It rained all night. At some point, one of the dogs of Beit Hanania tried to enter the moshav’s veterans club. We had placed a chair on the door because the door couldn’t get locked from the inside and it was opening again and again. When we heard that the dog was trying to move the chair, we woke up and put another chair on top of it. We thought maybe that would block the dog from entering. But the dog was stubborn and continued pushing the door. In the end, the dog won, and we let it in. It found a cozy spot on the floor, next to our mattresses, and stayed there the entire night.
When we woke up early morning, it had stopped raining. We decided to set off on a shorter segment that day, worried that it might rain again. The dog joined us, although we asked it to stay at Beit Hanania. It already happened to us in the past, that a dog had joined us. We hoped that it won’t be for the whole day.
Check out the previous segment – From Shfeya Junction to Beit Hanania.
The segment from Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam was quite easy, as we had already arrived at the coastal plain. There were no major climbs or descends. Everything was quite flat. We passed by the ancient aqueduct to Caesarea, visited the fishermen village at Jisr az-Zarqa, walked along the beach for the first time on our hike, and then stopped for ice cream at Caesarea National Park.
Trail length: About 8.5 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.
Trail duration: About 5 hours, depending on your pace.
Difficulty level: Easy.
Best season: Fall (October-November) and Spring (February-April).
Water along the way: There’s a water cooler next to the minimarket in Beit Hanania. Next, you can buy water at Jizr al-Zarqa (about 2 km from the start point). There are some drinking water taps along the beach. You can also get water at Caesarea National Park (about 7 km from the start point) and in the end, at Sdot Yam.
Stay options at the end of the trail: I know that some people camp at Aqueduct Beach, about 2 km before Sdot Yam, but I think that’s not legal. The area is a bit problematic for sleeping outdoors, because a lot of beaches don’t allow camping. We stayed at a trail angel’s place in Sdot Yam. You can check for trail angels in the area. In the list of trail angels, Sdot Yam is named “Sedot Yam”.
Before we begin, let’s go over some safety instructions and general notes:
· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.
· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.
· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with a heatstroke. There’s no shade on this segment. Also, the first part of the segment may be muddy after rainfall.
· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail.
· The phone signal is good throughout most of the trail.
· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior than what’s shown on your map.
· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.
How to get to the head of the trail?
To reach the head of the trail, you will need to reach Beit Hanania (in Hebrew: בית חנניה). There isn’t a direct bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so it’s best to use a navigation app like Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. If you’re having trouble finding the right route, feel free to contact me through Facebook or [email protected].
We walked to the front entrance of Beit Hanania (1) and turned left. There’s a large sign of the Israel National Trail right next to the entrance. We walked up to it, read the information, and then continued along the dirt road that went to the west. It was all full of puddles, which we avoided. The Hadrianic aqueduct of Caesarea Maritima, also known as the “high-level aqueduct”, made its way along the left side of the path. This aqueduct was built in the 2nd century CE, to deliver water over 16 kilometers, from the springs near Shuni to Caesarea Maritima. Right next to Beit Hanania, we spotted an ancient inscription, talking about the part that the Tenth Legion (Legio X Fretensis) made in the building of the aqueduct.
After a while of hiking on the dirt path, we realized that we were off the trail. From a look at the map, it seemed that we should have continued on the road within Beit Hanania, that goes to the left side of the aqueduct. We were at least one kilometer away from the entrance to Beit Hanania, so instead of making the whole way back, we cut through and tried finding our way back to the trail, which was parallel to us, on the other side of the aqueduct. We rejoined it at the point where it crosses Ada Stream (2).
The stream was flowing, and we didn’t want to get wet, so we crossed it by walking over a set of rocks, which were aligned from one side to the other. The dog that joined us from Beit Hanania was huge and not so thoughtful, so it tried crossing the stream while we were on the rocks. It shoved through and almost knocked us down into the stream.
From the stream crossing, we continued through very muddy terrain. After a while, we also started making our way through hills of garbage. This was not surprising, as we were at the outskirts of the Arab settlement, Jizr al-Zarqa. I don’t know why, but every time we were at the outskirts of an Arab settlement along the trail, we had to cross through garbage.
