Baram Forest - Panorama & History in Northern Israel

The Baram Forests of Upper Galilee clothe the steep slopes that descend on either side of the gully of Nahal Dishon.


Geographic location: Galilee

Identity Card



Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

 
The Baram Forests of Upper Galilee clothe the steep slopes that descend on either side of the gully of Nahal Dishon (“Antelope River”) near Kibbutz Baram, Kibbutz Yiron, Moshav Avivim and Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra. The forests, whose northernmost extremity reaches Israel’s northern road along the border with Lebanon, cover an area of around 10,000 dunam (approx 2,500 acres). Although the first trees were planted in 1950, the bulk of the planting was carried out between 1955 and 1965.
 
Region: Central Galilee and the Golan Heights

Special attractions in the park: The Baram Scenic Lookout, Baram Forest Nature Reserve, the ancient Baram Synagogue, Nahal Gush Halav, Nahal Aviv, and the Dafna Friendship Memorial Site.
 
Facilities: Picinic areas, lookout, marked pathes, archeological and historic sites, forest nature reserve, memorial.

Other sites in the area: Mount Meron Nature Reserve, Ein Zeitim, Nahal Kadesh Park, the Menara Cable Car, the Naftali Hills Scenic Trail.
 
How to get there?

Baram Forest is accessed from Route no. 899. Immediately after passing Kibbutz Sasa, turn left at Hiram Junction on to Route no. 899, and then turn right, following the signs to Kiryat Shmona and Avivim. The entrance to Baram Forest is signposted.

If approaching from the west, follow Route no. 89 through Maalot and Hurfeish.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Baram forests were rehabilitated and developed thanks to contributions from Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide including Italy.
 

About the forest

Most of Baram Forest is planted with Jerusalem pine and Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia). In 1992, extensive areas of the forest were damaged by the heavy snow that covered many of Israel’s hilly regions that winter, and the following year KKL-JNF began planting new trees that included pine, cypress, native woodland varieties and a few cedars.

Nahal Dishon (“Antelope River”) forms the backbone of this region, draining from the eastern slopes of the Meron Hills before making its way eastwards and flowing into the River Jordan near Kibbutz Hulata. In winter, the entire Dishon Gully flows with water, but in summer the riverbed is dry, mainly because water is consistently pumped from the springs that feed it. The Israel Trail that cuts across Israel from north to south follows the gully for most of its length. In the area of Baram Forest, a back road has been paved along the gully, allowing motorists to drive through the heart of the woodland and enjoy its magnificent scenery. In the lower part of the gully however, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary.  In winter and spring, the hillsides are covered with magnificent carpets of wildflowers, and on Mount Puah you may be lucky enough to see the oncocyclus bearded iris (Iris lortetii), which produces large pink flowers in April, or the winter daffodil (Sternbergia clusiana), which flowers at the end of November. The area also has an extensive population of wild animals, most notably deer and wild boar. The caves on the cliff edge provide nesting places for vultures.

The Baram Forests of Upper Galilee are pleasant even during the summer months, when a walking tour can be combined with a visit to some of the area’s fascinating sites. Many of the local communities provide excellent bed and breakfast facilities in a rural setting, enabling visitors to extend their stay overnight. Gush Halav (Jish) has restaurants that serve Middle Eastern food, and the Kibbutz Yiron Winery has already made a name for itself with locals and visitors alike.

The Baram Lookout Tower

The tower of the Baram Scenic Lookout stands at the top of Mount Shifra at a height of 743 meters above sea level. An asphalt track leads to the tower from the road that runs the length of the forest; the track turns off the road at about 1.8 kilometers south of the turnoff to Kfar Biram (“Biram Village”). The top of the tower, which is painted white and orange, can be reached by a spiral staircase that permits free access to the observation platform, on the visitor’s own responsibility.

The lookout platform provides a magnificent view of the Baram Forests and their environs: Mount Meron, the Baram Oaks Nature Reserve, Mount Adir, Mount Hiram, the hills of Gush Halav, Dalton Heights and the volcanic peaks of the northern Golan. Beneath a shady tree the visitor will find picnic tables and marble memorial pillars. On the other side of the road, around thirty meters down the road from the lookout tower, KKL-JNF has constructed a shady wayside recreation area dedicated to Leah and Yitzhak Rabin, dating back to the period when Yitzhak Rabin was Israel’s ambassador in Washington. The site serves as a convenient departure point for exploring the Baram Forest Nature Reserve.


Baram Forest Nature Reserve 

The Baram Forest Nature Reserve, which extends over an area of around 1,000 dunam (approx 2,500 acres) is remarkable for the Israeli common oak trees in its extensive natural woodland, which have grown to a much greater size than anywhere else in the country. This unique site probably owes its remarkable conservation to the fact that it was for many years the property of the Maronite Church. Its shady trees shelter large numbers of climbing plants, and in winter a wide variety of mushrooms and toadstools can be found. As the woodland is dense and deeply shaded, it retains its cool freshness even during the summer months, and is therefore a recommended venue for walks, hikes and visits at all seasons of the year.

