Neot Kedumim is a 650-acre “Biblical Landscape Reserve” in the Shefelah established by Ephraim and Hannah Hareuveni in 1924 with the aim of recreating agriculture in the Land of Israel as reflected in the Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, and other sources from the Jewish oral tradition. Because of erosion to bedrock over the centuries due to overgrazing, conflict and neglect and chopping down of trees, thousands of tons of topsoil had to be trucked in. Numerous trees and plants were planted.
This is a different type of walking experience than most other hikes. These are circular guided walks, and one stops periodically, often at shaded benches, to read about the agriculture of ancient times, the flora of the country, and how this country’s botany is reflected in Jewish sources. The paths are paved and suitable for a stroller and wheelchair.
Directions and starting point: Enter “Neot Kedumim” on Waves. Enter the grounds and make your way to the second parking lot on your left, which is the parking lot for the Visitor Center. Plan your walk and pay the entrance fee at the Visitor Center.
Admission: Times of admission are 9.00 am to 6.00 pm Sunday to Thursday with last admission at 4.00 pm and Friday and holiday eves 9.00 am to 4.00 pm with last admission at 1.00 pm. The gates are closed on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Children’s tricycles are permitted in the park. Cyclists can also use the paths, although they have to sign for their responsibility. However, entry may be restricted on holiday or other large events. Admission is 25 NIS for adults and 20 NIS for children and seniors. At Hanukkah and Chol Hamoed Sukkot and Passover admission is 40 NIS per person. Cold and hot drinks, ice cream and a few snacks can be bought at the Visitor Center. Group tours are offered throughout the year and include hands-on activities such as operating an olive press and tasting date honey. Their phone number is 08 977 0782. This is their website.
Public transport: Enter “Neot Kedumim” into Moovit. There is a bus stop by the park.
An olive press.
Do you find my website interesting and helpful?
Then you are sure to love my two new books "In and Around Jerusalem for Everyone - The Best Walks, Hikes and Outdoor Pools" and "The Struggle for Utopia - A History of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Messianism". Both books are available on Amazon and in Jerusalem bookstores. Click on each of the titles for information, reviews and purchase information.
There are now 2 trails (it used to be split into 4) - an orange trail and a purple trail. Both start from the back of the visitor center. A short distance from the beginning of the walk is a fork in the path with an orange or purple indicator.
The orange trail: This is just over 6 Km in length, takes about 2½ to 3 hours, and is almost entirely on paved paths. There are 22 stops to examine. This site is not intended to be done at a fast pace.
One of the first stops to visit are ruins dating from late 2nd Temple times and later – this includes the 1st century BCE to 2nd century CE, the Byzantine period (4th-7th century CE), when this village served as a hostel for Christian pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem, and the Muslim period. Sites include an olive press (see photo below), a family winepress (see photo below), cisterns and a mikvah. There are, of course, no shortage of ruins in Israel, but the ones here do provide a sense of the flow of history in a typical agricultural setting. A lot of interesting botanical information is also provided.
MAKING OLIVE OIL AND WINE IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
Olives and grapes were important crops in ancient Israel, especially in the Shefelah and mountains of Judea and Samaria, where they were grown on terraces or in the valleys.
Vines and olive trees are uniquely adapted to the climate of Israel in that they are able to survive the long rainless summers because of their extensive root systems. Dew is also a source of water. The numerous wine and olive presses found in Neot Kedumim attest to the fact that both olives and grapes were extensively grown in the Israelite and Byzantine periods. In the Israelite period, individual farmers and family groups made their own olive oil and wine, rather than taking their produce to a regional factory.
The first step in the production of olive oil was to grind the ripe olives into a paste using a grindstone. The flesh and stone of the olive were ground together, since the stones also contain oil. Most of the oil presses in ancient Israel had a single crushing stone and basin. Typically, the grinding stone was upright and connected to a handle turned by a human or animal. Over the centuries, the system became more sophisticated and screw mechanisms were used for crushing.
The paste was collected and placed in bags for the olive press (and bags have been placed by many of the olive presses for demonstration). Pressure was exerted on the bags by a wooden beam with weights at its end. This beam is called in Hebrew a "bad" (בד), and the olive press was therefore called a "beit bad" (בית בד) The first olive oil to issue from the press is “virgin” olive oil. When they were harvested, the olives would have been quite juicy and water would have been mixed together with the oil. However, this would separate within a few days and the oil would be scooped up.
Obtaining the juice from grapes uses a different process, since the grape seeds were not pressed because of their bitter taste. Therefore, the juice extraction was a gentler process, usually by foot on a flat service in a hewed-out area in the bedrock. In Byzantine wine presses the flat area was tiled. Channels that also acted as filters because of their size led the juice to fermentation areas that were also hewed into the bedrock, but at a lower level. The fermentation process was only begun here and the wine mixture was soon transferred to containers.
During the Roman and Byzantine eras, especially, there was considerable demand for wine for the Roman soldiers and this may partially account for the proliferation of wine presses throughout the country. Palestine was also known as an exporting country for wine. The strong wine produced was usually diluted with water.
Wine making structures.