Israel-Thailand Friendship House
The Thai house is a very unusual sight in the forest so it might surprise you. It was designed like a traditional Thai temple made of wood and marble in shades of gold, red and white. The jujubes and Judas trees planted next to it add to its Oriental ambience.
The house was given as a gift to the people of Israel from the people of Thailand as a token of friendship in honor of the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel’s independence and 50 years from the coronation of the king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. The house is situated with a view of the hills of Modi’in Forest. There is a fence around the site in order to protect it from environmental hazards.
How to get there: From Highway 443, it is right next to Mitzpe Modi’in.
The Morris Kaufman Recreation Area for the Blind
A special recreation area
created to give the blind and the visually impaired an opportunity to hike on their own in nature. The footpath is circular and is about 500m long. Along the path there are metal railings to hold on to. There are plots of herbs with strong scents scattered throughout the recreation area, and near every section there is a metal sign with a map and explanations in Braille, in English and Hebrew.
Relief drawings describe the flora and the archeological findings that were discovered there, including a winepress, a cistern and storage caves. There are signs that explain and describe the herbs, rosemary, hyssop and sage. Additional signs tell about the Jerusalem pine, the almond, pomegranate, fig and grapevine. The recreation area was constructed thanks to a contribution from friends of KKL JNF in the USA.
How to get there: From the Mitzpe Modi’in Gate, from Highway 443 toward the Electricity Trail.
Modi’in Forest is located northeast of Ben Shemen Forest and reaches Nahal Modi’im. KKL JNF constructed the Patrol Road here, which served the IDF until the Six Day War. The dirt road goes on the edges and inside the forest and is marked in green. It is a wide and easy road with picnic areas along it. When you cross the forest and look towards the Arab village of Midya, you can see a big hill to the south. That is Tel a Ras, which is the Hasmonean town of Modi’im. There is a scenic road there marked in black. This road was blazed after the construction of the security fence and provides a beautiful view north and east all along the way.
From Highway 443, about 850m east of the entrance to Ne’ot Kedumim Park. the road turns into a dirt road and becomes paved again near the Tombs of the Maccabees.
The Hasmonean Tombs
A little before the Tombs of the Maccabees there is a stone building where, according to tradition, Matityahu, son of Yohanan the High Priest and father of the Maccabees, was buried. Next to the building is a monument commemorating the soldiers who fell in the battle for Post 219 during the War if Independence. The road proceeds to a small hill on top of which are two rows of graves and a small burial cave. There are nine tombs carved in the bedrock, and each of them has two bases. Tradition attributes these graves to the Hasmoneans and the Maccabees.
Sheikh al Arbawi
The name means Western Sheikh. This is a domed building believed to have been built next to a monument erected by Shimon the Hasmonean to commemorate his family. According to this tradition, this is where the Maccabees were buried.
Right near the tomb of the sheikh is a sign that tells the story of the army post in the days of the War of Independence. On April 29, 1949, the post was attacked by a large force of Arabs. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers were killed, and the others retreated. Reinforcements arrived that night and re-conquered the post.
Bir a Shemi
This is an ancient site located next to the southeastern edge of Ben Shemen Forest. A trail marked in blue leads to an ancient pool and to Monks Valley. A grove called the Children’s Channel was planted near the caves there, and it includes Callitris trees, a kind of cypress, which were planted in the shape of the number six, which used to be the number of the children’s TV channel. When you climb above the monks’ caves, you can see the number six formed by the trees.
The road to Monks Valley passes orchards cultivated by KKL JNF with pastures near them where herds of sheep and cows graze. Here you can hike by foot and climb to the area of the caves carved in the bedrock, which were used for burial during the Roman era. In later times, monks lived there and engraved crosses on the walls of the caves. There is a pool for collecting water nearby and a mysterious, ancient jujube tree. Muslim tradition claims that a spirit dwelling in its branches protects the tree from harm.
Tel Gimzo has a long history of a Jewish community in ancient times and afterwards an Arab period. From the height of the hill, one can view the landscapes of Latrun, the valley of Lod and, on the horizon, Herzliya. To the east one can see the buildings of the city of Modi’in, to the west Kfar Daniel, and to the north Ben Shemen Forest. The panorama is even more beautiful at sunset and sunrise. There are almond trees on Tel Gimzo, hedges of prickly pears, saltbushes and boxthorn, and on top of the hill there is a monument called the Lookout of the Two, which commemorates two soldiers from the Religious Brigade who fell in the War of Independence. You can get to it by climbing stairs that were constructed from the direction of Gimzo.
This ancient site in the heart of Ben Shemen Forest is surrounded by a grove of ancient olive trees interspersed with wild prickly pears. The grove covers an area of one thousand dunams and between its paths there are ancient winepresses and olive presses. On the ground there are shards that have been dated to the Iron Age. Scientists estimate that Tel Hadid was a town surrounded by a wall until the time of Joshua, which flourished in the days of the Kingdom of Judah.
Archeological excavations here disclosed a mosaic floor depicting a boat sailing on the Nile, a fortified city and flora and fauna on the riverbanks. The mosaic has been installed at the Sea Museum in Haifa, but you can still see the panoramic view from Tel Hadid, which views the Judean plain, the Dan metropolis and the coastline. There are groves of jujubes nearby, carobs, almonds figs and a few pomegranates, and a grove of seven ancient jujube trees, the largest in Israel, which are accessible by foot or ATV.
How to get there: The Tel Hadid Gate in Ben Shemen Forest is accessible from Highway 444, half a kilometer north of Ben Shemen Interchange toward Rosh Ha’ayin. At the first light turn left. At the second light turn left again. After another 1.3 km turn right to the Quartermaster Corps Memorial and Tel Hadid.
Bicycle PathsThe Israel National Trail
goes through Ben Shemen Forest, as does the Tel Aviv Jerusalem Bicycle Path. In recent years, Ben Shemen Forest has become a major cycling location. Hundreds of bicycle riders are there every morning to ride in the forest and enjoy the open spaces. KKL JNF created two bicycle paths in the forest which together are 32 km. long. The paths, marked in blue and red, start at Mitzpe Modi’in.