Ilanot Forest, in the Heart of the Sharon, Shows Nature at its Best

Highlights: the Arboretum with its 750 trees species from around the world, a maze, and a visitor’s center where you can embark on a virtual ride through the forest.
The week-long Passover holiday is an opportunity for Israelis to catch up with friends and family and spend quality time together.  As always, the KKL-JNF Ilanot Forest in the Sharon provided an opportunity for just that. Thousands arrived each day to explore acres of lush forest and enjoy the healing benefits of nature. Those who registered in advance were able to join a KKL-JNF guided tour and gain a deeper knowledge and appreciation of all the site has to offer.
Exploring trees through touch. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNFExploring trees through touch. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF
Exploring trees through touch. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF
KKL-JNF’s  Yigal Chen was one of the guides at Ilanot. During the tour, he explained the origins of the man-made forest to a large group of people of all ages. “The Ilanot Forest is an arboretum of some 750 species of trees from all over the world,” he said. “It was established in the 1950s by the Ministry of Agriculture to determine which trees would flourish best in Israel. The site was later taken over and further developed by KKL-JNF.” 

Accessible paths and seating. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF
Stopping at a clump of giant Australian eucaplyptus trees – famous for their remarkably successful ‘Aliya’, Yigal explained that that the species was found to be very adaptable to the Israeli climate because their roots grow very deep, enabling them to withstand adverse weather conditions and tap into water sources deep underground.
Giant Australian eucalyptus trees. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF
Giant Australian eucalyptus trees. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF
Michael Glovinsky from Raanana, who took part in the tour with his wife, children, and grandchildren, said that he could not have wished for a better Passover Holiday activity. “My daughter Shira found the KKL-JNF invitation on a website and immediately thought it would be a good idea for us. This visit to the Ilanot Forest has been amazing,” he said. “We were looking for a meaningful activity, something that would be interesting and thought-provoking for the entire family, and we found all that here.” 

In the maze. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF
In another section of the forest, KKL-JNF guides were leading several groups of KKL-JNF volunteers who had arrived from all over Israel for volunteer training. For many of them, this was also their first visit to the Ilanot Forest. Overseeing the volunteer activities were Yael Banin, KKL-JNF’s Volunteer Coordinator, and Dudu Ashkenazi, KKL-JNF Director of Training and Educational Projects. 
Ashkenazi noted that this was an inaugural training event that focused primarily on the issue of accessibility for visitors to KKL-JNF sites. Some of their instruction was carried out inside the Casuarina Tree Circle, a magical place formed by Casuarina trees standing in a ring, with their branches forming a green dome overhead. The volunteers were fascinated by what they heard and saw today,” Ashkenazi said, “They praised the initiative that brought them together for a fun day and providedthem with the necessary tools for their work as volunteers.”

The Casuarina Circle. Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF
Also visiting the forest with his family was Yaniv Katz from Efrat. Despite his broken leg necessitating the use of a walker, Yaniv was able to enjoy the excursion with his entire family thanks to the Arboretum’s 2.5 kilometers worth of  wheel-friendly trails. “Ironically, I’m a professional tour guide,” He said, “And now, after breaking my leg a month-and-a-half ago, I fully recognize the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities. I give full praise to KKL-JNF for its efforts in making many of its locations accessible for people with special needs.” Herut, Yanivl’s daughter said, “Dad is a hero. He goes everywhere, just as he does when he leads groups. Nothing stops him.”
Many of the visitors spent an hour or so meandering and giggling through the Ilanot maze, its walls made out of concentric circles of shrubs that form paths and openings designed to confuse all who enter.  Displayed throughout are totems of famous trees from around the world, providing momentary respite from the panic of being trapped in a maze. But don’t be deterred – it’s fun, we promise!
In short, the Ilanot Forest, conveniently located in the central Sharon region, offers a peaceful green haven where visitors of all abilities can unplug from the daily grind, and reconnect with nature.