The Israel National Trail ("Shvil Yisrael") was officially marked in 1991. One of its purposes is to give Israelis a way to experience the entire breadth of Israel firsthand. It is a hiking trail that crosses the entire country from Tel Dan in the north to Eilat in the south. The trail is close to 600 miles from beginning to end and would take over a month to finish if hiked continuously. It is marked with three stripes painted on rocks along the way (white, blue and orange). The route is divided into 12 sections. A Trans-Israel bike trail is also presently in the works. That's the good news. Unfortunately, this wonderful trail bypasses the city of Jerusalem. And so, just last year, The New Jerusalem Trail was officially inaugurated. It connects the Trans-Israel Trail with Jerusalem and is marked with the special symbolic Lion that appears on Jerusalem’s city emblem.
The first time I hiked this trail was during the annual late-night hike my Yishuv takes on Yom Yerushalayim. Since then I've had the good fortune of guiding many people along this trail, including my wife and children just this past Pesach. We had loads of fun.
The trail begins (or ends!) at the entrance to the Emek Tzurim National Park (free admission) on the Mount of Olives, between Hebrew University and Beit Orot. The park was only opened in the year 2000. Enjoy the Mount Scopus lookout. It's about a 10 minute walk down into the Kidron Valley.
During Pesach, we stopped off at the recovery center of Temple Mount remains. This is a wonderful project involving sifting through the dirt which was carted off the Temple Mount some years ago. You can spend an hour or two (or more if you want) assisting the archaeologists as they make their fantastic finds. We discovered an ancient coin while we were there. It's really a lot of fun. Contact the City of David at *6033 for more information.
The trail continues into the Kidron Valley, up to the Orson Hyde Park and then down towards Derech Hashiloah where the Mount Olives information center is located. From there it's just a short walk to Absalom's Tomb and then onward to the Pool of Siloam in the City of David. From there I walked up to the kotel, but you can continue on into the Ben-Hinnom Valley, the ancient border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, up to the Cinamateque Bridge.
Plans are underway for the trail to continue on up to Armon Hanatziv into Shvil Yisrael into the Judean Hills. For more information, contact National Parks at *3639.
And for you techies, The City of David offers a self-guided tour of the Jerusalem trail with your own mp3, cell phone or PDA. Simply go to www.cityofdavid.org.il and choose the Jerusalem Trail tour. Download the complete tour files and transfer the files to your device. Each track is a station on the tour.
Enjoy a safe and wonderful summer. Be sure to always bring along plenty of water on your hikes.