What is Gush Etzion
Gush Etzion is an area, a mere 10 minute drive south of Jerusalem with a rich history. It’s far enough off the beaten path that most tourists don’t get there. But it’s so close to Jerusalem, so beautiful and fascinating that it makes for a perfect day tour. As the heartland of Judea as far back as 3,000 years ago, ‘The Gush’ is full of archaeological sites from the times of the first and second temples. There are remains of ancient, daily Jewish life and a royal palace on a man-made hill. The modern history of the area is no less interesting, and modern Gush Etzion is home to wineries, outdoor attractions, a visitor center with audio-visual presentation, and much more.
Be in touch to plan your tour, or continue reading to learn more.
Gush Etzion Day Tour
After pickup at your hotel, the morning starts out at a man made mountain and palace with a tour of Herodion. This is the burial place of Herod the Great. Some refer to this site as ‘Massada ten minutes from Jerusalem.’ It shares Herod’s grand architectural vision, a complex history, a stunning landscape, and an important part in Jewish history.
For the adventurous, the stop at Herodian can be followed by caving at Haritoun Cave in the nearby town of Tekoa. The caves in this area were used by Jewish rebels during the Bar Kochva Revolt, and were home to Christian hermits through the centuries. It’s the largest cave you can visit in Israel which has not been lit up with artificial lighting and ruined with user friendly foot-paths. It’s not for the feint of heart, but it’s a fun and rewarding (and dirty!) outing, great for kids.
Then we will make our way to the main part of Gush Etzion, starting with an overlook from Neve Daniel, the highest Jewish town in Israel outside the Golan Heights. There are a number of options for lunch including the Gush Etzion Winery (D*) or Gavna (D), which is a large cabin hidden away in the forest, as well as Mexican food and draft beer (M*), or steak at the ‘Deer Land’ amusement park (M).
After lunch we will walk on the Patriarchs’ Road in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac and Jaacob. We will see ruins of Second Temple period mikvehs and wine presses. Then we will move into modern history, seeing the moving audio-visual show at Kfar Etzion, where the kibbutz members were massacred by Jordanian Legion troops in 1948.
Again, for the adventurous, Gush Etzion is also home to the longest zip-line in Israel, over 400 meters, which spans a valley. This activity is highly recommended. Kids can go with an adult.
Combining with Tour of Hebron
Thanks to Gush Etzion’s location halfway between Jerusalem and Hebron, a half day in Gush Etzion can easily be combined with a half day in Hebron. Hebron is where the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs are buried, where David was crowned king, and where legend tells that the very opening to the Garden of Eden is hidden.
Some possible additions to the tour include:
-A dip in a natural spring used by locals as a mikveh.
-A one hour hike to and from a more isolated natural spring.
-A ‘side trip’ to Hebron
-A stop at Rachel’s tomb (on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which we will pass on our way in and out of the city)
-A hike in an ancient, very muddy, water system
Be in touch to plan your tour today!
*D and M indicate Dairy and Meat establishments respectively. All restaurants listed here are kosher with certification. ‘Mehadrin’ only is possible upon request.