Haruvit Forest - Hiking & Archaeology in Central Israel

Haruvit Forest offers unadulterated nature and expansive landscapes. This unique forest boasts breathtaking natural landscapes and fascinating archeological sites. It is entirely wheelchair accessible, not only the trails, but also the picnic areas, rest points and toilet facilities.


Geographic location: Sharon and coastal plains
Access: Special (adapted for the disabled)

Identity Card



Shaked Lookout. Photo: Ronit Svirsky.

 
Special Sites in the Forest: Winepress Trail, Boulder Trail, accessible bicycle trails, accessible playing field and theatre.
 
Facilities: Picinic - Barbecue area, Lookout, Active recreation area, Archeological or Historic site, Marked path, Accessible site.
 
Additional Sites in the Area: British Park, Tel Mikne (Philistine Ekron), Beit Guvrin National Park, Beit Jamal Monastery, US Independence Park in Nes Harim, Stalactite Cave, Martyrs Forest and Tzora (Hanassi) Forest.
 
How do you get there?
From the Coastal Plain, drive on Highway 383 from Reem Junction (Masmiya) toward Moshav Zecharia (Azeka Junction) and turn into the forest between the 7km and 8km markers. From Jerusalem and/or Beersheba, drive on Highway 38 (Beit Guvrin – Shaar Hagai) and turn West at Azeka Junction to Highway 383.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Haruvit Forest and its sites were created and are maintained
thanks to contributions from friends of KKL-JNF worldwide
including Germany, USA, Canada, Uruguay and Hadassah
Women organization.

To the Forest

The uniqueness of this forest is in its contribution to the physically challenged and disabled. Every trail, bench, picnic table and facility installed in it was designed with the purpose of being suitable for serving the handicapped public. The area of Halohem Park was designated for recreational and sports facilities and covers 300 dunams (0.3 km2).

Halohem Park was developed in conjunction with the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization but was also intended to serve all of the disabled in Israel. It was designed by landscape architect Itamar Raayoni. There is a main road that crosses the park, which was designed for wheelchair mobility and has no incline exceeding 6%.

Halohem Park has two main entrances, one north of Highway 383 between Reem Junction and Zecharia Junction, and the other in the south from the direction of Tel Zafit. The main road of the forest is a loop about 10 km long and is marked in red on the map. It is paved with asphalt and is suitable for any kind of vehicle. The route begins in the flat part of the forest and ascends to the summit of the ridge, which is on the watershed and has awesome scenic observation points. There is also a road that encompasses the park marked in blue as well as bicycle trails.

The entrance to Halohem Park from the direction of Reem Junction provides quick access to the main sports field at the site. A paved road passes through carob trees, and there are picnic tables in their shade. On the left of the road is a theatre that was designed for 100 wheelchairs as well as stone benches with regular seating for 300 spectators. The playing field has been upgraded recently with a contribution from Rachel Lehrman. The field includes mini-football, basketball, a wooden slide that can be climbed in a wheelchair, swings, benches and pergolas. The basketball court is paved with asphalt, the playground facilities have rubber flooring, and the access paths are wheelchair accessible. A useful addition that turned into a decorative item are the buried trash bins, concrete structures buried 3 meters deep in the ground, covered with wooden boards and closed with plastic covers especially designed so that animals cannot enter them.

A short distance from the playground is the beginning of the Winepress Trail, which was also designed for people who are disabled. It is a loop trail designed so that wheelchair hikers and the visually impaired may move comfortably in natural surroundings. The road is paved with asphalt and goes through the brush for about 1 km with interactive sculptures along the way by the road. The right lip of the path is paved with stones that provide a barrier for the visually impaired and allow for navigation with a cane. The trail passes through natural woodland, pines and carobs. Next to the trail there are ancient farming implements, caves, winepresses, cisterns and remains of agricultural terraces.

Sculptor Zippora Gendler created the interactive sculptures along the trail. They are made of wood and colorful metal pipes, and they look like human masks that can be activated. One serves as a periscope, another as a kaleidoscope, a pair of sculptures are made to transmit tones by means of imitation radar plates, and there is another sculpture for listening to the wind. Construction of this trail by KKL-JNF was undertaken with the assistance of Hadassah Women in honor of Marlene Post, a former National President of the organization, in recognition of her work for the benefit of the disabled in Israel.

