Did you know there are pyramids not only in Egypt but Israel as well? Today we are going for a hike at Midras Ruins. This short round trail has beautiful nature, and it is packed with archeological remains. Let’s begin!
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 navigation program.
Map of the area:
Opening Hours And Entrance Price
The entrance is free, and 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).
Adulam Grove Nature Reserve
Horvat Midras is part of 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.
In Spring the reserve is covered with wildflowers, like orchids, buttercups, anemones, and narcissus. Thus, Spring is the best time for a visit.
Along the route, we are going to see remains of the human settlement from the Second Temple period (third century BCE).
Trails At Horvat Midras Ruins
It is a simple 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.
We did the standard round route, starting with the blue trail, and then switching to the green path that led us back. You can also walk in the opposite order (blue -> green).
At the beginning of the trail, we started climbing on top of a hill. Looking backward 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.
The Refugee Caves
At a distance, it might not look like something big, but when you come closer, you will find 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 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 milling rock 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 cemetery of the ancient village 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 remains of an old synagogue. Also, next to each point of interest there is a sign (in three languages) with a short description of the place. Like this one:
The wall of 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 menorah and Torah scroll. The slot and the closeness to Jewish burial cave support the theory that this was a synagogue.
The entrance to the burial cave is protected by a large round stone. The rolling stone is a remnant of the grand burial cave once located here. So maybe the rock we saw earlier was not a milling one.
The sherd discovered in the cave indicate that it was used from the end of the first century CE until Bar Kokhba revolt.
Inside the cave:
After this cave, we switched to the trail with green markings that will 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 walls of the columbarium.
Scholars believe that doves were raised for food. Their dung was used as fertilizer. 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. In many trails, you walk for an hour or even more between different points of interest. But at 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 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, then I would suggest visiting Beit Guvrin. In any other scenario, consider adding Horvat Midras to your todo list.
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!