The Carmelim Recreation Area, which is the starting point for our walk, is a small site comprising five picnic tables in the shade of some pine trees. Adjacent to one of the tables is a paved plaza that is accessible to people with disabilities. Our route begins almost directly opposite the recreation area at a special hikers’ access gate in a cattle fence, from which we follow the green trail markings and the indications on the KKL-JNF posts.
The Doe Spring (Ein Ayala)The trail leads us among woodlands and fruit trees, mainly mulberry, fig and olive. If we keep our eyes peeled we may notice the lote trees (Celtis australis, also known as Mediterranean hackberry or European nettle tree), which are easily recognizable by their asymmetric serrated leaves and their round ball-like fruit. In Israel the lote, which requires a humid environment, is grown as an ornamental tree, and these specimens would appear to have been planted by residents of the village of Ein Ghazal (“Gazelle Spring” in Arabic), which occupied this site until Israel’s War of Independence. In Arab folklore the lote tree is renowned for its ability to scare off demons and evil spirits: those who wish to avoid them would do well to carry a piece of lote wood in their pocket.
Just a hundred meters further on we come to the Ein Ayala pool. Until the autumn of 2004, when KKL-JNF, working in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority and Moshav Ofer, took charge of the site, this was no more than a muddy puddle. With help of young volunteers from the Bnei HaMoshavim movement a small stone pool was built to collect the spring water and create a charming shady spot. A little bench beneath the carob trees completes the pastoral scene.
The pool was used to irrigate the fruit trees that grew here in the past. In mid-July 2015 the spring was still flowing abundantly, even causing the pool to overflow every now and again.
The remains of the village of Ein GhazalThe path continues for another 200 meters or so, passes by a large mulberry tree and makes its way uphill among hedges of prickly pear cacti and the ruins of the village of Ein Ghazal. During Israel’s War of Independence this village was part of the “Little Triangle,” together with Jaba' and Ijzim. A militant group within the village was in the habit of harassing wayfarers on the road, and on July 18th, 1948, it killed two Jewish travelers. The residents of the villages were told to surrender or evacuate, but refused to do either. The IDF attacked twice without success, and on July 24th, during the second lull in the fighting, Mivtza Shoter (“Operation Policeman”) was launched and the villages were occupied by troops from the Alexandroni Brigade with the help of units from the Golani and Carmeli brigades, artillery and air force.
At the top of the brief ascent there is a sort of natural window that allows us a view of the surrounding landscape. On the spur to the north of us, in the heart of the Carmel Coast Forest, we can see the Ofer Scenic Lookout. From here, too, we can observe the Haifa University tower and the houses of the Druze village of Isfiya. In the plain at the foot of Mount Carmel lie Moshav Geva Carmel (which preserves the name of the vanished village of Jaba'), Moshav Tzrufa and Moshav Ayala. At the top of the slope to the south of us the sharp-eyed will be able to discern the white building of the Sheikh Shehada shrine.