Ein Hemed and Castel National Sites – Full Guide


Today we are going for a half-day trip to Ein Hemed and Castel National Parks. Both of them as close to Jerusalem. Let’s begin!

Map

Ein Hemed and Castel National Parks are located within a ten-minute drive from each other, near road #1, and not far from Jerusalem.

The simplest way to reach these parks is by entering their name into Waze.

Map of the area:

Ein Hemed National Park

Opening Hours

Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Fridays: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
On holidays usually 8 – 13.

Entrance Fee

Adults 22 NIS, children 9 NIS, and students 19 NIS. And free for National Parks annual subscribers.

If you are going to 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 April 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.

Camping

I also wanted to mention, that there is a camping option at Ein Hemed National Park. And if you are interested you can find additional info here (only in Hebrew).

Basic Info

Ein Hemed National Park lies in the Nahal Kesalon riverbed. There are springs in the park, as well as remains of a 12th century Crusader castle. It is also known by its Latin name Aqua Bella.

Ein Hemed is not a big National Park. It takes only five-seven minutes to go from one end to another. And as you enter this park, you will see a lot of families with kids. The main reason is the characteristics of this park. There is a lot of greenery, water, shade, and a place for kids to run. Thus, many families come here for a picnic and relaxing time.

My last visit to Ein Hemed National Park was more than a decade ago. Back then, I did not have kids, and when traveling, my primary purpose was to see and learn new and exciting things. Thus, Ein Hemed did not impress me at all, and it took me more than a decade to return for another visit.

Stroll through Ein Hemed National Park

We arrived on a Saturday morning in September. September is usually already not too hot, but it is before the rainy season. Thus Ein Hemed Spring barely had any water.

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
Ein Hemed National Parks
Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
One of the ponds

Water in the pond was not clean, but there was another place where kids could splash in the water.

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel

The water route is almost completely dry.

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel

You rarely see autumn in Israel. Therefore when I saw these leaves I decided to make a small photo book for them 🙂

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel

The Crusader Farmhouse

We walked along the water canal and reached The Crusader Farmhouse.

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
The Crusader Farmhouse

This farmhouse was built during the Crusader period (1140 – 1160). It is one of the buildings constructed along the road to Jerusalem, and it was owned by members of the Hospitalier family.

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel

Look at the thickness of the walls:

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel

In the inner courtyard. The second, third … floors.

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel
Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel

We exited The Crusader Farmhouse and followed the sign (next to the bridge) to the lookout trail.

Ein Hemed National Parks, Israel

The lookout trail takes you a little into the mountain, but you do not see much because of the trees.

After about five minute walk, we returned to the parking (which is located near the entrance to Ein Hemed National Park). And since it was the time for brunch, we made a small picnic.

A note for those who like barbecue. While in most areas fire is not allowed, in some parts of this National Park fire is permitted. Just follow the signs.

Ein Hemed – Summary

Since that visit, we were at Ein Hemed once more. We were in Jerusalem for a half-day and had food with us. So we looked for a beautiful place for a picnic. And Ein Hemed was the perfect candidate.

That perfectly sums up Ein Hemed. It is a lovely shaded park, with water and grass area that allows kids to explore and have fun. Thus, it is the perfect place to have a family picnic in the Jerusalem area. Moreover, you can combine a visit to Ein Hemed with nearby attractions for a half-day or a full-day trip. That is what we did. After having brunch at Ein Hemed, we continued to Castel.

Castel National Heritage Site

Opening Hours

Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Fridays: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
On holidays usually 8 – 13.

Entrance Fee

Adults 22 NIS, children 9 NIS, and students 19 NIS. And free for National Parks annual subscribers.

If you are going to 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 April 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.

Basic Info

Castel National Heritage Site is a memorial site that is 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 Park

We left Ein Hemed and after ten minutes drive parked at Castel National Heritage Site.

Castel National Heritage Site

While we walked towards the cashiers, we saw several signs. One of them was a map of the surrounding area. Castel is on 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 fighting spots of Palmach Harel division during the war of Independence. Orange means Arab settlement, and blue is a Jewish settlement.

Castel National Heritage Site

The cashier told us there are two movies. The first one shows the history and the importance of this place, and the second is more about the battles themselves. She told me that the latter is less appropriate for children, so we skipped it.

Castel National Heritage Site
The first movie at Castel National Park

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.

Going Up

From that point, we started climbing to the top of the hill. On the way, we saw signs telling Castel’s history in chronological order.

Castel National Heritage Site

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, there are also several spots highlighting critical human qualities. Qualities that were needed to take over Castel and allow passage of supply convoys to Jerusalem.

Castel National Heritage Site

One of those qualities was determination.

Castel National Heritage Site, Israel

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 towards the top of the hill.

Castel National Parks, Israel

Surrounding settlements:

Castel National Parks, Israel

At The Top Of The Hill

Castel National Parks, Israel

At the top of the hill, you can find a topographical map of the area as well as the description of Operation “Nahshon”.

Castel National Heritage Site, Israel

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 of April 1948, the operation started. The operation ends with the capture of six Arab villages, for the first time in the War of Independence. And three convoys consisting of 335 vehicles bring supplies and arms to the city.

Castel National Heritage Site, Israel

This spot is also an excellent lookout of the surroundings. Here, for example, you can see Ein Kerem neighborhood with The Hebrew University Ein Kerem Campus.

At the top of the Castel National Heritage Site:

Castel National Heritage Site, Israel

Going Down

We decided to go down from the other side.

Castel National Parks, Israel

As you go down a little further you can see the graves:

Castel National Parks, Israel

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.

Castel National Heritage Site, Israel

As I mentioned before, we skipped the second movie since it is not adequate for young children.

Castel – Summary

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, to make it more enjoyable for kids, prepare some games/activities in advance.

Our visit took us 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!

Stay Tuned!

For nearby attractions browse the map at the top of this post, or check Jerusalem.

   

Additional Resources

Here are several resources that I created to help travelers: And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.  
Did not find what you were looking for? Email me at [email protected], and I will do my best to answer your questions.

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