We continue on our way. At the crossroads before Neveh Shalom is the Abie Nathan Recreation Area. The Israel Trail turns off to the right, but we continue straight on for another 300 meters. Right next to Neveh Shalom, to the left of our route, is Hill 314.
This hill played an important role in the battle of Latrun during Israel’s War of Independence. On the night of May 24-25, 1948, in Operation Bin Nun A, the newly formed 7th Brigade and the 32nd Battalion tried to break through into the Latrun sector, which was controlled by the Jordanian Legion. The forces came under heavy fire and Commander Ram Ron of the 1st Company of the 32nd Battalion took Hill 314, withstood counterattacks and covered the retreat of the battalion’s 2nd Company. The attacking force sustained over 70 casualties in Operation Bin Nun A.
Hill 314 separated Jordanian Latrun from the Burma Road. After the War of Independence, the IDF established a forward position at the site to secure the ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan. The nearby community of Neveh Shalom was founded in 1969 to promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs, and today its population comprises Jews and both Muslim and Christian Arabs.
Our route ends here at Neveh Shalom. From here we can coast down to Route no. 3, to the stretch between Latrun and Nahshon Junction.
From the O’Higgins Recreation Area to Mesillat Zion
Those curious to discover additional corners of Eshtaol Forest can turn off from the O’Higgins Recreation Area, which lies in the middle of our route, and make their way towards Moshav Mesillat Zion, encountering additional recreation areas along the way. This route, which is around 3.5 kilometers long, is marked in orange, and it can be negotiated by a private car.
Our route leads us eastwards from the O’Higgins Recreation Area past a forest of stone pines on the left. The seeds of this tree are the tasty piñones (pine nuts) that are so good to eat. After about half a kilometer we come to Derekh HaReut (“The Friendship Trail”), which branches northwards off the main road, then rejoins it after about 300 meters. KKL-JNF has created a number of recreation areas along this route, together with a memorial to the great military leader Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), who played a major role in the establishment of six South American countries, including Bolivia, which is named after him.
About 900 meters farther on, where the road veers north, is Henion HaArba‘a (“the Recreation Area of the Four”) one of the most beautiful sites in Eshtaol Forest. Accessed by a flight of wooden steps, it contains parts of an ancient olive press and offers a beautiful view of the Nahal Sorek basin.
Farther on down the road is a recreation area that commemorates the Argentinian military leader and statesman José de San Martín (1778 -1850), another prominent figure in the movement to liberate South America from Spain. Near the point where the trail meets up with the Mesillat Zion access road is the Yonatan Recreation Area, from which a short trail leads to a children’s playground. From here it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the way out of the forest.