The dirt path led us to an undercrossing underneath road number 2 (3). The undercrossing is very narrow, so when you cross it, you need to stick to the side as much as possible so that the cars will be able to pass without passing over you. It was a bit problematic with the dog, because it shoved through and got stuck in the middle of the way, what made our crossing longer. But nevertheless, after a few seconds, we were in Jizr al-Zarqa.
Jizr al-Zarqa is the only settlement along the coastal plain, that has a majority of Muslim Arab residents. Its name means “the bridge over the blue stream”, referring to the Taninim Stream. People have been living here for about 500 years. At the beginning, most of the residents made their living from fishing. Today, there are not many fishermen left. The settlement is very poor, there are high levels of unemployment and crime. But in recent years, the residents are trying to turn the place into a touristic venue. A hostel was established here, and guided tours are being offered through the village.
We passed through the main road and looked for a bakery, where we could get coffee and a pastry for breakfast. We didn’t find anything that looked good enough, so we stopped at a place with some benches in the middle of the village and ate the food that we already had in our backpacks. It was also late enough to look at the dog’s collar and try to find its owner’s phone number. There was a number on the collar, but it was quite faded. We tried calling it and there was no answer. We hoped that the owner will get back to us and continued our way.
I think we didn’t stick to the trail so much, because instead of hiking along the Taninim Stream, we continued straight to the fishermen village (4). There, we got to walk on the beach for the first time on the Israel National Trail. There were some beautiful boats parking in the water at the front of the village and we thought that it was a great place to stop for another round of food. We tried calling the dog owner again and this time they answered. So, we waited for them to come and pick up the dog.
After they came, we continued on the beach, along the stunning Mediterranean Sea. We didn’t see any trail marks, but according to the map, we were supposed to continue south along the beachline. The sand was stiff, maybe because of the rain that hit it during the night, so it was quite easy walking on it
We hiked along the beachline for about 2.7 km until we reached the Aqueduct Beach (5). This is where you can see the high-level aqueduct at its greatest, with its impressive arches. If you go towards the east and pass the small parking lot of the beach, you can also see the low-level aqueduct, which also led water to ancient Caesarea. This aqueduct was built in the Byzantine area, after the high-level aqueduct.
After a while, we left the beachline and went a few meters to the east, to the trail that went parallel and above the beachline. About 700 meters from the Aqueduct Beach, there’s an ancient round structure (6), which is a remnant of a tower in the ancient defensive wall of Caesarea. A while afterward, we reached a well-maintained promenade and the remains of the mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue of Caesarea (7). It is believed that this synagogue was where the First Jewish Roman War started in 66 CE. There’s not much to see there today, only the floor. We stopped there to look at two lizards that were running after each other and then continued on the promenade towards Caesarea National Park.
Instead of encircling the ancient walls of Caesarea, we continued straight into the national park. We crossed through the ancient north-western gatehouse, which had some beautiful mosaics inside, and then continued along the promenade until we reached the port area of Caesarea, where all the restaurants are located (8). You can see some ancient remnants here, but the most impressive remnants lay deep within the national park, in the section that requires payment. There was no cashier at the point where we entered, but I do think you need to pay a small amount to enter the port area, too. If you have time, I truly recommend paying a bit and entering the national park itself. It’s very impressive, with an ancient Roman theatre, amphitheater, bathhouse, and lots of mosaics.
The first settlement here began in the 4th century BCE, when a trading station was established here on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Later, in the Roman period, in the 1st century BCE, Herod identified the potential of the place and starting building here a grand port city. He named it Caesarea, in honor of the Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar, who gave the territory as a gift to Herod. There was no natural bay in Caesarea, so Herod built an artificial port, one of the largest ones in the Middle East and the most sophisticated at that time.
We stopped to eat ice cream and use the clean restrooms of the national park. Then, we exited the place through the main gate of the park and continued on our way to Sdot Yam, which stands about 1.5 km from the national park. We reached the front gate of the kibbutz (9), contacted our trail angel, and settled down at his place. It was quite early, so we even got a chance to spend some time on the nearby beach.
That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!
Continue to the next segment – From Sdot Yam to Bet Yanai Beach.
If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can catch relevant buses from the bus station at Sdot Yam. There aren’t any direct buses from there to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa, so you’ll need to switch somewhere.
Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.
Want a guided tour? Check out my guided tours on the Israel National Trail.
And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.
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Hiked the trail in November 2020.
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