Day One: FROM ARTAS TO TEQUA: Start from Solomon’s Pools down to the village of Artas, where we can have tea with local families and visit the convent built to commemorate the ‘closed garden’ mentioned in the Biblical Song of Songs. We walk south from Artas to the village of Tequa’ – an ancient village believed to be the birthplace of the prophet Amos. The ruins of an early Byzantine church built over the prophet’s tomb can still be seen today. After exploring the archaeological site we are invited by the women of the Tequa’ Women’s Society to drink tea and learn about the traditional embroidery and hand woven carpets made by their cooperative. We stay as guests with families in the village.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 5 HOURS
TERRAIN: FOOTPATHS AND DIRT ROADS
OVERNIGHT: HOMESTAY IN TEQUA’
Day Two: DOWN THE WADI JIHAR TO THE DESERTS OF RASHAYDEH: We leave the village on foot, descending into the spectacular Wadi Jihar – a deep limeston canyon that winds down into the desert towards the Dead Sea. There has been a human presence in this wilderness for millennia – flints points found in one of caves above the Wadi date from the Middle Paleolithic period, which reaches back almost 300,000 years. We emerge from the valley at a place called Rashaydeh, where we spend the night with a Bedouin family.The grandfather of this family, Ali, is a wonderful storyteller who still remembers the old ways of the Bedouin.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 6 HOURS
TERRAIN: ROCKY DESERT TRACKS
OVERNIGHT: HOMESTAY WITH BEDOUIN FAMILY IN RASHAYDEH
Day Three: DESERT SUNRISE IN RASHAYDEH, AND ON TOWARDS BENI NAIM: Early risers can watch the sun rise over the desert, before leaving camp on foot to walk up towards Beni Naim. Along the way we pass the ruins of an early Byzantine monastic community founded at the very beginning of the sixth century. More than 120 hermit monks once dwelt here in isolated cells cut from the limestone, including Saint Sabas, the leader of the monastic movement in Palestine. From the monastery the trail climbs steadily out of the desert, towards the cultivated zone around Beni Naim, with spectacular views back across the Rift Valley. We reach the farming country around Beni Naim in the evening, where we are welcomed as guest of a local family.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 7 HOURS
TERRAIN: ROCKY DESERT TRACKS, SOME ASPHALT, MOSTLY CLIMBING
OVERNIGHT: HOMESTAY WITH FAMILY IN MASAFER BENI NAIM
Day Four: BENI NAIM AND HEBRON / ALKHALIL We walk to the almost unknown sacred site of Beni Naim an ancient ‘high place’ or sanctuary in the southern hills of Palestine, said to the mountain from which Abraham watched the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the valley below. This is the most evocative of the old Abrahamic places, unchanged since it was first described by the great Arab traveler Ibn Battuta in around 1325. From here we walk the final few kilometers in Hebron / Al Khalil itself, ending our walk at the burial place of Abraham in the heart of the old town the focus of our pilgrimage across Palestine and the end of our long journey on foot. After we’ve visited alHaram al Ibrahimi, there may be a chance to meet with the leaders of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, who are working to restore the old town as the centre of civic and commercial life in Hebron. We transfer by road from here to Bethlehem.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 5 HOURS
TERRAIN: ACROSS ORCHARDS AND FIELDS, + SOME ASPHALT INTO HEBRON / ALKHALIL