Kibbutz Hanita was established in a daring Tower and Stockade operation in response to Arab efforts to frustrate Jewish settlement. On March 20th 1938 the pioneering settlers began the ascent of Mount Hanita and established a base camp on the first night at Lower Hanita, where the reconstructed tower and stockade stands today in the forest. Local Arabs attacked the settlers on that first night, and many more times subsequently, but the community held out nonetheless. After the construction of the road to Upper Hanita (the name “Hanita” appears in Jewish sources with reference to two communities in the Tyre region), the pioneers moved up the hill to their permanent place of settlement.
KKL-JNF planted the forest, which consists mainly of pine trees, around the Lower Hanita site, and the woodland now extends all the way from the kibbutz to the township of Shlomi. At the top end of the forest stands a reconstruction of the tower and stockade site with an adjacent recreation area that is accessible to visitors whose mobility is limited. An additional picnic site can be found at the lower end of the forest beside Shlomi.
Today the Hanita slopes are covered with a variety of conifers, fruit trees and native woodland. In the mid 1990s, after a serious outbreak of Israeli pine bast scale, some 900 dunam (approx 225 acres) of the forest were restored by KKL-JNF, and around 700 dunam of trees were uprooted between 1998 and 2001 to make way for the new neighborhoods of Shlomi. Despite its small size, Hanita Forest is an excellent example of variegated woodland in which natural vegetation is developing in the shade of the conifers.
Throughout the year a variety of geophytes, orchids and annuals bloom in the forest, which also possesses a number of interesting botanical and archeological sites, together with footpaths and roads that lead the visitor to hidden beauty spots.
Redeeming the Land
Land acquisition played a major role in the founding of the Jewish State. In 1938 the British Mandatory Government placed obstacles in the way of land purchase by Jews. In response, Mr. Yosef Ciniglia, then President of KKL-JNF’s Central Committee in Italy, bought the land in northwest Galilee together with his friend Eliezer Winshell . The owners of the land , believing Ciniglia to be a representative of the Catholic Church wishing to found a monastery on the site, sold the property through a Lebanese intermediary, and it was later registered free of charge in the name of KKL-JNF at the Acco Land Registry Office. Yosef Ciniglia recounted the series of events as follows: “In December 1937, Avraham Winshell and his brother Eliezer approached me and asked me to help them acquire over 4,000 dunam of land along the Lebanese border. After consultation with Yosef Weitz and Dr. Granot, I realized that although KKL-JNF was interested in the project it did not have the necessary funds for the purchase, nor was it certain that the Jewish Agency would be prepared to bear the costs involved in settling the land.
“We understood that unless we forced their hand, no decision would be taken and we would not reach the northwestern border. Thanks to the Italian passport I had in those days, I was able to represent myself as a non-Jewish purchaser – though later, after the sale had gone through, the Arab gangs avenged themselves on my Lebanese Arab guide and killed him.” After the founding of the state, Ciniglia busied himself with the Hagana and commercial ties between Israel and Italy. Recently his son David approached KKL-JNF and asked that his father’s story be made known and that a woodland grove be dedicated on Hanita land in commemoration of his life and work.