Covid-19: Lev Haolam is operating and will continue sending you your monthly packages. With your support, we are stronger than ever!

Nahal Prat: A Judean desert spring with a fascinating history
by Helen Mitchell | Feb 11, 2020 | Israel, Judea and Samaria
Most tourists in Israel are sure to pay a visit to major sites like the Western Wall, the Dead Sea and Masada. Few tours, however, experience the beauty and incredible history of a small desert stream called Nahal Prat that flows from Jerusalem, past Jericho and into the Jordan River just above the Dead Sea.

Nahal Prat is made up of 3 natural water springs that run all year round. Its course cuts through the rocky Judean mountains, and its shores are home to a rich variety of plant and animal life. The stream runs for a total of 28 km and has several rock pools where visitors can take a cool dip in the desert heat.

It's only been in recent decades, since the site came under Israeli governance, that Israeli excavations have uncovered the canyon's incredible history and made it accessible to the public.

Nahal Prat is mentioned several times in the Bible. It marked the border between the Tribe of Judah to the south and the Tribe of Benjamin to the north.

In 1 Kings 17, the Prophet Elijah flees Mount Carmel after his showdown with King Ahab and seeks refuge by the Cherith Brook, which is widely believed to be Nahal Prat. In Jeremiah 13, the Lord tells Jeremiah to take the sash from his waist and hide it in a hole in the rock by the River Euphrates. Many scholars believe the Hebrew word 'Prat' actually refers to Nahal Prat and not the Euphrates at all.

During their digs, Israeli archeologists found several ancient aqueducts along the stream. The oldest can be dated to the second century BC, during the rule of the Hasmoneans. These aqueducts were used to transport water down to the plain of Jericho. The Hasmonean kings and Herod the Great built their winter palaces near Jericho in the Nahal Prat valley. The remains of a synagogue uncovered in the Hasmonean winter palace is believed to be one of the oldest synagogues in the world.

In more recent times, the streams of Nahal Prat were channeled to supply water to parts of Jerusalem. The purification and pumping station that was in use from the 1920s to 1970s has now been converted into offices and facilities for the Ein Prat National Park.

Thanks to the vision and tireless work of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the buried history of this desert site has been restored and displayed for thousands of visitors to experience each year.

Nahal Prat truly is a hidden oasis in the Judean desert. What are your experiences? Have you been inspired by any off-the-beaten-track sites in Israel?