Points of interest: Horvat 'Aqav, a fortified farmstead from the Second Temple period, which was rebuilt as a rustic manor house during the Byzantine period; stunning panoramas of the Carmel coastal plain; and reconstructed agricultural areas, dating from prehistoric times.
Level: Suitable for families
Colour of markers: Red
Length: Approximately 4 km.
Hiking time: Approximately 2 hours
Departure point: The trail is circular, starting at the trailhead.
Recommended seasons: Autumn, winter, and spring
Emergency telephone for on-duty supervisor (after closing time): 053-6452336
Please note: The descent from Horvat 'Aqav to Wadi Timsach may be slippery after rain. During the winter and spring, a herd of cattle grazes in the area. Beware of electric fences!
From the trailhead, the trail marked in red heads directly south. It skirts a low thicket of mastic shrubs, spiny broom, and broad-leaved phillyrea trees, members of the olive family. Continuing along the heights of Ramat Hanadiv, the trail overlooks the sea to the west and the Samarian hills to the east, going first towards the prehistoric quarry and then crossing it (Station #1).
1. Ancient Quarries
Within Ramat Hanadiv's perimeters are many limestone quarries; they supplied building stones for the ancient settlements here and perhaps those nearby. The quarries are shallow since the limestone layer was not more than six metres deep. When the miners reached the soft bedrock beneath it, they simply went elsewhere to dig. Over time, most of the quarries were covered over with soil and vegetation; others turned into seasonal pools in rainy winters and served as habitats for frogs, toads, and other aquatic creatures.
The trail continues in an area of low scrubland (batha). It traverses a dirt path, an open field, and then another dirt road before reaching a sparse grove of cypresses, where it turns right
2. The Cypress Grove
The cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) tree is a Mediterranean native. There are two types, and both are found in this section: the wide-branched horizontal cypress (Cupressus sempervirens horizontalis) and the upright, cultivated form (Cupressus sempervirens stricta), with branches that grow close to the trunk – a familiar sight in Mediterranean landscapes and agricultural regions, where it serves as a protective windbreak. Among the cypresses grow native Christ's-thorn jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi), thorny trees bearing small round fruits.
Several rare species of plants have been discovered clustered in the cypress grove, including two sages (Salvia eiggii and Salvia pinnata), as well as tumble garlic (Allium schubertii) and Lachnophyllum noaeanum, a local representative of the daisy family (Asteraceae). Scientists believe that these species were able to establish themselves here during the long years when the land was cultivated with traditional tools, which ploughed only shallow furrows. When the old-fashioned methods were largely replaced by more modern, intensive agriculture – based on deep, frequent ploughing and chemical fertilizers and weed-killers – these species began to disappear from the region.
The trail leaves the cypress grove, crosses a dirt road, and enters a densely planted pine forest. The forest has been thinned out, and spiny brooms have taken the place of most of the pine trees. From here the trail turns left, traverses a dirt road and ascends, via wooden stairs and an agricultural terrace, to Horvat 'Aqav (Station #3).
3. Horvat 'Aqav
This is the highest point of Ramat Hanadiv, 141 metres above sea level. Its Hebrew name comes from the Arabic one, Hirbat Mansour el-'Eqeb. In front of it is a sign with text in red, describing the site during the Second Temple period (1st century CE). The green text gives the history of the rustic manor house that was built during the Byzantine period on the remains of the earlier farmstead.
Professor Yizhar Hirshfeld directed the archaeological excavations here from 1984-87. Shards from the Persian period (5th and 3rd centuries BCE), buried beneath the farmstead's walls, indicate that it may have served previously as a ritual site. In the late 19th century most of the original building stones were apparently removed and used for the construction of Beit Khouri (see the Spring Trail leaflet for details).
The archaeological site was rehabilitated in memory of Amschel Rothschild, who died in 1996. Olive trees, figs and grapevines – important crops throughout the land of Israel in early times – have been planted, along with Mediterranean herbs like wild marjoram (Majorana syriaca), Cretan germander (Teucrium creticum), and African rue (Ruta chalepensis).
