The Scenic Road
KKL-JNF created a scenic road in Beit Keshet Forest that flanks Nazareth on the south and on the east. The road is 18km long and is well packed. KKL JNF also marked the road with signs, built recreation areas along the road for nature lovers, blazed trails for hiking and cycling and created scenic lookouts for the benefit of visitors. The steeper segments of the road were paved with asphalt and are suitable for two-way traffic by car or van, but there is no entry for buses and trucks.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive.
The scenic road is recommended for people looking for a pleasant and unusual trip in the north in the vicinity of the Afula – Golani Junction road (Highway 65) and the Golani Junction – Hamovil Junction road (Highway 77).
Tur’an Scenic Lookout
The Tur’an Scenic Lookout is on the peak of the climb from the Tur’an Valley to the Nazareth mountain range and it is 320m above sea level. From the lookout one can view the landscapes of the Tur’an Valley and Mount Tur’an, at the top of which is a watchtower for spotting fires used by KKL-JNF foresters. Tur’an is mentioned in Jewish sources. “You are beautiful, my beloved, like Tirza – these are the girls of Tur’an...” (Shir Hashirim Rabba).
An ancient Roman road that went from Akko via Tzipori toward the Sea of Galilee crossed the length of the Tur’an Valley. Some people identify it as the Beit Rimon Valley, which is also mentioned in Jewish sources. Remains from the Roman period were found in the village of Tur’an.
On clear days you can see Mount Hermon from the lookout as well as Mount Canaan, Mount Meron, Mount Hanaton and Mount Carmel.
The Forester’s House Observation Point and Recreation Area
The Forester's House. Photo: Mira Zer.
The Forester’s House, which is covered with stone, was built in 1946 and marks the beginning of tree planting on the eastern slopes of the mountains of Nazareth. Members of the Mitzpe Hagalil pioneering organization, who were living in harsh conditions on the Sejera Farm without work, had reached the point of hunger and decided to turn to KKL-JNF for help. Their representative arrived at the Jerusalem office of Joseph Weitz, director of KKL-JNF's Land and Afforestation Department. Weitz, who had heard his secretary arguing with the uninvited guest from the Sejera Farm, invited him into his office and made an appointment with him on the spot for a tour in order to locate suitable areas for tree planting.
After touring the area, Weitz determined that the forest could span the area between Mount Tabor and the Nazareth – Tiberias road. In preparation for the tree planting, the Forester’s House was built to store tools and saplings. The house was used by the forest workers as a place to rest and to dream about establishing their own community. It was also known as the Keren Kayemeth House.
The main recreation area in the forest was developed near the Forester’s House. It is one of the main projects on the Beit Keshet Scenic Road and can host many visitors. It also has a short trail that was made wheelchair accessible, which goes all the way from the Forester’s House to the Forester’s House Scenic Lookout, where there is a great view of the Beit Keshet Oak Forest, Givat Hamoreh, Mount Tabor, the Gilboa Mountains, Ramat Kochav and Ramat Yavniel. A venue for events in the forest was constructed right next to the observation point.
Alonei Beit Keshet Scenic Lookout
The Alonei Beit Keshet Scenic Lookout views the south, east and northeast toward Givat Hamoreh, Mount Tabor, the Gilboa Mountains, Ramat Kochav, Ramat Yavniel, Ramat Poriah and Upper Tiberias. The lookout is wheelchair accessible.
Down below one can see the forest park of Tabor oaks, which is a deciduous species that grows in the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin. The Tabor oak flowers in Mediterranean climatic conditions such as those of northern Israel, and it grows well in various types of soil—the basalt earth of the Golan Heights, the rendzina earth of chalkstone in Givot Alonim, the terra rosa earth on the dolomite bedrock and the hard chalk in Beit Keshet Forest and in light soil such as the red loam of the Sharon region.
The Karst Trail
The Karst Trail starts from below the Ancient Oak Recreation Area that is farther on down the road, past the Tabor Oak Scenic Lookout and Nahal Hashiv’a. It is about 700m long and ascends through the dolomite karst, a hard limestone that contains magnesium, which gives it rigidity and its gray color. The chemical composition of dolomite makes it sensitive to chemical weathering that disintegrates it and, together with the wind, created the karst rock all along the trail.
The level where the trail is situated is where the Tabor oaks climb up to meet the Mediterranean woodland species that descend from the top of the ridge. In the lower forest, there are many wildflowers in the springtime and plants that like dampness such as navelwort and moss.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Tel Govel was identified as the biblical town of Aznot Tavor, which defined the border between the tribes of Issachar and Naftali. “The border returned westward to Aznot Tavor and from there to Hukok,” (Joshua 19:34). An archeological survey done at the site, which covered an area of about ten dunams, disclosed shards from the Israelite period and the Roman period.
There is a marked trail to the top of the hill, which begins at the Ancient Oak Recreation Area. From the top of the hill there is a beautiful view of Mount Tabor, Givat Hamoreh and the southeastern towns of the Lower Galilee.
The Aznot streambed meets the Hashiv’a streambed north of Kibbutz Beit Keshet. In rainy winters there is a wellspring that flows in the channel called Ein Aznot. Along the streambed there is an interesting combination of oak trees and buckthorns. One can see scores of buckthorns on the way down from Tel Govel to Kibbutz Beit Keshet, parallel to the streambed. The buckthorn is a plant that originates in the African savanna. In Israel it is found mainly in the valleys and on the coastal plain.
The Tabor Scenic Lookout
Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.
From the Tabor Scenic Lookout one can see Mount Tabor in all its splendor. This lone mountain, which towers above its surroundings, is a horst—a landmass that rose beside the surrounding rift. Its topographical uniqueness made Mount Tabor a sacred mountain in ancient times. Christian tradition identifies the mountain as the place of the miracle of the transfiguration of Jesus. Starting from the Byzantine period (the 5th century) churches and monasteries were built on its crest. The structure on the mountain peak is a Franciscan church that was built from 1921 to 1925.
At the foot of Mount Tabor are the villages of Daburiya and Shibli. The first, on the right, is identified as Dovrat, one of the Levite towns in the region of the tribe of Issachar. The other, on the left, is populated by a Bedouin tribe called Arb a Sabiah. One can see a combination of natural woodland and planted forests on the slopes. Tree planting on Mount Tabor began in the 1940s.
The Mandate Pines
At the foot of the northern slope of Mount Deborah, where the Scenic Road makes a sharp turn to the northwest, there are some very tall pines known for their broad trunks. These pines are the remains of trees planted by the British. In 1926 the Mandatory Forest Service began planting trees on the northern slopes of Mount Deborah. Two kinds of trees were planted—Jerusalem pine and Stone pine. This pine forest, which was maintained and protected by KKL JNF foresters, allowed the natural woodland, which had been suppressed for years by felling and overgrazing, to regenerate and flourish.
A tour of the forest reveals species of natural woodland that grow thanks to the protection provided by the planted forest, including Tabor oak, Palestine oak, terebinth and carob.