Posted by: thedirtybaker | July 14, 2011

Jerusalem MTB!

Part of a proposed National Bike Path. Very little of it has been done, I think.

Riding a bike around in Jerusalem always seemed a bit crazy.  After all, the drivers here ARE crazy.  One afternoon, I rode with J. across Jerusalem, up Mt. Herzl, and then around a good portion of the city via a mixture of dirt and pavement.  And it was seriously freakin’ great!

J is an archaeological architect.  When I mentioned this plan to another archaeologist, he was skeptical and warned me,  “J.’s crazy.  Wherever you are in Israel, J. might show up on his bike.”  This is a slight exaggeration – my impression is that J. might show up anywhere within about an hour’s drive of Jerusalem.  I do think that J. appreciated finally having an archaeologist around whose answer to “You want to see my bike?” was actually “Yes!”  (A friend said that she didn’t think he bothered asking anyone else.)

Anyway, I was riding J.’s wife’s bike.  It’s a full suspension bike, which I’ve never

On a pretty, wide part of the trail

ridden before.  I’m so used to having to rise up off the seat over anything bumpy that I didn’t really take advantage of the extra squishiness.  (J. initially asked me if I could actually go over rocks and bumps on a hardtail. I laughed, because there’s no choice in Arizona.  Rocks abound on our trails.)

We started in Katamon, and rode across the city to Har Herzl (“har” means “mountain.”)  I never expected that I’d ride a bike up Har Herzl.  I still won’t pretend that that part was fun.  I got some looks that said “You’re crazy!” as I slowly and laboriously passed people on the way up.  Between the drivers and the slope, I almost agreed with them.  I was definitely looking forward to the trip back down on dirt!

Old agricultural terraces across a narrow, steep valley from the trail.

A dirt road partway to Beit HaKerem

The hills to the west of Jerusalem (I think....)

We did NOT ride this. We rode past it, contemplated it, and kept going. This is in Ein Karem, so it probably leads to a church or a monastery.

Sometimes I get in the way and block a beautiful view.

Sometimes I don't. The hill on the right that looks empty actually is the site of Nebi Samuel (pronounced Sam-well), the Muslim shrine to the prophet... well, you can figure out which prophet.


On the right, in the near distance, you can see Hadassah hospital with its new construction. We'd already passed it.

Movin' on up...

Aaaah, shade!

Part of the agricultural terracing system. The water comes in from the channel on the left.

Sign from a "nutter" (J.'s word) who cleans the pool and always looks for volunteers to do so , too.

One of the small villages outside of Jerusalem.

Photo on zoom. On the right, Hadassah Ein Karem. Further behind it, is Har Nof, an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood on the edge of Jerusalem. Its name means "Mt. View," though it could arguably be called "Har Destroyed the Nof".

Singletrack with TREES!

We followed a mixture of dirt, jeep roads, and paved roads to and through Beit Ha-Kerem (beautiful neighborhood, annoyingly far from central Jerusalem) and Ein Karem (the city of super-steep approaches to churches and monasteries), and around Hadassah hospital there.  Then we headed up to the Aminadav forest and the “official” mountain bike trail with its IMBA sign.

The Aminadav Forest, a trail for which I think the Israel Mountain Bike Association was founded. In addition to the map, the sign includes a description of the trail (6 km, mostly downhill, high level riding) and the rules of the path.J. and his bike. I suspect that some of you will admire it.

Turkish coffee in process, and snacks on the table.

J. has a great tradition: when he reaches that trail, which begins at a picnic area, he stops for a snack and coffee break.  That’s right, a coffee break. He brought snacks and everything needed to make Turkish coffee. Tucson mtb’ers – this could improve 6 a.m. rides!

After that, we rode the bike trail and wound around to the road above the Emek Refaim (The Valley of the Refaim, or the Giants), and saw the train from far above it.

Train tracks

Hinei rakevet shemistovevet, al galgalim, al galgalim, al galgalim. Toot! Toot! (Here is a train that goes around on wheels, on wheels, on wheels. Toot! Toot!)


We also passed the "Honorary Consul Grove" including a small olive tree from each country that has relations with Israel.It also includes several countries that used to have peaceful relations with Israel, but don't anymore.

It’s an interesting ride – on one side of the valley are the Israeli central hills – they’re forested, though artificially, by the Jewish National Fund.  On the other side is the West Bank, which suffered from deforestation during the Ottoman period, and has far fewer trees.  They mostly had the olive trees that they were cultivating.

Beautiful view, but note the uniformity of the trees.

On a side note, all of the trees in the JNF forests are the same type: Jerusalem Pine. They grow quickly, but this turned out to be a poor choice, because they are also all susceptible to the same tree diseases.  J. said that they have begun to shift their focus to more appropriate vegetation: it’s smaller and grows more slowly, but is also hardier and varied.

Israeli side: pretty trees!

Palestinian side: houses, scrub, and some trees on agricultural terraces

Another side note: I heard some howling, that didn’t quite sound like dogs.  There were jackals nearby.  Jackal howls sound WEIRD, and not just in the meaning of strange; they were eerie!  I didn’t see any jackals, but they were clearly pretty close by.

Zooming in on the edge of the Palestinian village, its oldest building, and the terraced trees. An Israeli environmentalist group successfully postponed or blocked the building of the separation wall here.

After Emek Refaim, we returned to the city (not, by the way, at the street or the neighborhood by that name), past the zoo and the two train stations.  I had the impression that J. knows every back route to avoid crazy drivers in Jerusalem.  He admits to knowing most, but not all of them.   We got back to J.’s apartment just about dark, where I thanked L. for the loan of her bike, and enjoyed more water, homemade ice cream, and a nutella crepe.

All in all: 30 km of awesomeness!


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