The Escape Trail

The Displaced Persons Corner. An excellent view of western Mount Carmel. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
The Displaced Persons Corner. An excellent view of western Mount Carmel. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

A walk to Mount Carmel in the footsteps of the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel.

  • Geographic location-

    Mount Carmel-Krayot and surroundings,Carmel Coast Forest
  • Area-

    north
  • Target audience-

    All
  • Track length-

    2 km
  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Difficulty-

    Easy
  • Season-

    All
  • Duration-

    2 hours
  • Features-

    Picnic, History, Art

    On November 17th KKL-JNF inaugurated a trail about two kilometers in length that passes through the heart of the Carmel Coast Forest. The development of the unique trail was made possible thanks to the coontribution of JNF South Africa. This route, which was built jointly with the Bricha Heritage Association, tells the story of the movement that smuggled some three hundred thousand Holocaust survivors from eastern Europe to freedom. Visitors walking along the trail can enjoy the Carmel forests and woodlands while taking the time to pause beside explanatory signs at several points along the route and learn about an unforgettable chapter in the history of the Jewish People – a chapter characterized by resourcefulness, subterfuge and love for homeland and nation that took place in the time lapse between two dramatic events: the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel.

    The Bricha Heritage Association strives to give this chapter the place it deserves in national memory. As they learn about it, walkers can enjoy the flowering narcissi at the sides of trail (especially between mid-November and mid-December), the winter blooming cyclamen and anemones, and the abundant summer flowers. At every corner of the trail stands a ceramic sign that tells the story of that time in words and historic photographs.

Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.

Background

Normally we learn about the events of the Holocaust, but not about the years that followed it. When the war ended, Europe was in chaos. Although the fighting had ceased, the survivors were beset by dangers. Eastern Europe was in political upheaval, and Jews who attempted to return to their homes encountered rejection and anti-Semitism. In 1946, in the Polish town of Kielce, local people massacred Jewish survivors.

The Bricha Movement was active in Europe during the period between the end of World War II and the founding of the state of Israel. It helped to smuggle some 300,000 Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe to Mediterranean ports, and from there to the Land of Israel.

The Mizrahi-Tefahot Recreation Area

This spacious recreation area shaded by pine trees is the starting point for the route. We leave our vehicle in the parking lot to the east of the recreation area and walk a few steps north to find the map of the Bricha Trail and the entrance to the path at the northeastern end of the recreation area. A walk of around one hundred meters through a woodland dominated by Israeli common oak (Quercus calliprinos) and mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus) brings us to our first station, Escape Corner.

Escape Corner

In the shade of a pine tree KKL-JNF has created a small paved plaza encircled by stone benches. A sign briefly recounts the experiences of Holocaust survivors who emerged from the camps, the forests and the hiding places and helped one another as best they could. At first soldiers from the British Army’s Jewish Brigade who encountered the survivors tried to assist them, and later the Hagana’s Aliya Bet assumed responsibility for helping Jews to reach the Land of Israel, despite the prohibition imposed upon immigration by the British Mandatory authorities. Aliya Bet emissaries constructed a network of routes and transit camps all over Europe, and thanks their activities the Bricha Movement became one of the most important factors in immigration to Israel and the struggle to establish the Jewish state.

The Land of Israel Emissaries Corner

About 100 meters further along the trail we pause at a semicircular area in the shade of an Israeli common oak of comparatively modest size. Along the way bushes of sage-leaved rockrose (Cistus salviifolius) and Greek sage (Salvia fruticosa Mill) flaunt their spring flowers of white and delicate pink. Despite their status as a spice, the sage bushes are protected and must not be picked.

This informative corner describes the role played by emissaries at the escape route stopover points. They were the organizers of this whole vast enterprise: transport from city to city and country to country; border crossings that were often facilitated by bribery and by counterfeit documents faked in the organization’s laboratories; clandestine border crossings on foot in the snow and freezing cold; and the establishment of transit camps and the care of those seeking their temporary shelter on their way to the sea ports.

The Children’s Corner

The Children’s Corner is located 150 meters after the Emissaries Corner. The Holocaust left behind it thousands of orphans who were rescued only after years of terrible suffering and constant dread during which they experienced loneliness, hunger, cold and disease. After the war they were left with no family and no home to return to.

Swift action was vital if these children were to be saved. Thanks to donations from Jews in the USA, and above all to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, these children were rescued and removed from Christian families, monasteries, convents and places of concealment and brought to the children’s homes that had been set up in territory under Allied control. There they received medical treatment for their physical and psychological ills, continued their long-abandoned studies and acquired habits that would help them to return to the world of the living.

The Escape Routes Corner

So far we have been walking downhill. From the Children’s Corner, however, the path ascends a little, and after 300 meters it brings us to a sign that incorporates a map of the escape routes. Jews in the Land of Israel who had served in the Jewish Brigade and the Army Service Corps and had fought against the Nazis under the aegis of the British army organized military vehicles to transport the refugees. They assisted with the care of the transit camp population and operated training programs to prepare survivors for a trade or profession that would help them to re-enter society. At the end of the war, many of those who had served in the Brigade chose to remain in Europe for a while longer and continue to help refugees make their escape.

The Carmel Coast Forest Scenic Route

The Bricha Trail crosses a broad dirt road and enters a stand of young pine trees that would appear to have germinated from seed after a fire. After making our way through the trees we turn right on to a broad dirt road, and then immediately left. At this point we join the Israel Trail.

The trail brings us the Junction Recreation Area (Henion HaTzomet), beyond which lies the main route through the forest. On the far side of the road is a memorial site to Anat Tamir Dubrow (1974-2011), where two tables, a wooden seat and a stone bench encircle a round paved plaza.

We walk eastwards, keeping to the edge of the road, as cars pass by us every so often. After about 600 meters we arrive at Henion HaShluha (“the Spur Recreation Area”). The impressively large ancient olive trees growing in one of the corners are dedicated to the memory of Major Meir Zigdon (1950-1996), and at the eastern extremity of the site KKL-JNF has created another area consisting of picturesque stone tables shaded by olive trees, in memory of Ravit Cohen-Moran (1976-2013).

The Displaced Persons Camps

Just before the Mizrahi-Tefahot Recreation Area we come to the final stop along the Bricha Trail. A flight of steps descends here to a small plaza to the north of the Scenic Route, at a point that overlooks the sea and the coastal plain of Mount Carmel. This area is dedicated to life in the displaced persons camps that were established by the Allies in regions under their control in Germany, Austria and Italy. Survivors of the concentration camps liberated by the Allies were the first people to arrive there, and later they were joined by many other Jews who had made their way along the various escape routes. All in all, about a quarter of a million Jews passed through these camps.

Conditions in the displaced persons camps were hard, especially at first. The survivors found themselves behind wire fences once more, without sufficient food, clothing or medicines. Nevertheless, with the help of the escape route activists, they managed to organize themselves into a community and initiate social, cultural and educational activities. They formed entertainment troupes, published newspapers and documented their own lives.

Because of the Bricha Movement’s activities, tens of thousands of homeless Jews roamed throughout Europe, creating an international problem that undermined both functionally and morally the British Mandate’s White Paper policy of limiting the number of Jews entering Palestine. This situation, combined with clandestine immigration activity, contributed to the UN General Assembly’s resolution of November 29th, 1947 to divide the country into two states, one Arab, the other Jewish.