Horvat 'Aqav in the Second Temple Period
The remains of the fortified farmstead here date from the Second Temple period, when a large complex was constructed adjacent to the spring of Ein Tzur. The building, surrounded by an L-shaped wall, extended across 2800 square metres. Its owner, probably of high rank, had under his authority workers, servants, and an estate overseer. Four or five families, a total of about 20 people, lived here until the Jewish uprising against the Romans (66-70 CE), when the place was abandoned.
Horvat 'Aqav in the Byzantine Era
The site was resettled in the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries CE), when the rustic manor house was built. Though stones from the old farmstead were used generously in its construction, the manor house had walls made primarily of sandstone quarried on the coastal plain. The building lasted from the mid-5th century till the Arab conquest 200 years later.
A large cistern found next to the entrance gate served the estate's residents both in the Second Temple and Byzantine periods. Rainwater drained from the rooftops and courtyard into the cistern, which measured some 110 square metres – large enough to provide water for all the people and livestock at the complex.
The Courtyard and the Ritual Bath (Mikva)
Built in a rustic style, the manor house seems to have been used simultaneously as a residence, workplace, and storehouse. Its rooms open onto a tiled interior courtyard where the livestock were kept.
It is likely that the northern wing served as a wine cellar and storeroom. The large arch in the northeastern corner of the manor house indicates that both the northern and western wings had two stories. The upper floors, which may have had balconies, were used as living quarters.
With the Arab conquest in 640 CE, the demand for wine must have decreased: Alcohol is forbidden to Moslems. The residents of the estate, vintners by trade, lost their livelihood and left the Byzantine manor house to the elements.
Beyond the Byzantine drainage canal is a ritual bath (mikva), a remnant from the Second Temple period. Three stairs hewn into the rock descend to the immersion pool. The side walls of the pool, also carved from the rock, were covered with grayish plaster. It was filled with rainwater, which poured in through a channel from an adjacent rooftop. In size and structure, it fufills all the requirements for a Jewish ritual bath. Six metres east of the pool, beyond the low wall to the right, is a basin carved in the rock, used for washing before entering the ritual bath.
The tour of Horvat 'Aqav continues via the western exit from the manor house.
At the western side of the complex, overlooking the Carmel coastal plain, the agricultural processing facilities of the Second Temple period farmstead were discovered. A press for crushing grapes is adjacent to the western portal; another is next to the eastern wall. Most features of the winepress, such as the pressing floor, were hewn out of the rock. Coated with a thick layer of white plaster, the floor slanted towards a pit where the fresh grape juice collected. The wide walls were partially constructed, and apparently they were also plastered. The final squeezing of the grapes was carried out in the press using a board and weights, the method common at the time.
The Pit of Shards
During the Byzantine period, a new and improved winepress was built south of the manor house. Stairs were carved into
the rock east of the pit where the newly-squeezed juice had previously collected. These stairs led to the residential wing of the manor house and now served as its main entrance. The manor house's later occupants seem to have enlarged the grape juice pit and used it for rubbish. More than 30 clay pieces were excavated here, among them cooking pots, tableware, clay lamps, coins and broken building stones, as well as bits of windows and marble.
North (to the right) of the winepress stands a heavy round stone. This stone (called a memel in the Mishna) was part of the olive press; it crushed the olives into a mash from which the oil was extracted.
During the threshing process, sheaves of grain were beaten in threshing tools to separate the grains from the husks; afterwards the grains were winnowed from the chaff by tossing them into the air. The heavy grains fell down, while the lightweight chaff blew aside. The threshing floor's location at the edge of the cliff, exposed to the west wind, made the work easier. The sheaves were brought to the barn from the wheat field, which seems to have stretched across the expanse east of the estate. The barn's threshing floor is north of the olive press at the northwest corner of the Second Temple period complex.
The tour of Horvat 'Aqav continues on the paved path to the south (at the left), parallel to the stone walls at the western part of the Second Temple period estate.
