A memorial in Landau Forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.
The hill on which Landau Forest stands retains traces of the ancient agriculture of Beit Shearim, mainly in the form of agricultural appliances for farm production, which have been hewn into the rock. Beit Shearim reached the height of its prominence when Rabbi Yehuda Nasi made it the seat of the Sanhedrin in around 170 CE. Although he later moved to Tzippori, his body was returned to Beit Shearim for burial, inaugurating the creation of a vast Jewish necropolis. After KKL-JNF acquired the Beit Shearim lands the area was settled in 1924 by Yablona, Kozhnitz and other Hasidim who had emigrated from Poland. Although they founded the communities of Nahalat Yaakov and Zikhron Avraham, these settlers were unable to tolerate the local conditions and the recurrent attacks of malaria they entailed, and they eventually moved on to found Kfar Hasidim.The Religious Settlement Trail
In 2004-5 KKL-JNF created this forest footpath in honor of the pioneers of HaPoel HaMizrahi. The route descends from HaShomrim Forest’s parking lot, and after a downward flight of steps, we turn right on to a path that makes its way among Jerusalem pines and carob trees planted by KKL-JNF and natural Tabor oak woodland native to the area. Also growing here are snowdrop bushes (Styrax officinalis), spiny hawthorn, Palestine pistachio trees and Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides). Syrian marjoram (Origanum syriacum) and white-leaved savory (Micromeria fruticosa) grow among the rocks, and in winter the slope is covered with flowering anemones and cyclamen. The entire path is bordered by ancient agricultural devices hewn into the rock.
After some 200 meters the footpath reaches a dirt road where we turn right and walk downhill. After another hundred meters or so the path turns right again, leading downhill through a mixture of native woodland and planted forest trees. The path leads to the large oak tree in the Kiryat Tivon cemetery parking lot, and from there it skirts the cemetery and leads us up a flight of steps heading back towards HaShomrim Forest.
Here we recommend continuing straight ahead. KKL-JNF has provided a recreation area at this point, complete with disabled-accessible playground equipment. At the eastern edge of the forest is a delightful scenic lookout dedicated to the memory of Haim Shimon and Pesha Alpert, providing a view of Kiryat Tivon, the Nazareth Hills, Givat HaMoreh, Mount Gilboa and the Jezreel Valley. Below the lookout the houses of Moshav Sde Yaakov can be clearly seen.
A picnic area. Photo: Yaakon Shkolnik
At this point, it’s worth leaving the forest
and going out on to the road. At the junction of HaShomrim Street and Jezreel (Yizrael) Street a monument in a park marks the spot where Alexander Zaid (1886-1938) of HaShomer (“The Watchman,” i.e., the pre-State Jewish defense organization) was murdered while on his way to the temporary settlement of nearby Kibbutz Alonim. A sign near the memorial marks the spot where his murderers lay in wait for him. On the other side of HaShomrim Street is the entrance to the cemetery where members of HaShomer, including Zaid himself, are buried. The grave markers are made from unhewn stone and the place has an atmosphere that is all its own.
In 1926 a group called Kvutzat HaRo‘im (“The Band of Shepherds”) settled here in an attempt to found a herders’ village. This romantic project attracted people from Tel Aviv, including the poet Alexander Penn, who composed some of his finest works here. After a number of failed attempts, however, the shepherds abandoned the Beit Shearim hills and Alexander Zaid remained alone at the site until his murder in 1938.
In 1927 Sde Yaakov, the first HaPoel HaMizrahi moshav, was established in the Jezreel Valley. Its founders, pioneering farmers imbued with a love of the Land and the Torah, had settled initially on Mount Beit Shearim before moving to the Jezreel Valley, just below the site they inhabit today. The moshav is named after Rabbi Yitzhak Yaakov Reines, the founder of HaPoel HaMizrahi.