Hadera Forest Walking Trail

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.

The Hadera swamps

Hadera Forest occupies what was once the site of the large Birketas swamp, formerly part of a large area of marshland that was the bane of the town’s pioneering settlers. Attempts to drain the swamp were frustrated by its great distance from the Hadera Stream (Nahal Hadera), into which water from neighboring swampland was channeled. This swamp, like many others, had formed in an area where drainage was poor.

The settlers’ attempts to dry up the swamp and prepare the land for farming were unsuccessful, and many of the pioneers fell victim to the malaria that was prevalent locally. In desperation they approached Baron Edmond de Rothschild and pleaded for his help: “We lay our request before your honorable and generous Lordship, may he be granted long life, that he might have mercy upon us and our offspring and condescend to relieve us of our swampland and have it cleansed in order to free us from the flaming sword which turns every way, the sword of death that hovers forever before our eyes…” In exchange the settlers offered to give the baron the drained land in perpetuity. And so it was: in 1896 Hadera Forest, one of the Land of Israel’s first forests, was planted on the site of swamp.

The Northern Recreation Area

The large Northern Recreation Area, which is situated adjacent to Hadera Railway Station, includes a large number of picnic tables. In winter, after a respectable quantity of rain has fallen, an excursion through Hadera Forest is an experience that should not be missed. Walking southwards from the Northern Recreation Area, we soon arrive at the shallow trench that passes through the center of the forest from north to south. In wintertime this trench fills up with large quantities of water and expands to create a magnificent winter pond that constitutes an independent habitat supporting a whole world of flora and fauna that has become acclimated to wet conditions in winter and total aridity in summer. KKL-JNF, in conjunction with the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature, is investigating the possibility of carrying out drainage work that will prolong the winter lifespan of the pool and enrich the variety of wildlife at the site.The trench was originally designed to drain the waters of the

Birketas swamp into the larger area of marshland to the south, which is known as Brekhat Yaar (“Forest Pool”) because of the close proximity of Hadera Forest. In the past it was called Birkat Ata (“Ata Pool”) after the family that owned the land. The more rain that fell, the greater the flooded area inside the forest.

Birketas, the name used to refer to the swamp in Hebrew-language texts, would appear to be a corruption of the Arabic Birkat Tays, i.e. “Billy-Goat Pond.” This Arabic name, too, however, may have been influenced by earlier names. Close to the forest, on its western side, are the remains of Tel Ibrektas, perhaps once the site of the ancient Jewish community of Birkta, which is mentioned in the Mishnah.

We should not be surprised by the fact that the trunks of the eucalyptus trees are comparatively slender for their age. If we look closely, we can see that each trunk is growing out of the stump of an older tree that was cut down in the past. The eucalyptus can regenerate from a stump, and the trunks of the trees in Hadera Forest are slender because they are the outcome of numerous cycles of felling and regeneration. In the past the eucalypts in this forest were cut down for the logging industry, in order to provide those long slender branches that can be used for almost anything, from propping up banana trees in the Jordan Valley to building wooden fences anywhere. Some parts of the forest have suffered from arson and brush fires, and the original stumps can still be seen scattered around the woodland.

To the Samar Pond

From the Northern Recreation Area in Hadera Forest we turn first westwards, then immediately southwards, parallel to the railway line. After about 300 meters we arrive at a shallow depression in the ground, which in wintertime is transformed into a pond about fifteen meters in diameter; in summertime, only the green signpost of the Nature and Parks Authority remains visible to indicate the importance of the site. This is the Samar winter pond.

The pond contains both aquatic vegetation and plants characteristic of swampland. Among them is the narrow-leaved water plantain (Alisma lanceolatum), a branched plant that in summer produces a flower that bears a yellow mark at the base of its pale pink or white petals . The pond itself takes its name from the spiny rushes (Juncus acutus; in Hebrew samar khad) that grow at its center. These plants develop slender densely growing leaves, each of which is tipped with a sharp point. In the past they were used for weaving mats.

