visitors here will find the fascinating scenery of the desert frontier, and a monastery that follows the Byzantine monastic tradition, in the spirit of the monks who secluded themselves in the caves of the Judean Desert.
En Prat Nature Reserve is in the upper section of the Prat Stream (Wadi Qelt), to the east of Almon (Anatot).
There are two ways of reaching the nature reserve:
Note: The nature reserve is in Judea and Samaria. Visitors must comply with the instructions of the security forces.
En Prat spring rises to the west of the Nahal Prat Nature Reserve. The reserve was declared in 1988 in order to protect the banks and watercourses of the Prat Stream and its tributary, Mikhmash Stream (Wadi SuwEnit). It covers an area of around 30 km, spread over 28,050 dunams. The western end of the nature reserve, near Geva Binyamin (Adam), rises to a height of around 600 m above sea level, while the elevation of the eastern end, near Jericho, is 200 m below sea level.
Reasons for declaration
The spring flows into a natural rock pool, and its output (around 1500 m³ a day) creates a brook that flows all year round. In ancient times, the spring was an important source of water for Jericho. In Hasmonean times an aqueduct carried water from the spring, over which an aqueduct was built in the Early Moslem period. To the east of the spring the remains of aqueducts from the Byzantine period were found, and also the ruins of a flour mill.
In 1927 the British began to pump water from the spring to supply the needs of the residents of East Jerusalem. In 1970, the whole of Jerusalem was connected to the national water system, and pumping was stopped. The remains of the Mandate-era pumping station and pipes can still be seen within the nature reserve. In the past, the pool was used for irrigation, and today it is a bathing pool for the enjoyment of visitors to the site.
A visit to the monastery offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the monks of the Judean Desert during the Byzantine period. This is the first of the monasteries in the Judean Desert, and its founder, the monk Hariton, also built two others. Hariton was born in Iconium (today Konya, in Turkey), a town in Asia Minor. At the beginning of the fourth century CE he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a result of religious persecution. According to Christian tradition, he was captured by robbers and imprisoned in a cave near En Prat. The monastery was founded in 330 CE. Its monks secluded themselves in niches, meeting only on Saturdays and Sundays to pray together in the church - a type of monastery that is called a laura.
In 614 CE the Persians conquered the Land of Israel, and executed the monks of the Judean desert monasteries, including those of Faran Monastery. Later the Russian Church, representative of Greek Orthodoxy, took the monastery under its patronage, and at the end of the 19th century new buildings were built over the foundations of the Byzantine structure, but at the beginning of the 20th century the monastery was abandoned. At the beginning of the 21st century the monk Oleg came from the White Church in Hebron and began to restore the place. Today, the cave in which, according to the tradition, Hariton was imprisoned is a chapel decorated with icons.
Hariton's tomb is in a small cave in the heart of the monastery courtyard. Sharp-eyed visitors may spot the remains of the early structure surrounding the site of the tomb. The tomb was apparently in the church crypt, as was the custom in Byzantine churches.
The cave in which the main prayer hall is located today (and other places in the stream) served as a hiding place in which the Jews hid from the Romans during the Great Revolt, long before the Byzantine period.
Visitors to the monastery must wear modest clothing – covered shoulders, and long (below the knee) trousers or skirt. The monk receives visitors graciously, by prior arrangement only. Telephone number for making arrangements: 052-5399075.
Climbing and rappelling cliff
The cliff on the northern bank of the stream, near En Prat, may be used for rappelling. The Nature and Parks Authority has prepared grip rings, but rappelling is permitted only with a qualified guide and following all the precautionary rules.
A small spring rises on the northern bank, into a 2.5 m deep concrete pool. A date palm (Tamar) grows alongside the pool, from which it gets its name. The pool is beside a black trail. The trail ascends from the parking lot in the shade of eucalyptus trees to Hurvat En Prat (hirbet En Fara).
Hurvat Alamit lies slightly to the west of the junction of Road 437 and the access road to Almon. In the ruins, the remains of an Iron Age (early Israelite period) settlement were found. The site has been identified with the Levite town of Almon (Joshua 21:18), and buildings, underground spaces, and a concealment system from the period of the Bar Kochba revolt have also been found. At the foot of the mound, near the road to the village of Hizma, is the tomb of Sheikh Abed al-Salam, sometimes used as a site for prayer by residents of the area.
The blue trail passes along the course of the stream, with many pools along the way. It is 4 km until it meets up with the Prat Stream, after which it continues down the stream for 1.5 km to En Mabua. This hike takes 3 - 5 hours.
Hikers must leave En Prat by 11 am in order not to be trapped by nightfall. The nature reserve inspectors should be consulted before setting out.
Nahal Prat (Prat Stream, Wadi Qelt) flows from the eastern slopes of the Beit El hills, crosses the northern Judean Desert, and flows into the River Jordan near Jericho. The Hebrew name for the stream is based on identification of Hirbet En Fara, near En Prat, as the site of Prat, mentioned in the book of Jeremiah. The nearby village of Anata is identified with the biblical Anatot, the village in which the prophet Jeremiah lived.
