Harod River and the Pomegranate Tree

Tour Information

The pomegranate is one of the seven species, and the people of Israel have transformed it into a festive asset that symbolizes the New Year. Alongside the apple dipped in honey, the seeds of the pomegranate invite the blessing “that our merits be as numerous as the pomegranate.” One of the most beautiful places to hike and see pomegranate trees growing in nature is the Harod river.

Harod River is located in the center of the Jezreel valley, where King Saul fought for his life, between hill and dale, between green and brown, between earth and sky. Water from the picturesque Jezreel Spring flows into the stream amid eucalyptus trees surrounded by fields of grain, groves of deciduous trees, clods of reaped and plowed earth, all permeated by tons of history, battles, victories and dramas. This magnificent site, including playgrounds and recreation sites, was developed with the help of friends of KKL-JNF from Germany and the United States.

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The Beech Road begins at the point marked by the sign for Nahal Harod and ends at a eucalyptus grove that does not disclose its secrets. Park the car and walk to the monument commemorating Tzvi Carmeli who fell in the War of Independence. The pool of cold water that drains the Jezreel Spring is hidden in the shade of the trees, and in the middle of it is an abandoned concrete building. There is a canal from the fount of the spring to the pool, and anyone who wants to cool off on a sweltering summer day is welcome to enter the crevice, get a massage from the water, and then crawl about 20m to the exit on the other side.

The streambed of Harod River begins on the heights of Mount Hamoreh and traverses the Harod Valley all the way to the Bet Shean Valley. It flows for 32km in a sequence of twists and turns until it drains into the Jordan River north of Kibbutz Maoz Haim. The valley abounds with springs and wells for agricultural irrigation. The streambed runs between fish ponds and cultivated fields. In its western section it flows slowly and burrows underground, while in its eastern section the flow is fast and creates waterfalls. Ancient flour mills near its channel support the hypothesis that there was agriculture in the region in the olden days. A path for hikers and bikers was prepared alongside the stream, passing hidden places, water and nature sites, and part of it is also accessible for the physically challenged.

At the point where the river bends, you cross the embankment and reach the flowing water in the lush vegetation of reeds and fruit trees. In charge of this beautiful backdrop is one man, Meir Kaufman, a senior forester at KKL-JNF. The story began after a wildfire started at the Jezreel Spring and consumed vast agricultural areas. The abandoned, charred fields affected this man who is so partial to nature and trees, and he asked the farmers for permission to turn the area into a grove of the indigenous trees of Israel.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Kaufman planted fig trees, olive trees, oaks, mulberries, carobs, date palms, plum trees and of course pomegranates. The orchard blends in with the natural streamside vegetation, which includes oleander, sycamore, terebinth, and Kaufman added papyrus. He began the planting project a decade ago and continues it to this day, and you can see mature trees alongside sleeves protecting saplings.

When the pomegranates ripened, KKL-JNF organized a Free on Friday outing and welcomed the public to “pocket” the fruit. The purpose was to cover the ripe fruit with bags, in order to protect them from birds and pests. The pomegranate trees are now standing in the orchard with brown paper bags hanging on them, some with graffiti as a souvenir. The “pickpockets” wrote “Ariel’s pomegranate” on one bag, “protecting our nature” on another, all in honor of this magnificent fruit.

The pomegranate is a tree that does not grow to great heights. In the winter it loses its leaves, and in the spring it gets covered again with reddish foliage that turns green about a month after budding. In the beginning of summer, it covers itself with red flowers, and at the end of the summer, hanging on its branches are fruits that resemble Chinese lanterns. The ripe fruit resembles an uneven sphere with its tip decorated by a crown that remained from the calyx. The pomegranate contains hundreds of red or pink juicy seeds. It tends to crack when it ripens. The tree originated in the region of the Caspian Sea, where it was domesticated over 5,000 years ago, and you can still see it growing wild in that region. In Israel it does not germinate itself naturally but is successful when it is planted by hand. There were originally two main species, one with a dark colored peel and a tart taste and the other with a light colored peel and sweet seeds. Today there are two additional species, one of them with an almost black peel, another hard one with no seeds, and miniature species for ornamentation.

Hikers may cross the Harod River streambed in shallow water and walk on narrow paths between the trees in the orchard. Not only does the pomegranate bear fruit, but the date palms are also weighed down by golden clusters, the fig trees are fragrant, and their fruits are waiting for hikers.