Hulda Forest – Herzl House: the Beginings of Israel

After Herzl’s death in 1904, a forest was planted in Hulda to commemorate him, along with a house named after him.  This fascinating site documents the history of Israel's early pioneers, through multimedia displays in the heart of nature. 


Geographic location: Sharon and coastal plains

Identity Card



Hulda Forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

 

Region: Central Israel

 

Special Sites in the Forest: Pool. Hulda Memorial, Rachel’s Grove, Quarry.

 

Facilities: Picinic area, Marked path, Archeological or Historic site.

 

Additional Sites in the Vicinity: The Heroism Memorial, Einot Gevaton Nature Reserve, Sharett Forest and Mitzpe Bekoa, Burma Road, Mitzpe Harel, Hanassi (Tzora) Forest, Tel Gezer.

 

How do you get there?
The Herzl Forest in Hulda is about 10 km southeast of the city of Rehovot. From Tel Aviv or Jerusalem drive on Highway 1 until the Latrun Intersection and turn toward Ashkelon (Highway 3). After the Nahshon Junction drive about one more kilometer and turn toward Rehovot at Hulda Junction (Highway 411). The forest is on the right side of the road, about 2 km from the junction.

To arrange for a visit to the Herzl House Museum call Kav Layaar, the KKL-JNF Information Hotline, at 1-800-350-550.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Hulda Forest and Herzl House were created and are maintained
thanks to contributions from friends of KKL-JNF worldwide
including the USA and Canada.
 

About the Forest

In honor of Israel’s fiftieth year of statehood, there was a plan to restore fifty historical sites, and one of them was Herzl House. The plan included the installation of exhibits along the path leading to the Herzl House, with descriptions of the site’s history, an exhibition and a film in the Herzl House, and the restoration of the monument commemorating Efraim Chisik, who was killed defending the village of Hulda in 1929, and rehabilitation of the agricultural farmyard that was once there.

 


Herzl House in Hulda Forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

History

After the demise of Theodor Herzl in 1904, KKL-JNF started the Olive Tree Donation project, a fund that would collect money for buying land and planting olive trees. The lands of Hulda were acquired by the fund, and they were designated for planting olive trees to honor the memory of Herzl.

In 1909, an olive tree farm was founded, and a beautiful house was built and called the Herzl House. The farm was managed by agronomist Louis Barish, who lived alone on the second floor of the house, and left the crowded ground floor for the workers. Inexperience and lack of knowledge about the local climate hindered the tree planting project. Out of the 12,000 olive tree saplings, only 3,000 took root. The feeling was bad, and relations between the manager and the farmhands were not promising.

Under his successor, the agronomist Yitzhak Vilkansky, Hulda changed and became an educational farm. In addition to the olive trees, fruit trees, shrubs and forests were planted, including almond, pine, acacia, cypress and carob, and there was a chicken coop, a cowshed, grain fields and agricultural industries that turned the place into a diversified farm.
 


Hulda Forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

During the years of WWI, most of the workers left or were evacuated, and the farm was abandoned. The few remaining farmworkers coped with a severe water shortage and a plague of locusts that decimated the vegetation. After the war, groups of pioneers settled in Hulda, who brought with them the idea of afforestation of desolate lands. “We will plant trees on the hills, make them live, and live there ourselves,” is what they said. The forests were planted primarily with pines, which did well. The groups spent varying lengths of time at the farm, where they received professional training and furthered the farm and its various branches of agriculture and afforestation.
 
The vicious rampages that swept across the land of Israel in the summer of 1929 did not spare the isolated farm. On the night of 28 Av, September 4, the defenders of Hulda were attacked by local Arabs. Efraim Chisik, who had come to help, was killed in combat. The tragic stories of Chisik and his sister Sara illustrate the self-sacrifice and dedication of the pioneers dedicated to the Jewish repatriation of the land of Israel.
 
Sara Chisik was killed in the defense of Tel Hai, which turned into a symbol of the few prevailing against the many. Chisik arrived in Hulda with a man from the erstwhile Hashomer, Yaakov Abramson, where they found sixteen men, two women and two children. Another twenty Haganah men arrived, and they began to fortify the village, but thousands of Arabs from the villages in the vicinity attacked the yard and set the silo on fire.
 
As the defenders crawled back to Herzl House, Efraim Chisik, who led the retreat, was fatally wounded. The Herzl House was besieged. British soldiers arrived during the night and ordered the defenders to leave the place. They left the destroyed farm, reluctantly, and the forest that had gone up in flames. For the next two years, the devastated farm remained deserted.
 


Herzl House inside. Photo: Avi Hayun.

Then, in 1931, a group of pioneers arrived from the Gordonia movement in Poland and began rehabilitating and replanting the burnt forest, the olive groves and orchards, and the grain fields. The Gordonia people left the farm in the Herzl Forest in 1937 and went to establish Kibbutz Hulda on a nearby hill, which was more favorable for living and farming. During the Israel War of Independence, when the road to Jerusalem was blockaded, Kibbutz Hulda was the embarkation and organization point for the people who broke through the blockade to the capital city.

Hulda Forest National Park

 
An olive grove with 12,000 saplings was planted at first in Hulda, a vineyard and almond orchards. Later the Hulda farm was established. Today the forest covers an area of more than 200 dunams and includes recreation areas with picnic tables and water faucets. There is a marked trail for visitors that goes through the forest between the various sites. The forest is a national park, and it is maintained by KKL-JNF. In addition to Herzl House, there are other sites including the following.
 
The Pool
There is a round pool made of concrete at the edge of the olive grove. Water was conducted to the pool from the pipeline that was installed during the War of Independence along the Burma Road, which supplied water to Jerusalem after its main water supply was cut off. There is a remnant of the original pipeline near the pool.
 
The Hulda Memorial
There is a stone sculpture made by sculptor Batya Lishansky, commemorating Efraim Chisik, his sister Sara, and others who were killed in the wars of Israel. The memorial was installed there in 1937.
 


Sarah and Efrayim Tzisik Statue. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

 
Rachel’s Grove
There is a grove of trees that was planted in memory of the poet Rachel, in 1931, the year of her death.
 
The Quarry
The people of Hulda used this quarry to supply building stone during the insurgency years, 1936 – 1939. Later it was used by the Haganah as a shooting range.

Forests and the Quality of Life

The Herzl Forest in Hulda is the cornerstone of the glorious KKL-JNF afforestation program. Over the years, KKL-JNF planted more than 220 million trees on more than 920,000 dunams all over Israel, and developed hundreds of recreation areas among them, observation points, hiking trails, sports and playground facilities, and a number of large scale regional parks.
 
These days KKL-JNF is at the forefront of the fight to prevent the country from being covered with cement and concrete. It invests in the great efforts to protect the forests and the open spaces from harm due to urban development pressure, which does not consider the needs of people for a little bit of green, the sound of the wind in the trees and the call of a bird.
 
Visitors in the forest get a feeling of home, of roots, of a connection with the earth and with the land. The question is if, in another year or two, or five, if we will still be seeing green, flourishing landscapes. KKL-JNF calls on everyone who cares about these landscapes to lend a hand in their preservation and maintenance.
 


Hulda Forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.