Horvat Midras is a short circular trail with beautiful nature and significant archaeological remains, including a pyramid and caves. Let’s begin exploring!
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Midras Ruins are located not far from Beit Shemesh, close to Bet 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 Midras” into the navigation app.
Map of the area:
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 two hours at a slow pace).
It is an easy trail to navigate through. We did not use any maps. I entered “Midras Ruins” into Waze, and from the parking, we just followed signs like this one.
Here is an interactive map from israelhiking.osm.org.il where this trail is marked:
And here are the details of this trail:
|Name||Color of the Trail on the Map above||Description||Distance (km)||Total climb and descent (meters)||Notes|
|Short Round Trail||Blue||The standard round route starts with the blue trail and then switches to the green path, leading back.||1.6||94||You can also walk in the opposite direction.|
At the beginning of the trail, we started climbing on top of a hill. And here we are, looking back towards the parking, which is just behind the line of trees.
Most of the path has no shade, thus do not forget water and sunscreen.
As I mentioned, this is a circular route. We turned left to the hideout system at this sign and returned from the right trail, the columbarium.
Adulam Grove Nature Reserve
Horvat Midras is part of the Adulam Grove Nature Reserve. Adulam Grove Nature Reserve extends over 5,000 dunams.
Different species of animals inhabit this area, including mountain gazelles, striped hyenas, caracals, badgers, and chukars. There are also many songbirds in this area.
The reserve is covered with wildflowers in spring, like orchids, buttercups, anemones, and narcissus. Thus, spring is the best time for a visit.
We will see remains of the human settlement from the Second Temple period (third century BCE) along the route.
The Refugee Caves
It might not look like something big at a distance, but when you come closer, you will find a vast hidden space.
The refugee caves are a system of underground chambers connected by narrow crawl spaces. Dozens of these systems were discovered in the Judean area. Many archeologists believe these caves were created during the Bar Kokhva revolt (132-135 CE). Jewish rebels used the caves as hiding places from the Roman army.
You can take the stairs to the bottom of the cave, and in the left corner, you can see a hole. The hole is a small and short tunnel that most kids can enjoy. If you plan to crawl inside, then better bring a flashlight and consider shirts with long sleeves.
The tree in the refugee cave was home to a group of jackdaws, and here is one of them.
Here is the inside of the tunnel lit with a flashlight.
The refugee cave from inside:
Last photo from a short photo session with jackdaws 🙂
After exploring the cave for fifteen minutes, we continued up the hill towards the pyramid.
Small burial cave on our way:
As you can see, we are still following the trail with blue markings.
Spring is a good season for a visit. You can read about the weather and when it is best to visit Israel at Events And Festivals By Season.
Here are the flowers we saw on the way.
I saw this rock on the way. It looks like a milling stone from an oil press.
At the top of the hill, we found a small pyramid.
This structure built of dresses stone is the only one of its kind in Israel. The base is about ten meters long, and it is currently 3.5 meters high. The top three rows of stone, together with which the height was around five meters, are missing.
The pyramid is located in the ancient village’s cemetery at Midras Ruins and was probably a monument to people buried in the cave below it.
View from the top of the pyramid into the valley.
From the other side:
Following a ten-minute walk, we reached the remains of an old synagogue. Next to each point of interest, there is a sign (in three languages) with a short description. Like this one:
The wall of the beautiful dressed stone suggests it is a public building. And the big rock next to the structure might have been part of a niche for the menorah and Torah scroll. The slot and the closeness to the Jewish burial cave support the theory that this was a synagogue.
A large round stone protects the entrance to the burial cave. The rolling stone is a remnant of the great burial cave once located here. So maybe the rock we saw earlier was not a milling one.
The sherd discovered in the cave indicates that it was used from the end of the first century CE until the Bar Kokhba revolt.
After this cave, we switched to the trail with green markings to lead us back to the parking.
The Columbarium Cave
Here you can see the entrance to the columbarium.
Hundreds of Columbarium caves were found in this area. Usually close to ancient settlements.
There are dozens of small niches, ranging from 15 to 25 cm, were carved into the columbarium walls.
Scholars believe that doves were raised for food. Their dung was used as fertilizer. Also, some think that doves could serve for message passing and rituals.
We exited the columbarium and headed back towards the parking lot. Towards the end of the path, it was around noon, and there were already many people on the trail.
The Midras Ruins trail is not a long one. It took us about two hours to complete the path. And if you make it at a good pace (no photography and food stops), then you can finish it in a little more than an hour. After the trail, you can find a table in the nearby forest for a short picnic. Just like we did.
Horvat Midras is a lovely circular route that both kids and adults will enjoy. There is a lot of nature, space for kids to run, and remains to explore. And there are also many points of interest along the way. On many trails, you walk for an hour or even more between different points of interest. But at the Midras Ruins trail, you will find archeological remains every ten minutes.
All of the above make it a favorite trail among locals, and at some entrances to the caves, we had to wait for a while, but it was worth it.
Beit Guvrin National Park is called “Land Of A Thousand Caves.” But not all caves are located within its territory, and as you saw, some can be found along this route. If you want to see the caves and it is your first visit to this area, I would suggest visiting Beit Guvrin. In any other scenario, consider visiting Horvat Midras, Horvat Etri, and Horvat Burgin.
Have you visited Horvat Midras? 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.