An attractive footpath has been marked out through the forest, offering a walk that can last between two and three hours. Access to the starting point is best gained from the Rabin Recreation Area, from where we drive southwards along a dirt road marked in blue. After continuing for around 300 meters through a pine forest, the blue-marked road makes a sharp turn to the right, where it meets up with a trail marked in black. This is where we park our car.

At this point, we are at the edge of the oak forest. We keep walking along the blue-marked path, which leads us down deep into the forest, to Nahal Dishon (the “Antelope River” gully). Once down in the gully we turn right along the red-marked trail, following the Israel Trail signs. A hundred meters further on, the red-marked trail leaves Nahal Dishon and begins to ascend the gully of Nahal Tzivon. After about half a kilometer we turn right and head upstream along a path marked in black. The footpath becomes a dirt road on which we turn right and continue for another 800 meters or so until we arrive at the spot where we left our vehicle. Walking in the deep shade of the forest is a remarkable experience.

The Ancient Baram synagogue

The ancient synagogue of Baram, one of the most impressive preserved anywhere in Israel, is today a national park, and visitors are required to pay an entrance fee. In the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods this area was the site of a large Jewish village. The synagogue has three entrances, and its façade is particularly impressive. The lintel over the main entrance is adorned with typical Jewish symbols: vines, bunches of grapes, balancing scales and floral motifs. Most of the building’s pillars, which apparently supported the second storey of the original building, have been re-erected in the prayer hall.

Near the synagogue lie the ruins of the Arab village of Biram, whose Maronite Christian inhabitants were ordered by the Israel Defense Forces to vacate their homes after Israel’s War of Independence. The local church is still intact, and the village’s former residents return to it from time to time on special occasions.

Nahal Gush Halav 

The gully of Nahal Gush Halav descends from the community of Gush Halav (Jish) into the Dishon Gully and its lower section borders the forests planted by KKL-JNF. This route is a four-kilometer walk that takes about two hours from the starting point to the pick-up point (be sure to have a vehicle waiting!) at the end. The starting point for this route is the Gush Halav Post Office, from which we descend the winding street marked in green until we come to the dirt path the descends along the riverbank. After walking for a kilometer between olive groves and fig plantations on either side we arrive at the remains of a Byzantine synagogue to the right of the trail. The façade, which faces Jerusalem, is constructed from large impressive stones. The stone door sill now lies on the floor of the main hall, and the remains of a relief depicting an eagle  and a wreath can still be discerned upon it. The first pillar to the right after the entrance bears an inscription in Aramaic, which reads: “Yosei son of Nahum made this lintel, may a blessing be upon him.” This synagogue may have belonged to a neighborhood of Gush Halav.

The green-marked path now turns aside from the dirt road and makes its way along the riverbank. In summer, this route may be blocked by a tangle of thorny undergrowth, in which case we should take the dirt road instead, where small springs can be seen flowing all along the way. In the upper section of a gully that enters from the right, whose tall poplar trees are visible from Nahal Gush Halav, a spring of pure clear water called Ein Alva emerges from a concrete pool and flows abundantly. The route continues peacefully along the gully, passing a number of ruined watermills before coming to an end in Nahal Dishon, where we wait for our vehicle to come and pick us up.

Nahal Aviv

Nahav Aviv is a short gully that descends down to Nahal Dishon from the environs of Kibbutz Yiron, providing a hiking route of around 4.5 kilometers in length that takes three to four hours to complete. Here again we need a vehicle to come and pick us up at the end of the route, at the point where the road from Yiron to Nahal Dishon meets the dirt track along the gully. The starting point for this route, which is best avoided in summer, is the sharp bend on the back road from Kibbutz Yiron to Moshav Avivim.

The gully offers a beautiful walking route, largely because of the rock pillars along its banks. Along Nahal Dishon the footpath is marked with Israel Trail markings, and here we turn right (i.e., westwards) along a dirt road and continue until we reach the point where it joins the road that descends from Kibbutz Yiron, where our vehicle is waiting. In November, it is worth considering a slight change of route and turning left along Nahal Dishon to walk downstream: at this time of year large clumps of winter daffodils (Sternbergia clusiana) bloom here, just near the gully. If we choose this option our walk will end at Alma Bridge (Gesher Alma), and we shall have walked two kilometers more than we would have done had we followed the route proposed earlier. 


The Dafna Friendship Memorial Site

In 2003, on Kibbutz Yiron, KKL-JNF established a memorial to members of the Dafna settlement nucleus (gar‘in) who were killed in Israel’s fight for independence while undergoing training on Kibbutz Dafna prior to settling Kibbutz Yiron. This monument to their memory is called the Friendship Memorial, and it is dedicated to three members of the group who fell in the War of Independence on what is now Israel’s northern border. A scenic lookout was also established, providing a view of the hills of Lebanon, Mount Hermon, the Golan Heights and the Galilean hills. A scenic promenade nearby displays environmental sculptures by some of Israel’s leading artists.

How to get there:
After entering Kibbutz Yiron, take the perimeter road on the northwestern side and continue for about 500 meters until you arrive at the site.