At Ein Sapir, One of the Country’s Cold-water Wonders Awaits

When the mercury rises and Israeli reality again succeeds to make people despair, the only escape for anyone who doesn’t want to surrender to an air conditioner is the nearest spring

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The Ein Sapir spring, in all its wonder.
The Ein Sapir spring, in all its wonder.Credit: Eitan Leshem
Eitan Leshem
Eitan Leshem

More than once the question arises, mainly during the insufferable summer months: How in the hell did people manage to live in Israel under the brutal sun without an air conditioner or shaded balcony far from the sea? Did the airy galabiyas provide a sufficient breeze? Was the suicide rate sky-high? Or were the people perhaps of another ilk, much stronger than us, who live for air conditioning and showers?

The answer, of course, lies deep in the earth – in the chilly springs of a country that promises and always delivers one package: heat, sweat and humidity.

The entrance to the spring. The water is chilly, but its depth allows for an extended stay.Credit: Eitan Leshem

And so, when the mercury rises and Israeli reality again succeeds, so uniquely and originally, to make people despair, the only escape for anyone who doesn’t want to surrender to an air conditioner is the nearest spring.

Because most residents living near the beach have no spring nearby, it’s worth going about 70 kilometers east to the western Jerusalem hills. There, between winding roads and green orchards, between the hills full of pine trees and the landing strip of Hadassah Hospital, Ein Karem, awaits a chilly, beautiful and pleasant spring – Ein Sapir.

A peek into the cave.Credit: Eitan Leshem

The spring is located at the foot of the community of Even Sapir, which was named for Rabbi Yaakov Sapir (1822-1886). He authored the book “Even Sapir” and was one of the most famous emissaries to travel abroad to raise money for the Jewish yishuv in the Land of Israel, visiting India and Australia.

It would have been enough for him to bring to the nations, or to Diaspora Jews, a little water from this spring and his mission certainly would have been a hundred times easier. This specific kind of spring flows to the carved pool within the cave, which gives it a feeling of isolation from the steamy world outside and cover from the sun.
The water is very cold but the spring’s height – not more than half a meter along its length – makes staying in it pleasant and not very challenging, even for toddlers who look spellbound by the possibility of walking into the mountain. The pool is easily entered via stairs.

The surroundings provide a gorgeous view – and plenty of shade.Credit: Eitan Leshem.

Outside the spring await many trees and bushes that, like the cave, cast their shadow on the bathers and even on the organized seating with benches and a table placed there years ago. They make the stay there even more pleasant. Of course, there are no trash cans here, so it’s important to bring a garbage bag to preserve the surrounding cleanliness of the country’s truly special springs.

Why is it special? Not only because it is carved into the mountain. It also facilitates a fun hike, accompanied by a little fear, deep into the cave and its chilly, clean water. There are plenty of places to sit within the cave itself, too, allowing for a long stay; it's best to visit midweek when it’s empty. And it is located in such a pastoral area that it’s impossible not to sit in the shade after taking a dip, to chill out and understand that it was – and remains – the only way to survive this country's insane heat.
The pool that has cut into the rock also reveals the hill’s hidden secrets, layers upon layers of rocky soil, each one telling something about history. The result is that the rock is multilayered and colorful. It certainly saw in its lifetime loads of locals beat down by the heat coming to its gates and returning to sanity. Layer after layer, the temperature drops more and more. And suddenly, it’s clear how it is possible to live here without air conditioning, and even enjoy it along the way.

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