Meron-Ein Zeitim Scenic Route

Buildings in the community of Kadita as seen from the scenic route. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik.
Buildings in the community of Kadita as seen from the scenic route. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik.
Nature lovers have reason to celebrate: KKL-JNF has created a beautiful scenic route that links Meron Junction to the old Biriya Forest Scenic Route, and from now on, we can make our way deep into the area between Meron Junction, Hatzor of Galilee and Rosh Pina.

Here in the Upper Galilee, KKL-JNF has built a new scenic route that makes its way through the Meron Forest. This woodland, which was planted at the time of the British Mandate, stands in the area between Mount Meron and Biriya Forest. The new section of the route is 5.7 kilometers long, and it opens a window on to another area of Upper Galilee. The new scenic route, which is paved almost all the way along, links up with the old Biriya Forest Trail and together all these separate sections provide us with seventeen kilometers of scenic route that connect the Meron area of Upper Galilee to the Hula Valley. How delightful!
  • The start of the route

    At the start of the scenic route we can see the Yosef Secter Recreation Area on our right (to the east) among the pine trees; the access point to the recreation area is about 100 meters to the east of the start of the scenic route. To our left we have a completely different landscape, as Mount Meron towers above us beyond the vineyard next to the road. Mount Meron is the highest hill in Galilee (1,208 meters), and its mountainous scenery will accompany us on our way along the route.
  • Area-

    north
  • Target audience-

    All
  • Track length-

    17 km
  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Season-

    All
  • Duration-

    1-2 hours
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

about

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.

To the Forester’s House

Some 200 meters from the entrance, the route turns to the right and leads us through an area of natural woodland. Israeli oaks, carob trees, terebinths and other native varieties are interspersed with the Jerusalem pines, cypresses and eucalypti planted by KKL-JNF. In springtime beautiful wildflowers spring up out of the stony ground among the chalk rocks.

After 1.7 kilometers our route leads us to a recreation area on the left. If we are looking for a place to take a break amidst natural surroundings, this is the spot we recommend. It is intimate, and one of its tables - there are eight or so - is accessible to people with limited mobility. But after you have enjoyed the site’s hospitality, please take your rubbish away with you. It’s very hard to clear garbage from here.

Opposite the recreation area, on the other side of the road, is the beginning of a footpath that leads us, after some 300 meters, to the Forester’s House. This stone building, which was recently renovated by KKL-JNF, was used by both those who planted the forest and those who guarded it.

After visiting the Forester’s House we continue our drive. At kilometer 2.3, the forest gives way to open ground, and on the right we can see Tzfat, with Biriya Forest - the largest woodland in Galilee - to the north of it. From here we can get an excellent impression of its size. On our left are the widely spaced buildings of Kadita.

The tomb of Elkana

The road turns right, then immediately left. A short dirt road ascends to a concrete building topped with a blue dome (2.8 kilometers). This structure incongruously planted among the rocks is surrounded by a concrete fence whose stone-faced façade exhibits five arches. In the shade of the dome, unsurprisingly, are prayer books, a plastic chair and soot from candles. The building was constructed over the site identified as that of the tombs of Elkana, the father of the Biblical Prophet Samuel, and Rabbi Bana’a.

Rabbi Bana’a was a scholar (amora) whose life spanned the end of the second century CE and the start of the third. Some say his name derives from his habit of indicating burial caves and building (bana) a marker on them so that people would recognize them and avoid ritual pollution. Why was Rabbi Bana’a buried at the same site as Elkana, the father of Samuel? We are not the first to raise this query. Rabbi Shmuel Vital (1598-1677), son the great Rabbi Chaim Vital, posed the same question and contended that Elkana was buried with his son Samuel at Rama (Nebi Samuel).

The Monument to the 37th Armored Brigade (Re’em Division)

The path winds its way along the slope and after about half a kilometer brings us to the parking lot to the left of the route, which is dominated by an old Centurion tank that marks the site of the memorial to the 37th Armored Brigade (Re’em Division). KKL-JNF has provided a small recreation area in the grove adjacent to the memorial.

A path with wooden steps leads up to the memorial, which consists of circular pillars up to nine meters in height and sheets of steel in the shape of the Hebrew letter shin (“sh”). This letter represents words connected to the activities of the Brigade, such as Kadesh, Sheshet haYamim (“the Six-Day [War]”), shalom, shirion (“armor”), neshek (“weaponry”) and shaddai, which appears on mezuzahs. The memorial is the work of sculptress Dina Nir Even-Tov, widow of Oded Even-Tov, a scout in the 37th Brigade who fell in Nablus during the Six-Day War. The plaza in which the memorial stands is surrounded by a wall that bears the names of the division’s 166 fallen, some of whom were killed in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Beside the wooden-stepped path are maps that display details of the brigade’s battles in the Six-Day War, including the conquest of Kuneitra, the Sherman tank battle at Massadeh in the Golan and the occupation of Nablus. The memorial, which was inaugurated in 1969, is located at this particular site because the brigade mustered its forces at Ein Zeitim during the “waiting period” that preceded the Six-Day War.

The Idra Rabba and the road to Biriya Forest

The scenic route makes its way down from the memorial directly to the access road to Kadita. Here we turn left towards Kadita and after some 400 meters we pass a small structure that marks the site of the cave of Idra Rabba and the tomb of tana Rabbi Yossi Bar Yaakov. According to tradition, this is the site of the cave in which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his pupils learned the secrets of the kabbalah as written in the chapters entitled Idra Rabba and Idra Zuta in the Zohar. Tradition relates that the site was discovered by Rabbi Isaac Luria. The Aramaic expression idra rabba means “the great assembly,” i.e., the great assembly of pupils of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

Close by the Idra Rabba site the scenic route leaves the access road to Kadita and turns to the right. The road climbs for 1.8 kilometers through Ein Zeitim Forest before arriving at Route no. 886 between Ein Zeitim Junction and Moshav Dalton. In order to join the continuation of the scenic route, which crosses Biriya Forest and culminates in Hatzor of Galilee twelve kilometers further on, we must turn right (southwards) on Route no. 886, drive for about 150 meters and then turn left (eastwards). Information on this stretch of the route can be found in separate articles in the KKL-JNF newsletter e-Yarok.