Below Jerusalem’s Old City walls, lies the tranquil green Valley of Hinnom, best known for its beautiful views and turbulent history. It was here that the people of Judah, offered their children to the fire god Molech and to Ba’al. Despite the grim tales of the past, the Valley of Hinnom is one of the most picturesque walks you can take in the Holy City.
Begin at the Scottish Church that overlooks the Valley. The church, which also has a lovely guesthouse, was built in 1927 as a memorial to Scottish soldiers who died fighting in this region during World War I. It sits on a hill where one of Jerusalem’s most important archaeological discoveries was made.
The discovery consists of a series of nine burial caves that escaped looters only because their ceilings had collapsed. In the early 1980s, Bar-Ilan University Professor Gabi Barkey and his team discovered hundreds of items that had been buried along with the deceased at one point after the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE. The most impressive find was two tiny silver scrolls inscribed with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace.”
Continuing on, follow the road down into the valley crossing a bridge that was built in the 16th century. Sultan’s Pool, a huge reservoir built by Herod the Great lies to the left. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who also built Jerusalem’s walls, reconstructed it in the early 16th century. A water fountain dating from 1536 has an inscription praising Suleiman for his generosity to thirsty Jerusalemites.
Next, head into the depths of the valley past the gaping entrances of caves, many of which contain tombs, and some of which were inhabited by Monks over the centuries. The centerpiece of the Valley of Hinnom is the Convent of Akeldema. The Convent is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to noon and then again from 4pm to 7pm and is reputed to having been built over the site where Judas hung himself. The Convent is dedicated to the fourth-century monk St. Onophrios and boasts sunny courtyards and a wonderful view of the Mount of Olives and the Judean Desert.
Last on the walk, but certainly not least, is the Pool of Siloam where archaeologists uncovered the remains of the Second Temple pool where Jesus told a blind man to wash to restore his sight.
For more information about the Valley of Hinnom, contact Israel Tour Connection.