For most of its length, the Prat Stream passes through the syncline to the east of the Ramallah anticline. The syncline is filled with a chalk rock mass which sank in the sea that flooded the area during the Eocene period. The soil that formed over the chalk is almost impermeable, and therefore also does not absorb the small amount of precipitation that falls here. This has created a desert area, known in the biblical sources as the Benjamin Desert (the desert of the land of Benjamin).
In its upper section the stream burrows through the hard limestone of the anticline, while in the syncline of the Judean Desert its deep channel passes through the chalk and the hard limestone underneath it and creates an impressive, deep canyon. Springs gushing with water rise in the stream course, and in many parts of the stream water flows all year round. The contrast between the desert and the water flowing in the stream is very striking.
En Prat and the other springs of the stream have abundant water despite the fact that they rise in an area of very little rain. The reason for this is the geological structure of the Judean Hills. The soil deposits in the Judean Hills are inclined eastward from as far away as the Neve Ilan area, where there is relatively abundant rainfall. The rainwater permeates the soil, flows eastwards along the water-bearing stratum, and bursts out wherever there is a break in the continuity of the structure. In these places, the Prat Stream springs flow.
During the early Bronze Age (3300 – 2200 BCE), as urban society began to develop, city states sprang up in the Benjamin region, along with smaller towns and villages, among them Hurvat En Prat that lies within the nature reserve. During the Middle Bronze Age II (2000 – 1550 BCE) there was another great wave of settlement in the area and new cities were built, foremost among them Jerusalem, which apparently also had an effect on settlement in the area of Fara Stream.
In the Iron Age (1200 – 586 BCE), with the settlement of the tribes of Israel, came a wave that can be seen in dozens of settlement sites. This wave of settlement has to do with the development of Judah and Israel. Remains from this period have been found at Khirbet Alamit, identified with the biblical Almon, and also at Hurvat En Prat, where pottery, a large wall, and a burial site from this period were found. Based on these finds, it has been proposed to identify the site with Parah – a town in the estate of Benjamin (Joshua 18:23), and this may have been where Jeremiah went to hide his belt: "Go now to Perath" (Jeremiah 13:3).
The stream served as a natural border between the lands of Judah and Benjamin. Some identify it with Nahal Krit, the stream to which the prophet fled from King Ahab: "Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Krit brook, which is east of the Jordan" (I Kings 17:3). Mikhmash Stream, the main tributary of Prat Stream, is identified with the place through which Jonathan led the army of his father Saul to victory over the Philistines.
With the destruction of the First Temple and the Kingdom of Judah, the greater part of Jewish settlement was left within the area of Benjamin, and this is where the exiles returned during the return to Zion, laying the foundations for the establishment of the autonomous Persian province of Judah. Prat Stream was included within the province, and later within the Hasmonean kingdom. In the stream there are the remains of a Hasmonean-era aqueduct that carried water from the springs to the farms and the winter palaces of the Hasmoneans near Jericho. At a later stage, during the Roman period, a Herodian aqueduct was built over the remains of the Hasmonean aqueduct to the Kypros fortress; during the early Muslim period (7th century CE) an Umayyad aqueduct was built of pottery; and in the 20th century, the al-Husseni aqueduct was built of concrete.
At the time of the Great Revolt against Rome, in particular during the Bar Kochba revolt, the communities of Benjamin were destroyed.
In the Byzantine period, with the rise of Christianity, Christian settlements were established in the area, and in isolated places, such as En Prat, secluded monks lived and built monasteries, among them the Faran Monastery that is within the nature reserve. The spring water was used to operate flour mills and irrigate cultivated fields. In 1919, the al-Husseni family built a modern aqueduct which still carries water to this day to the fields and orchards around Jericho.
En Prat Nature Reserve is at the point of transition from Mediterranean to desert vegetation. In this frontier area, there is a wide range of species of vegetation, originating in both these phytogeographic regions.
The water course of the stream is adorned with river vegetation, fed by the waters of the springs. Among these plants are watercress (Nasturtium officinale) – which grows in clumps along the edge of the water, recognizable by its white flowers and the radish-like taste of its leaves. Growing together with it is horse mint (Mentha longifolia), with its mint-scented leaves and tall stalks of purple flowers. Other common riverbank vegetation includes the common reed (Phragmites australis), the lesser bulrush (Typha domingensis) – whose long, flat leaves resemble a fencer's foil – and the Nile papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) – a perennial plant growing along the entire length of the stream, with long leaves that end in a sharp point.
The most common tree in the area is the Christ's thorn jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi). Its fruit – small round balls – is edible in the fall, when it turns yellow. Some of the jujubes carry red-flowered plants. These are the flowers of the acacia strap flower (Loranthus acaciae) – a parasitic plant that absorbs water and minerals from the tree on which it grows.
Rhus tripartita is common in this area, growing to a height of 2-4 m and creating a prickly tangle of branches.