The Winepress Trail

The Winepress Trail connects to the trail in Halohem Park that crosses the length of the forest and has around 60 places to sit and picnic in the shade of the trees. The variety allows for choosing an intimate setting at a single table with a scenic view, or a number of tables together for a larger group of people. The picnic tables are on areas paved with asphalt that have adjacent space for parking and individual barbecue facilities at a height that is functional for someone confined to a wheelchair.

All the tables have been upgraded recently and were designed with metal legs that look like wood and natural wood tabletops. Another playground was also restored and improved by KKL-JNF. Next to it is a bathroom facility with wheelchair accessibility. One of the exciting things in Halohem Park is a bodybuilding gym for the disabled in nature. On flooring made of rubber, there are facilities for muscle toning such as poles for holding and elevating, triangles, swings, ladders and parallel bars that can be used while in a wheelchair.

The Boulder Trail

The trail, which was inaugurated when Halohem Park was upgraded, climbs to the crest of the ridge for a panoramic view. Its length is 2 km, and it passes through forest trees and natural woodland, and is characterized by vast areas of boulders that gave the trail its name. Off to the side there are ancient farming implements, and one can also stop to see the breathtaking landscapes of the Coastal Plain from the observation points as well as a large almond grove.

If one wishes to begin a hike from the Shaked scenic lookout, it is recommended to stop for a view and a break under the pergola. On the horizon one can see the Coastal Plain, with Ashdod to the north and Kiryat Malachi to the south. In the valley below the lookout, there are remnants of an orchard with olive trees, jujube, tamarisk, carob and an impressive number of almond trees.

At the Shaked scenic lookout there is a sign that explains about the almond tree, its flowering season, its fruits and its uses. The trail was developed with the assistance of the community of Toronto, Canada, and next to the lookout there is an attractive donor recognition wall. The paved trail is easy to walk on and ascends from the lookout into the forest.

The trail is edged with curbstones that can be tapped by a cane. It winds through the brush and the forest and has many scattered benches for resting. At the end of the trail, at the end of the ridge, there are picnic tables in the shade of trees and Mitzpe Yonatan nearby. From there one can proceed on the trail to a scenic lookout with benches facing the scenic view. From there one can see the populated areas of the Coastal Plain including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gedera, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Kfar Menachem and, in the distance, one can see the sparkling water of the Kfar Menahem reservoir.

Cycling Trails

The Haruvit Scenic Road stretches along the ridge parallel to the watershed. To the west is a view of the Coastal Plain, and to the east the Judean Hills. Crossing the forest are cycling trails that were created in the last two years and marked as the Haruvit Trail. Environmentally friendly green metal culverts were constructed above the cattle crossings in order to facilitate them for cycling. The Scenic Road ends at the second entrance to Halohem Park at the foot of Tel Zafit and the road that goes to Nahal ha-Ella. 

History

To the south, the forest borders on Nahal ha-Ella with Tel Zafit on the other side of the streambed. This tel is identified as the city of Gat, one of the five Philistine captains mentioned in the Bible. Gat is known primarily as the city where Goliath was born, and also where Achish, the King of Gat, granted asylum to David when he was fleeing from King Saul.

Gat was one of the fifteen cities that King Rehavam fortified. British archeologists, Bliss and Macalister excavated the tel in 1899 under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund. They disclosed findings from the First Temple Period including two weights with inscriptions on them—nezef and shekel. In the time of the Crusades, Tel Zafit was very important. In 1142 Crusaders built a fort called Blanche Garde (the White Guard) on the hilltop. This fort was in additional to the forts built in Beit Guvrin and Yavne for defense against Ashkelon, which continued to be controlled by the Egyptian Fatimids until 1153. The Ayyubid army led by Saladin conquered the fort from the Crusaders in 1187 and destroyed it.

There is a short and steep path that leads to the top of the tel. It is recommended that you park near the well next to Nahal ha-Ella and proceed on foot. Cross the shallow channel of the streambed and climb the path to the top of the tel. The stones strewn along the way are remnants from the Arab village of Tel es-Safi. From the top of the tel, which is 213 meters above sea level, there is a beautiful view of the Judean Hills to the east, the hills of the Judean Lowland to the north and south, and the southern Coastal Plain to the west.