For the chronically curious, or for those who enjoy walking without a major end in view, we recommend continuing southwards along the dirt path for another 300 meters or so in order to see the small calcareous sandstone (kurkar) hill that sticks up on the far side of the railway line. This is all that remains of Tel Ibrektas, which we mentioned earlier. The site has been excavated, but not in a manner that antiquities enthusiasts would appreciate: bulldozers have partially overturned it.

From the Alonim Recreation Area to the Sharon Park
We can make our way to the Alonim Recreation Area, which is the southernmost recreation area in the forest, by private car. From the Northern Recreation Area we drive westwards and turn right on to a trail that skirts the eastern side of the forest. Here we follow the Israel Trail markings and KKL-JNF signs that direct us to the Southern Recreation Area, and after about two kilometers we can stop beside two large eucalyptus trees whose enormous trunks have been preserved.

The trail turns to the right along the southern border of the forest and brings us to the Alonim Recreation Area about one kilometer after the large eucalyptus trees. This recreation area is located at the southernmost tip of the forest, right at its border with the Sharon Park. As this is the lowest part of the forest, comparatively large areas here are flooded with water in wintertime.

From the Alonim Recreation Area we make our way southwards. Opposite us, on a slight slope, several dozen beautiful Tabor oaks are growing. These trees, with their thick trunks and dense canopies, are the only surviving representatives of the great Sharon Forest that once covered huge expanses between Mount Carmel and the Yarkon River.

Tabor oaks generally create a “park forest” in which the trees are separated from one another by comparatively large areas of ground, and these few dozen survivors are no exception: they stick to tradition and keep their distance from one another. The best time to visit is on a clear day in February when the trees are awakening from their winter dormancy and putting out leaves of that special fresh shade of pale green that will darken gradually as spring advances. Amidst the trees, plants of all colors are in full bloom, from red anemones and a huge field of yellow groundsel to dyer’s bugloss (Alkanna tinctoria), which dots the meadow with little patches of brilliant blue.

To the Forest Pond Nature Reserve

We follow the Israel National Trail as it makes its way among the Tabor oaks, ascends a small slope next to an area surrounded by wire fences, turns left, and then descends to a large avenue of eucalyptus trees among farmers’ fields, just at the point where the Israel Trail meets up with a dirt road marked in blue. This avenue is situated in the northwestern corner of the Forest Pond (Brekhat Yaar), which, in a rainy winter, extends over an area of 14,000 dunam (approx 3,500 acres) and accommodates around one million cubic meters of water. Hadera’s first settlers feared the steaming swamps and the “wild beasts” that swarmed in them. And, indeed, these wetlands provided habitats for a wealth of wildlife, including swamp lynxes (Felis chaus), wild boar and water buffalo, the last of which were vital to the economy of the Arab farming community. Although this wealth of fauna has dwindled somewhat since then, wild boars still roam the environs of the Forest Pond and in wintertime the site attracts large numbers of waterfowl. Now all we have to do is find a quiet corner from which to observe the various species that throng the pool in winter.

At the point where the trails meet, we can turn southwards towards the embankment that surrounds the pond and make our way to a slightly raised area occupied by a small eucalyptus grove. Among the trees stand a square concrete tower, which is all that remains of a pumping facility, and an abandoned building constructed from calcareous sandstone blocks.

The pumping facility and the building bear silent witness to the activities of the Netaim Association, which was founded on the initiative of Aharon Eisenberg of Rehovot. This organization acquired around 4,000 dunam (approx 1,000 acres) of land in the Hadera area, some of them adjacent to the Forest Pond. After receiving permission to pump water out of the swamp, a number of Hadera farmers planted citrus groves around it. For this purpose they installed a steam pump, a replica of which can be seen at Heftziba Farm (on the banks of Nahal Hadera), and used it to irrigate their fields.

After our visit we retrace our steps and make our way back to the Alonim Recreation Area.