Lavi Forest – A Picnic in the Woods


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 forest – general background

KKL-JNF began planting Lavi Forest, which extends over an area of some 3,000 dunam (approx. 750 acres), in the 1950s and 1960s. In those days, conifers were the dominant varieties planted – mainly Jerusalem pine (Pinus halepensis), Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) and Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia). In the low-lying areas between the hills, eucalypts were also planted. KKL-JNF foresters left the prickly-pear cactus hedges and the plots of olive trees that had once belonged to the Arab town of Lubya untouched.

Over the years, the trees aged and were beset by a variety of pest infestations. The snowstorm that raged in the area during the winter of 1991-92 afflicted serious damage on the forest, and in 2013 KKL-JNF began to rehabilitate the damaged plots. Planting this year (2017) marks the conclusion of the renewal operation.

This round of planting has been carried out in accordance with KKL-JNF’s new afforestation policy, in that most of the new trees belong to native species characteristic of the Mediterranean woodland in this region, such as Tabor oak (Quercus ithaburensis), Mount Atlas mastic tree (Pistacia atlantica), carob (Ceratonia siliqua), Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) and jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi). The trees are irrigated for the first two years of their lives to give them a good start, then after that they are on their own.

We can get an impression of the renewed sections of the forest if we drive along the route that leads up to the Lavi Field and Forest Center or follow the orange-marked dirt track that connects the underpass beneath Route no. 77 to the Lavi Recreation Area (to the south of the highway). This trail is suitable for private cars at all times, except after rain.

The cemetery that belonged to the Arab village of Lubya can still be seen inside the forest. It includes a domed stone building in which, according to Druze tradition, Abu al-Dera Jushan and Abu al-Liqa Thabet, two propagators of the Druze religion in the 11th century, are buried. The cemetery is surrounded by a fence.

Inside Lavi Forest is a field and forest center at which KKL-JNF provides educational activities for young people from both Israel and abroad. The Golani Nursery, which is located at the edge of the woodland, supplies saplings for KKL-JNF planting projects throughout northern Israel.

The history of the area

Lavi Forest is named after the Jewish community that flourished during the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods on the site where the forest now stands, about half a kilometer to the west of the edge of the community of Givat Avni.

Lubya is mentioned several times in the Talmud as the site of an inn that served travelers en route between Acco and Tiberias. In one instance, it mentions a round of cheese found at the Daluvi Inn (i.e., the Lubya inn), which was declared suitable for eating for two reasons: “because of its presence there and because of the many wayfarers,” i.e., because most of the travelers on that route were Jews, the cheese was likely to be kosher (Shekalim 7b). The name Daluvi Inn is evidence of the fact that Galileans of that time did not distinguish between the sounds “b” and “v”.

To the north of the forest soar the Horns of Hattin, at the foot of which the Muslims, led by Salah al-Din, defeated the Crusaders in the decisive battle of 1187.

An inn known as Khan Lubya was in operation during the Mamluk period (the 13th century CE), and its remains can be seen about a kilometer to the east of Givat Avni, to the south of Route no. 77. Later the area was the site of an Arab village whose name – Lubya – retained the sound of that of the ancient Jewish community. Residents of this village assailed the Jewish pioneers at Sejera from the day of their arrival in 1899. Later, at the beginning of Israel’s War of Independence, Lubya residents harassed Jewish travelers en route to Tiberias, and, in an incident that took place on February 24th, 1948, two members of a passing convoy were killed in an attack by Arabs. The highway was blocked, and Jewish traffic to Tiberias was diverted to routes via Yavniel and the Kinneret.

Lubya proved a hard nut to crack. On June 9th, 1948, when the Dror battalion of the Golani Brigade made an unsuccessful attempt to occupy the village, it lost twenty-one of its soldiers in the ensuing battle. During fighting that lasted for ten days, from July 8th-18th 1948, Fawzi al-Qawuqji’s army attacked Ilaniya (Sejera) unceasingly, but to no avail. The Arabs of Lubya then abandoned their village, and on July 18th it was captured without resistance and the route to Tiberias was opened once more.

Recreation areas in the forest

Those who enjoy picnicking in natural surroundings will be delighted to discover that Lavi Forest is well provided with recreation areas. Vehicle routes through the woodland offer access for buses and private cars.

The Lavi Recreation Area

Lavi Forest’s large central recreation area includes picnic tables, children’s playground equipment and drinking water facilities; toilets are currently under construction. There is also a small amphitheater and a group seating area. A surfaced path leads to picnic tables, some of which are wheelchair-accessible, and KKL-JNF has planted Tabor oaks at the site. About 100 meters to the north of the recreation area, before Route no. 77, an impressively dense carpet of cyclamen blooms in January and February.

To access the recreation area from the gas station, drive straight for about half a kilometer, turn right to follow the signs to the Lavi Recreation Area, continue for 100 meters or so, then turn immediately left into the recreation area.

Squadron Company 288 Recreation Area

This small, intimate recreation area comprises two tables in the shade of Calabrian pine trees and it is studded with rocks that perpetuate the memory of fallen soldiers from this IDF company. Cyclamen bloom here in glorious profusion in January and February.

To reach the recreation area, continue along the Golani Museum access road, cross Route no. 77 via the underpass and at the first traffic circle, turn right and continue for another 200 meters or so.

The Pistachio Tree Recreation Area

This beautiful spot inside a grove of tall pistachio trees (Pistacia vera) – which were planted here to test their suitability for cultivation in the region and now provide a wonderful backdrop to the recreation area – has been equipped by KKL-JNF with seven picnic tables.