"Gate to the North" Information Center Dedicated in Yokne'am

Sunday, September 01, 2013 4:15 PM

"The purpose of the center is to bring people to our beautiful region, which has forests, biking and hiking trails, historical sites, restaurants, wineries and more."

The new "Gate to the North" Information Center was inaugurated in Yokne'am on August 25, 2013. The new center, which was built in cooperation with KKL-JNF, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Yokne'am Municipality and the Valley Tourist Board, is located in the G-6 shopping mall. The center will provide visitors with information and guidance on sites and routes in the Israel's northern region.

Cutting the ribbon - With Simon Alfasi, Eti Azoulay, & Yaron Eshel. Photo: Tania Susskind

"It's so close and so green, and located in exactly the right spot." Orit Meser-Harel, General Manager of the Valley Tourist Board, was speaking on Sunday, August 25, at the dedication of the "Gate to the North" Information Center for vacationers on their way to the north. The center was built in cooperation with KKL-JNF, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Yokne'am Municipality and the Valley Tourist Board. The new center is located in the G-6 shopping mall at the entrance to Yokne'am, and it will provide visitors with professional advice and guidance on tourist sites, hiking routes, nature reserves, parks, lodging and restaurants in the Jezreel Valley, Megido, and the entire northern region. KKL-JNF, which has a display at the center, supplies it with maps, informational pamphlets about its forests and parks, and more. All the services at the information center are free.

Gate to the North entrance.
Photo: Tania Susskind

At the KKL-JNF information booth, with Eti Azoulay (right). Photo: Tania Susskind

KKL-JNF representatives at the event included KKL-JNF projects coordinator Hannah Bechar and KKL-JNF Public Relations Coordinator Eti Azoulay. KKL-JNF forester Yaakov Arak congratulated the initiators of the project on behalf of KKL-JNF, noting that during its early years, KKL-JNF focused primarily on afforestation. "Now everyone can see the results, which were achieved thanks to hard work and shouldn't be taken for granted. Today, we put a great deal of emphasis on forest recreation and tourism. We developed hiking and biking trails, recreation areas, camping sites, and more. There are an infinite number of possibilities. I would like to congratulate the people who had this idea, and I think this is the perfect place for it. I'm certain that we'll all work together to ensure its success."

Visitors to the KKL-JNF Booth. Photo: Tania Susskind

Affixing the Mezuza. Photo: Tania Susskind

Simon Alfasi, the mayor of Yokne'am, said that he was very happy "to see how an idea that we spoke about became reality. This really is the gate to the Galilee, to the Ramot Menashe biosphere reserve and to the Jezreel Valley. We have a lot to offer, but our problem is that people aren't familiar enough with our region, we need to promote it more. The G-6 shopping mall is right off the road that connects to the Trans-Israel Highway, and over 100,000 cars travel on it daily. The Valley of Peace alone attracts over a million visitors a year. Industry here has already taken root, now we want to develop tourism. The center will bring a lot of people to our green expanses. I would like to thank all the organizations that are part of this initiative, including KKL-JNF and the mall management."

Ramot Menashe is one of the most popular nature sites in the region. KKL-JNF initiated the process of having the area declared a biosphere reserve in the early 2000s, together with the Megido and Jezreel regional councils and with the cooperation of other green organizations. It spreads out over an area of 84,000 dunams, which is comparable in size to Greater Tel Aviv. The reserve includes grazing areas, farmlands, natural and planted forests, varied fauna and rare flora, all of which coexist in harmony and balance with the local communities.

The park also includes the Valley of Peace and the Lotem Farm, an ecological farm that specializes in activities related to nature, national heritage and love of the land for special needs children and adults. These activities include a winery and oil press that are accessible to people in wheelchairs, hikes in nature on accessible paths, and terraces where they learn about ancient agriculture. With the help of its friends worldwide, KKL-JNF has been a full partner to all these activities and many others since 2005. Over 20,000 guests visit the farm every year.

"The purpose of the center is to bring people to our beautiful region, which has forests, biking and hiking trails, historical sites, restaurants, wineries and more," Orit Meser-Harel, General Manager of the Valley Tourist Board continued. "We approached KKL-JNF and other green organization, asked them for information on their local sites and we received an immediate response. The center has been on a trial run for the past two weeks and lots of people came, including a family that was on their way back to Tel Aviv and stopped at the center, received information and decided to spend more time in the region. I look forward to continued cooperation with all the organizations committed to this project."

Ceremony participants group photo. Photo: Tania Susskind

Nechemia Lahav, chairman of the Valley Tourist Board Directorate, said that the center would become "an important economical factor, especially for the smaller communities, and it will help provide livelihood for the rural villages."

Yaron Eshel, deputy general director of Gazit Globe Israel, which donated the space for the center, said that the G-6 shopping mall in Yokne'am is located at a strategic location for Israeli vacationers, on one of the exits from the Trans-Israel highway. "In light of this, creating the information center was only natural. It will offer professional advice for all visitors, including families looking for recommendations and suggestions for interesting hikes and local attractions in the north, right before summer vacation ends."

Before leaving, everyone expressed their hope that the new information center would encourage the building of similar centers throughout Israel, as part of the effort to make nature more accessible to both local residents and tourists.

Opening Hours

The Gate to the North Information Center in the G-6 Shopping Mall in Yokne'am is open during August-September:

Sunday to Thursday: 9:00 – 17:00
Friday: 9:00 – 14:00
Saturday: 9:00 – 14:00

The center will be open all year long, with changes in the hours according to need. As of October, the center will be open on Thursday-Saturday.