Castel is an important heritage site. But before visiting it, you need to know several things. We will cover everything in this guide.
Table of Contents
Ein Hemed and Castel National Site are located within a ten-minute drive from each other, near road #1, and not far from Jerusalem.
Directions for drivers: Link to Waze and Link to Google Maps
Directions for public transport: Link to Moovit
Interactive map of the area:
- Hotels, hostels, and apartments in this area:
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Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8:00 – 17:00 (16:00 in winter).
Friday: 8:00 – 16:00 (15:00 in winter).
On holidays eves usually 8:00 – 13:00.
Note: since the pandemic, Israel Nature and Parks Authority has started to limit the number of people in each park. Thus, reservations are recommended through the official site (you can find the link below).
Adult 22 NIS, child 9 NIS, and student 19 NIS. Free for National Parks annual subscribers.
If you visit several National Parks, then consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in December 2022. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
The campground offers two lodging options: own tent or rental of a family camping tent with mattresses (suitable for a maximum of 4–5 people).
You can find all the basic facilities at the campsite, including showers, restrooms (and handicapped-accessible toilets), electrical outlets, drinking water faucets, picnic benches, campfire sites, and an outdoor kitchen.
For additional information and booking, visit the official site.
Castel National Heritage Site is a memorial site located on a hill 8 km west of Jerusalem.
The hill rising over Road 1 has become a symbol of the struggle to break through to Jerusalem during the War of Independence. Between trenches and bunkers, Castel Park is a hands-on memorial to one of the fascinating chapters of the war.
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were translated from the official site.
At Castel National Site
After a ten-minute drive from Ein Hemed, we reached the Castel National Heritage Site parking lot.
While we walked towards the cashiers, we saw several signs. One of them was a map of the surrounding area. Castel is on the far right, and two roads to Jerusalem (via Tzuba and Sha’ar Hagai, which is new road #1) go through Castel. Or, more precisely, beneath Castel. It makes it a strategic point.
And here, you can see the fighting spots of Palmach Harel’s division during the war of Independence. Orange means Arab settlement, and blue is Jewish settlement.
The cashier told us there were two movies. The first one shows this place’s history and importance, and the second is more about the battles themselves. She told me the latter was less appropriate for children, so we skipped it.
The first movie is just next to the cashiers. It is a ten-minute movie, and you activate it by pressing a button. There are two buttons, one for Hebrew and another for English.
Climbing the Hill
From that point, we started climbing to the top of the hill. We saw signs telling Castel’s history in chronological order on the way.
The first sign mentions the Crusader fortress Castellum Belvoir. This twelfth-century fortress guarded the road to Jerusalem. In 1187 it was conquered by Saladin. The fort was destroyed, and up till the War of Independence, there was an Arab village here.
On this trail, besides the historical signs, several spots also highlight critical human qualities. Qualities needed to take over Castel and allow passage of supply convoys to Jerusalem.
One of those qualities was determination.
Besides the main trail, there is also a scenic path. We did not take this path. While we were at Ein Hemed, it was nice and cool. But at Castel, there is no shade and no grass. Thus, though it was September, we felt the sun hitting us from both sides (skies and ground). Therefore we explored less and headed straight toward the top of the hill.
At The Top of the Hill
At the top of the hill, you can find a topographical map of the area and the description of Operation “Nahshon”.
Jerusalem was cut off. Bringing vital supplies using the “escort” method failed. Thus, David Ben Gurion decided to open the road to Jerusalem. For this purpose, a new brigade of 1500 soldiers, the Nahshon brigade, was created.
On the night of between 5 and 6 April 1948, the operation started. The operation captured six Arab villages for the first time in the War of Independence. And three convoys consisting of 335 vehicles brought supplies and arms to Jerusalem.
This spot is also an excellent lookout for the surroundings. For example, you can see Ein Kerem with The Hebrew University Ein Kerem Campus.
We decided to go down from the other side of the hill.
As you go down a little further, you can see the graves:
During our climb, we saw war trenches. My daughter asked to go to one of the trenches. Since we made our way up using the trail, we went down in one of the trenches.
As I mentioned, we skipped the second movie since it is inadequate for young children.
Castel is an important heritage site, and I do recommend visiting it. Just keep in mind there is no shade and no greenery. Thus, you would enjoy it more in cooler weather. Also, prepare some games/activities to make the visit more enjoyable for kids.
Our visit took about two hours, but according to the official site, the average tour takes three hours (maybe because we skipped the second movie and lookout path).
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For nearby attractions, browse the interactive map at the top or check Jerusalem.
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.