through a tunnel under Route 386 before arriving at an amazing tree graveyard, where several tall dead trees have become bridges, of sorts. This is a cool place to stop for pictures and/or a playground session.
Continue on your way before passing the ruins of Moshav Even Sapir on your left. You’ll then climb up Wadi Yoseph and get to a big dam that’s made of ashlar stones. This dam is what made it possible for the next spring (which you’ll reach in approximately 600 meters on your left) to exist. The spring is relatively unclean and is not well kept, so we wouldn’t recommend that you take a dip here. However, the surrounding area is lovely, so this is definitely a great spot to stop at for a coffee break.
Afterwards, continue on with the trail. You’ll climb up a number of terraces and start getting some great views of the towns nearby (as well as the obtrusively large Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem). The trail will eventually lead you to a main road. Cross the road and enter the parking lot. From the parking lot, continue south. The trail will eventually take you west with the green trail/Israel National Trail. You’ll pass several springs on this walk; hop in whenever you wish, enjoy the (cold) water, and take in the amazing mountain views. Stop anywhere along the edge of the cliffs for another coffee/snack break if you have time to spare and would like to fully take the views in!
The trail will take you through a bit of an incline in a shady pine forest with some springs along the side. Eventually, you’ll reach the ruins of Aminadav; check out the walls, broken columns and olive presses–they were all part of an old Byzantine farm!
Continue on the path until you reach a main road. To get to Yad Kennedy, turn left on the black route and follow it all the way until you reach the site (about a fifteen minute walk). The building itself, along with the views from the mountain peak on which it is set, make the extra walk more than worth it. Additionally, you’ll find some picnic benches by the memorial.
You can either take a bus to Jerusalem from Yad Kennedy or walk to Aminadav and catch a bus from there.
An alternative route option for those who only have one car could be to start at Yad Kennedy, head down the Israel National Trail’s Spring Route and turn around and head back whenever you’re about done.
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