Beeri Forest - Fields of Wildflowers in Southern Israel

Beeri Forest is an rolling landscape of hills and fields in Negev, in the Besor region south of Saad Junction. The landscape is a combination of green fields, open spaces and badlands. The region is famous for its carpets of red anemones in February.



Geographic location: Northern and western Negev
Access: Special (adapted for the disabled)

Identity Card



Anemones blossom in Beeri Forest. Photo: Michael Huri.


Region: Southern Israel

• Special Sites in the Forest: Beeri Badlands (Crater Nature Reserve), Sulfur Mines, ANZAC Memorial, Memorial for the Jews of Baghdad, Nirim Reservoir, Maon Antiquities.
 
Facilities: Picinic area, Marked path, Archeological or Historic site, Memorial, Accessible site.
 
• Additional Sites in the Vicinity? Jujube Road – Yad Mordechai Forest, Nir Am Reservoir and the Asaf Siboni Lookout, Nabia Mari Lookout, Zuckerman Recreation Area and the Truce House, Black Arrow Memorial, Maon Synagogue Mosaic, Steel Division Memorial, Besor Nofit Road, The Fields Road, Dangour and Eshkol Park.

Scarlet South Festival 2018

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Beeri Forest was created, restored and is maintained thanks to
contributions of friends of KKL-JNF worldwide, including
Germany and France.

About the Forest

The average annual precipitation in the area rarely exceeds 300mm. This is not a sufficient amount for the development of dense vegetation, and since there is not much vegetation and because of the soft loess soil, the result is erosion and the creation of the badlands topography. KKL-JNF has marked a driving route in the area with signs, and the road is suitable for all vehicles.

Old Beeri – Nahabir
Beeri was founded as part of the eleven points in the Negev (a joint project of the Jewish Agency, KKL-JNF, the Haganah and Mekorot) by members of the Scouts and the Noar Haoved movements. The project was planned very secretly. On the night following Yom Kippur, people from several communities assembled with equipment and set out at nightfall in convoys.

Even the settlers themselves did not know exactly where they were going. In one night, Beeri, Hatzerim, Nevatim, Urim, Nirim, Shoval, Mishmar Hanegev, Galon, Tekuma, Kfar Darom and Kadima were established. Kibbutz Beeri was originally called Nahabir, which was the Arabic name of the area and means badlands. Later it was named Beeri, which was the literary name of Berl Katzenelson, who died around then. The kibbutz was initially about 2 km west of its present location and was called Beerot.

During the War of Independence, Kibbutz Beeri was attacked by the Egyptian army, and its defenders had to live in bunkers for several months. After the war, it was relocated to its present location on the El Musharifa Hill. In the former Beeri you can still see the old security house riddled with bullet holes, the water tower of the kibbutz and the Position One lookout, which is located on the south side of the paved road, across from the security house. The position, the trenches and the fences were restored by the children of the kibbutz. The lookout is beautiful. To the south one can see the sulfur quarries, and below the lookout are the first groves of the kibbutz, which have recently been restored by KKL-JNF.

The Beeri Badlands (The Crater Nature Reserve)

In the Besor region there is a nature reserve covering an area of 3km2 in a valley that looks like a circus arena. It is about 1 km north of Kibbutz Beeri and it is also called the Beeri Badlands Nature Reserve. It has special landscapes which encompass a valley that looks a little like a crater, like a moonscape, which resulted from extreme soil erosion. The reserve covers about 5,000 dunams.

The nature reserve includes the upper basin of Nahal Sahaf, which created the valley and is closed on three sides and open only on the west. The loess walls around the eroded circus are ten to fifteen meters high, and the loess soil on the bottom of the valley is cut by the channels of Nahal Sahaf. In the ground there is a prehistoric site from the Paleolithic Era with many implements made of flint. The vegetation in the reserve is diverse and includes Spur flax, Deverra tortuosa, Brushwood, Rockrose, Pink Sun-rose, thorny saltwort, and Egyptian sage. In springtime you can see the Palestine iris, the anemone, the scarlet crowfoot and the Carmel bee orchid. The reserve also has a diversity of wildlife including gazelles, Indian porcupines, turtles and Monitor lizards.

