Horvat Burgin at Adulam forest offers a short loop trail in which you will see archaeological remains and visit underground tunnels and caves. Let’s begin exploring!
- Do not forget to bring flashlights.
- Horvat Burgin is part of the Adulam Grove Nature Reserve. In this grove, you can also find Horvat Etri and Horvat Midras. Moreover, nearby you can visit Beit Guvrin National Park.
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Burgin Ruins are located not far from Beit Shemesh, close to Beit Guvrin National Park. There are many excellent trails in this area. And though it is about halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, meaning it is higher at the hills, it still gets boiling during summer. Thus either come early or better visit during Spring or Autumn.
To get there, enter “Horvat Burgin” into the navigation app.
Map of the area:
It is an easy trail to navigate through. We did not use any maps. I entered “Horvat Burgin” into Waze, and from the parking, we followed the green trail.
Here is the sign with the map that you can find at the parking:
Here is an interactive map from israelhiking.osm.org.il where these trails are marked:
And here are the details of these trails:
|Name||Color of the Trail on the Map above||Description||Distance (km)||Total climb and descent (meters)||Notes|
|Short Loop Trail||Red||Use the green trail to reach Horvat Burgin. Then take the red and blue trails to return to the parking.||1.9||86|
|Longer Loop Trail||Blue||Use the green trail to reach Horvat Burgin. Then take the blue trail to return to the parking.||2.2||104||In addition to what you see in the first trail, you will also visit a bell cave.|
You can visit at any time. Just make sure to finish before dark, as there is no illumination along the route (the trail takes about 1.5 hours at a slow pace).
On the basis of the fieldwork described here, we can estimate the size of the site at approximately 3 hectares. Human settlement began in Iron II (a few potsherds scattered throughout the site) and lasted until the Ottoman period. The exact extent of the settlement in each of the various periods has not been determined. The secondary use of stones and the continual settlement on the site have severely damaged earlier remains, but dozens of underground cavities carved out of the soft limestone, which served various purposes, have been preserved and allow us to reconstruct chapters in the history of the settlement. These cavities, and especially the elaborated burial complexes and the ossuaries, the hiding complexes, and the inscription in cursive Hebrew script suggest that H. Burgin was a large Jewish village from the Second Temple period through the Bar Kokhba revolt.
Various identifications have been offered for the Second Temple village on the site. Zissu has proposed identifying it with Kefar Bish, mentioned by Josephus and Talmudic sources.
Given the identification of Kaphethra, which Josephus described as the first village conquered and destroyed during this campaign in the Judean Shephelah, with the ruins of the Second Temple Jewish settlement at Horvat Etri, about 1.5 km north of our site, it has been proposed that Horvat Burgin is Kefar Bish, mentioned as the next place conquered by the legion as it advanced towards Hebron in the Judean Hills. Kefar Bish also appears in Talmudic legends of the destruction as a large village. In the past, scholars have suggested identifying it with Kh. al-Biss, which is approximately 2.5 km from Horvat Burgin. From our visits to Kh. al-Biss we concluded that it was too small (no more than 0.3ha) to have been a large and fortified village. Instead, we believe that the name Biss was transferred from the site now known as Horvat Burgin to the adjacent ruin and preserved in the form Kh. al-Biss. We suggest that the Arab name of the site, Umm Burj (i.e., the mother of the fortresses), preserves the memory of the strong fortifications that protected the village during the Jewish War, as mentioned by Josephus.
We may conjecture that the Jewish village existed here until the Bar Kokhba Revolt was destroyed and abandoned after its failure —like many other contemporary sites. This was the case at other Judean sites excavated in the last years.
The decorated lamps found in Cave C, the arcosolia caves with reliefs bearing classical motifs, and the jar handle with a Latin inscription indicate that the site was once again inhabited during the third and fourth centuries. This time the residents seem to have been pagans, originally from the western part of the empire or veteran legionaries, who received land in the chora of the city of Eleutheropolis.
During the Byzantine age, there was a Christian settlement of unknown size at the site, attested to by the Christian burial site (Cave B) and the crosses carved into the walls of other caves. It is possible that a public building was erected at the site – a church or monastery, as suggested by the ornamental architectural elements, including lintels, bases of columns and parts of a cornice, fragments of a marble screen, broken roof-tiles, and colored mosaic stones, incorporated in the houses of the ottoman-period settlement or scattered over the site. Excavations were undertaken in 2012 on the eastern slope of the site, under the direction of Peter Gendelman, Alon Klein, and Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed vestiges of two superimposed churches from the Byzantine period. The results of the new excavations will be published elsewhere.
The inscriptions in Georgian script from the Fatimid and Crusader period on the walls of cistern G are evidence that Georgian monks used it as a hermitage. This suggests the existence of a monastic community at or nearby the site during this period.
Short Loop Trail
From the parking lot, we followed the green trail towards Horvat Burgin.
Most of the path has no shade, thus do not forget water and sunscreen.
After about ten minutes, we reached point #1 (marked on the map above), Arak Khan. There we saw the remains of a building from the Ottoman period.
You will see other remains on your way, and then in the distance, you will see Horvat Burgin.
Also, you will pass through the eastern necropolis and see several caves. The cave on the column (marked as #2 on the map above), a Christian burial cave from the Byzantine period, is probably the most famous.
Cave #3 is a burial cave from the Second Temple period.
We took the red trail to the center of the complex. There we saw the remains of a Byzantine church (marked as #8 on the map above). Moreover, in the church, you can see the remains of a mosaic floor.
And near the church, you can find the main entrance to hiding caves (marked as #9 on the map above). Here is a map of the hiding caves with the entrances and exits.
Children love exploring the hiding caves, but as I mentioned above, do not forget to bring flashlights.
After exploring the complex, we continued downhill with the blue trail towards the parking.
The last thing that we saw was a winepress (marked as #10 on the map above).
The short loop trail at Horvat Burgin took us about 1.5 hours. It is a wonderful route that both kids and adults love. And our whole extended family enjoyed this visit.
Have you visited Horvat Burgin? Tell us in the comment below about your experience.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
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.