The Monks’ Cave – Russian Monastery
The hill of the Russian Monastery (Dir Sha’er) rises to a height of 954 meters, affording a magnificent view of the Bracha Valley and the main road linking Hebron and Jerusalem. Today an army camp is located on the western side of the hill, on the site where once stood a Russian army post. Archaeological findings on the top and sides of the hill indicate the remnants of mikves (ritual baths), a millstone, and burial caves, which the Jordanian army used to store ammunition.
In 1892 the Russian Orthodox Church built a monastery known in Arabic as Dir a-Sha’er to serve as a hostel for Christian pilgrims. The monks who lived here worked in agriculture. During the riots of 1929 they sheltered refugees from Migdal Eder, until they were rescued by Arabs from the village of Bet Omar.
Between 1936 and 1938 several members of El Hahar lived here. This was the movement founded by S.Z. Holzman, the man who established Kfar Etzion.
During the War of Independence the land was leased by the high command of Gush Etzion. They used it as a command post from which they could disrupt Arab traffic along the main road. After the Gush fell the Arabs destroyed the monastery and uprooted its orchards.
Today the remains of the monastery can still be seen, along with a cave and remnants of the large stone portal in the wall that once encircled the hill.