In addition to the scenery and the flowers, one can also see the first agave grove planted in the Negev. It was part of a failed attempt to establish a rope industry. The agave, also known as the century plant, is a fleshy plant that produce huge flowering stalks reaching a height of five meters. The Beeri pioneers, assisted by KKL-JNF, planted ten dunams (2.5 acres) of agave, with the intention of producing rope from their fibers. Economically the crop failed, due, among other reasons, to the production of synthetic rope.

In the months of February and March the forest is covered with a red carpet of Anemone coronaria, which gets its name from the flower, which is glorious like a crown. The scientific name means the daughter of the wind. Anemones bloom in the middle of winter, when there are strong winds. The red expanses are dotted with other flowers such as asphodel, grape hyacinth, squill and bee orchid.

The Sulfur Mines

There are about 200 dunams of abandoned mines and a nature reserve in the Besor region, about 2 km from Kibbutz Beeri. A sulfur deposit was discovered there, which had sunk to the bottom of a body of warm, sweet water during the Neogene Period. The British geologist who discovered it during WWI was given a concession by the mandate government to develop it, and mining started in 1933. A road was paved north to transport the sulfur to the Gaza port, and a factory was built for processing the sulfur.

The mines and the factory were operative until the deposit was depleted (1946). Until 1938 the mines had produced about 7,000 tons of sulfur. These days, one can still see the mining pits, the piles of sulfur residue and the factory building, which has a deep well and a pool of freshwater next to it. About 300 meters south of the mines there are remains of a large military installation with buildings and a network of roads. This is where the British army had large ammunition storehouses during WWII.

The ANZAC Memorial
About 4 km northwest of Kibbutz Beeri is the ANZAC Memorial in honor of the Australia and New Zealand Armored Corps who fell in the battle for Gaza during WWI. The memorial resembles the letter A and was installed in 1967, the 50th year since the British defeat of the Turks in Gaza. The memorial looks out on the battlefields of WWI.

The Memorial for the Jews of Baghdad

In the Nahabir Recreation Area there is a monument commemorating the Jews of Baghdad who were killed in a pogrom that took place towards the end of WWII. The founders of Beeri included Jews from Baghdad. Documents that were found recently in the archive of the Jews of Baghdad show that the community raised funds for KKL-JNF in 1947, for assisting the young kibbutz in its early stages. The money was used to plant the first groves of the Beeri Forest.

The Maon Antiquities
Farther on Highway 242, near Kibbutz Nirim, are the Maon ruins, an ancient town from the time of the Mishnah and the Talmud. A beautiful mosaic was discovered there in an ancient synagogue. The mosaic includes 55 medallions that depict wildlife and Jewish ritual objects.

The Nirim Reservoir – Bird Watching Lookout
In the early 1980s KKL-JNF constructed a reservoir for irrigating the agricultural fields of all the communities in the vicinity. The is a beautiful observation point there, where one may view the water fowl all year round, but the best time is in the spring.

Picnic and Cycling Trails

Picnic Areas

In the Nahabir Recreation Area below the water tower, there are picnic tables, playground equipment and bathrooms. The site has a monument commemorating the Jews of Baghdad. The recreation area is wheelchair accessible.

The Reim Recreation Area is on the bank of Nahal Grar near the Saad – Reim Highway (232) and has picnic tables.

The Saad Recreation Area is south of Saad Junction and also has picnic tables.

The Hirbet Madur Recreation Area has picnic tables along the Water Facilities Route.


Cycling


Beeri Cycling Trail Network

Beeri Forest is a great place for cycling. There is a manmade bicycle trail for mountain bikes, which was constructed by the members of Kibbutz Beeri. It starts at the pit, which is a quarry, and is 3.5 km long. The route includes sand obstacles, water, tree trunks, boulders and assorted slopes. Every spring there is a race on the roads of the kibbutz to the Besor Road. KKL-JNF is currently blazing a marked cycling trail for different levels of cycling, for excursions in the vicinity.