In the cracks of the cliffs along the stream grow the common caper (Capparis spinosa), sharp varthemia (Chiliadenus iphionoides), and golden drop (Podonosma orientalis), three plants that are also typical of cracks in the rock in the Mediterranean zone. Prickly burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum) is also very common on the slopes.
Towards the end of summer the upright flower heads of the medicinal squill (Urginea maritima) can be seen in the nature reserve, and after the first rain – Steven's meadow saffron (Colchicum stevenii) appears.
In the winter there are a large variety of flowering plants here, such as the crown anemone (Anemone coronaria), Persian buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus), Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), Judean viper's bugloss (Echium judaeum), and stork's bill (Erodium subintegrifolium).
In the past, the local residents planted orchard trees – fig, pomegranate, date, and citrus trees – and these grow within the area of the nature reserve. The eucalyptus grove that shades the picnic area was planted during the British Mandate, when the waters of En Prat were pumped for use in Jerusalem.
The abundance of clear water and vegetation provide the basis for a diverse world of wildlife.
Melanopses ( Melanopsis praemorsa) are very common - black-shelled snails that feed on tiny algae. The melanopsis is sensitive to pollution, and its existence is evidence of clean water. The river crab (Potamon potamios) is very active, living on insects, worms, and whatever other creatures it manages to catch. Various species of fish live in the water, among them the Jordanian log sucker (Garra ghorensis) and the Levantine scraper (Capoeta damascina).
Loudly croaking in the tangle of water plants are the amphibian Middle East tree frogs (Hyla savignyi) and marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus). The tree frog mainly lives on vegetation, hence its name. It is easily identified by its light green color, and golden eyelids. Among the reptiles are the fan-fingered gecko (Ptyodactylus guttatus) – a light-colored gecko with feet that resemble a fan, which help it to cling on to the rocks. Also very common is the bridled mabuya (Trachylepis vittata) – a lizard with a smooth body, along which are five light-colored stripes. There are snakes here as well, among them the Caspian whip snake (Coluber jugularis), which can be as much as 2 m long (the adults are a shiny black color), while in the water is the dice snake (Natrix tessellate), green-brown in color. These snakes are not dangerous, unlike the venomous Echis coloratus.
There is a very rich variety of birds. The white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) is a permanent resident here. Among the very common and regular birds are the rock martin (Ptyonoprogne fuligula) – an acrobatic bird that spends most of its life in the air, hunting insects on the wing – and the unmistakable Tristram's starling (Onychognathus tristramii) - it has a black body, and when it spreads its wings their orange-colored edges become visible. The cries of the Tristram's starlings split the air over the nature reserve, but the shrieks of the flocks of jackdaws (Corvus monedula), a species of crow, all but drown them out. The jackdaws live in groups, and nest in caves and crevices in the rock. Common ravens (Corvus corax) can also be seen in the skies over the nature reserve – large birds, metallic black in color, with a sturdy and strong beak.
Among the raptors of the stream are the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), which nests in the reserve, and the Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata), which is in danger of extinction in Israel. In summer the short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) can be seen – a large raptor that specializes in catching snakes and other reptiles. Among the nocturnal birds of prey are the little owl (Athene noctua), which nests in the reserve, and the eagle owl (Bubo bubo) – the largest nocturnal raptor in Israel, recognizable by its long-tufted ears.
Regularly grazing by the road going down to the nature reserve is a herd of Palestine mountain gazelles (Gazella gazella). Active here at night are porcupines (Hystrix), which leave behind small pits where they have dug for roots and bulbs to eat, and foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis) live among the rocks. They are easy to spot because they are active during the day. Another common rodent is the Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus), which is the size of a mouse. It is covered with golden-brown fur, while its back is prickly bristles. The lesser white-toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens), a mammal usually weighing less than 7 grams, is good at catching insects and invertebrates, but is very hard to see because it is mainly active at night. During the day the shrew prefers to hide among the rocks and plants, or in burrows.
How to get there:From Jerusalem’s French Hill intersection, take the road to Pisgat Ze’ev. Pass the Hizmeh checkpoint and continue east on road 437 to Almon (Anatot). Enter the community, turn immediately south onto an unpaved road for about 500 m, which turns into a paved road. Caution: drive slowly, the road has many turns.
Length of tour: 1 hour
Best season: year-round
Don't miss: A visit to the monastery
Other attractions: year-round flowing spring, special animals, an active monastery
Last entry one hours before above closing hour
SUMMER:Sunday-Tursday And Saturda-8 A.M.-5 P.MFridy And Holiday eves- 8 A.M.- 4 P.M.
WINTER:Sunday-Tursday And Saturda-8 A.M.-4 P.MFridy And Holiday eves- 8 A.M.- 3 P.M.
On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach: 8:00 - 13:00
Phone: 02-5715859Fax / Email: email@example.com
Adult: NIS 29; child: NIS 15Student: NIS 25Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 23; child: NIS 14
In the Nahal Prat (Wadi Qelt) Nature Reserve adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:
Accessible by vehicle by prior arrangements-
En Prat (En Fara):
We recommend that people with mobility impairments visit with a companion.