At the edges of the Ramat Hanadiv ridge unfurl the agricultural fields of the Carmel coastal plain. To the north is Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael; to the left of it, Jasser e-Zarka, Caesarea and Or Akiva. The sand dunes enveloping ancient Caesarea can be seen to the south; further along, the chimneys of the Orot Rabin power station pierce the sky. The hills of Samaria, Ramot Menashe and the Carmel range are to the east. Along the ridge, Keren Hacarmel (Mukhraka) stands out as the major landmark.
Until it was felled by a winter storm not long ago, a large carob tree stood next to this plaza, marking what is thought to be the grave of Mansour el-'Aqeb. Until the 1940s the Arab residents of the area would make pilgrimages to this tree; according to the German scholar Von Mullinen, they believed it grew upon the grave of a holy person. Writing in 1907, Von Mullinen suggested that this was the burial site of the revered Rabbi Akiva – who had been tortured by the Romans and executed in nearby Caesarea – and that its name, Hirbat Mansour el-'Eqeb, was derived from his.
Beyond the wall, to the south, the paved path arrives at the Byzantine winepress.
Very few circular winepresses have been discovered in this area. This one, its crushing floor tiled with mosaic, is installed permanently with a huge wooden screw. Both the mosaic floor and the screw are characteristic of Byzantine winepresses. The screw was used as a roller, which wrung the last drops of juice out of the grapes after they had been crushed underfoot in the press. The juice then flowed into the large storage pit.
Southeast of the winepress is Horvat 'Aqav's second water cistern, with a volume of some 50 cubic metres. It was used during the Byzantine period and probably during the Second Temple period as well. Around its opening are engraved stones and the remains of a channel carved into the rock, which brought rainwater into the cistern.
The trail goes east again towards the entrance of the Byzantine manor house, passing in front of the cistern (from the right), and the main entrance (from the left). Then it turns left and passes the lime kiln (from the left).
This pit, used in the Second Temple period for collecting grape juice from the winepress, remained almost intact until the Middle Ages when, apparently during the Mameluk period (13th-14th centuries CE), it was turned into a lime kiln. Limestone was fired here together with trees and shrubs in a slow, controlled process that transformed the mix into plaster. The large amount of ash found in the kiln bears witness to this medieval production.
The findings from the Middle Ages point to a small settlement at Horvat 'Aqav. Its members found temporary shelter in the ruins of the old manor house. Coins and shards of vessels they left behind were discovered on the floor of the residential wing.
Near the group of carob trees and the benches beneath them, the trail leaves Horvat 'Aqav, turns left, and goes north through the mastic shrubs. Further along, it comes to an observation point overlooking the Carmel coastal plain (Station #4).
4. Coastal Panorama
For hundreds of years, the Carmel coastal plain was nothing more than a malarial swamp. Baron Edmond de Rothschild envisioned a strip of dry, cultivated land stretching from what is now Ramat Hanadiv to Hadera. He began to realize his vision in 1921 with the draining of the Kabara swamps. In the years since then, agricultural fields, banana plantations and fish ponds have indeed taken the place of the swamps, but you can see where they once were by the gray soil in the distance. The green stripe cutting across the plain is Wadi Taninim.
The trail goes northward along the Ramat Hanadiv cliffs through the heart of a low scrubland, then makes a rugged, winding descent. After crossing Wadi Timsach, the trail turns right (eastward) on a dirt road that wends up through the wadi.
The trees to the left are stone pines (Pinus pinea). Their seeds are the famously edible pine nuts (pignolis).
At the end of the slope the trail abandons the road and cuts left into a pine forest. After some 100 metres it comes to the edge of the forest, makes a left turn and gradually ascends till it reaches a dirt road. Beyond the road is a section of planted oak trees, but the trail turns right and comes to a concrete, low water crossing ('Irish bridge') across a wide dirt road. The trail traverses this road and returns to its starting point at the Ramat Hanadiv trailhead.