Ofakim Park in Israel's Negev Desert

Photograph: Bonnie Sheinman, KKL-JNF

Ofakim Park is situated east of the town of Ofakim, not far from Beersheva, the capital city of Israel's south. Begining as a forest that was planted in 1978 by KKL-JNF, Ofakim has become a large green oasis, encompassing the historic Patish Fortress, scenic hiking and cycling routes, and disabled-accessible recreation sites.

Ofakim Park - Closed
Ofakim Park is closed to visitors due to infrastructures work until further notice.

Ofakim Forest, which extends over an area of about 500 dunam (approx 125 acres), is situated to the east of the town of Ofakim, some twenty kilometers north west of Beersheba. Among the amenities it offers are a large disabled-accessible recreation area, an extensive lawn, drinking water and toilet facilities. Two short signposted scenic trails lead visitors to interesting sites in the forest, the best known of which is the Patish Fortress. KKL-JNF began to plant Ofakim Forest in 1978, and continues to develop it today as part of the Heart of the Park project, which is now almost complete and which will turn the site into a focal point for leisure, culture, recreational and sporting activities.

  • How to get there

    From Beersheba, drive to Gilat Junction (Route no. 25: Tzomet Gilat) and from there continue west (Route no. 241) to the road that leads into the town. Once arrived in Ofakim, drive southwards along the main road then turn left as you approach the edge of town, following the signs to the park.

    From Tel Aviv, drive to Yad Mordechai Junction, and from there through Sderot and Netivot (Routes no. 34 & 25) until you reach Gilat Junction.

  • Geographic location-

    Mount Negev,Negev highlands
  • Area-

  • Special Sites in the Forest-

    The bird sculpture, Al-Jarir Cave (Maagora), Patish Fortress.
  • Facilities-

    Picinic area, Marked path, Water, Restroom, Accessible site.
  • Other sites in the area-

    Eshkol Park, the Besor Trail, Gerar River Park (Sharsheret Park), Sayeret Shaked Park, Hatzerim Forest’s Sculpture Trail.
  • Access-

    Special (adapted for the disabled)
  • Type of parking-

    Accessible parks,Overnight parks,Picnic parks
  • Interest-

    Bicycle track,Archeology

Projects and Partners Worldwide

Nahal Harod Park was established and restored thanks to donations from KKL-JNF’s Friends in Germany.

Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

About the Park

A little information about Ofakim

The town of Ofakim, which was founded in 1955, lies some twenty kilometers to the north-west of the city of Beersheba, and its name, which means “Horizons,” accurately reflects the flat landscape that surrounds it. The town was originally settled by immigrants from North Africa, who were later joined by new arrivals from a wide variety of other countries. In the 1990s, Ofakim absorbed large numbers of immigrants from Ethiopia and the countries of the former Soviet Union, and today the town has a population of over twenty-five thousand people.

Photo: Ancho Gosh

Ofakim Park looks toward the future

As part of the almost completed Heart of the Park project, KKL-JNF is continuing to develop Ofakim Park with the intention of transforming it into a leisure center, a venue for cultural events and a site for recreational and sporting activities. In the future, the park’s trees will receive additional irrigation by reclaimed water from the new purification plant that will serve both Beersheba and Ofakim, and which will also supply water for the recreational lake that is part of the future plan for the park.

Ofakim’s new zoning plan allocates the park a central position within the town’s new boundaries, providing a green belt for local residents.

Sites in the Park

At the entrance to the park the visitor is greeted by a grove of Athel tamarisks (Tamarix aphylla), a variety of tree resistant to the high temperatures and aridity of the desert. A drive of some 300 meters along the paved road brings us to the lawn and the park’s main recreation area that extends at both sides of the road.

At the edge of the lawn is a sculpture in the form of a large bird, which is of interest to local children mainly because of the two slides that descend from its neck. Children and adults alike can appreciate the sports and exercise equipment that KKL-JNF has provided at the site, together with the picnic facilities that enable visitors to enjoy a meal in the open air. The recreation area is suitable for people with physical disabilities. The bird sculpture is the work of artists Ruslan Sergeev and Igor Sereni, and the establishment of the recreation area was funded by a donation from the Hadassah Women’s Organization.

The main recreation area is a convenient departure point for visits to other sites in the park, which can be reached easily by a short drive along Derekh HaOfek (“Horizon Way”) or Derekh HaMeara (“Cave Way”).

The park was established with the help of the Israel National Insurance Institute’s Foundation for the Development of Services to the Disabled.

Al-Jarir cave. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

Al-Jarir Cave (Maagora)

Once upon a time, the Ottoman governor lived here, protected by a division of soldiers, while he awaited the completion of Patish Fortress. Once completed in 1894, the fortress became the first local administrative center to be built by the Turks outside Gaza, and it helped to consolidate the policies of Sultan Abd al-Hamid II among the unruly Tarabin and Tayaha Bedouin tribes. At the entrance to the cave, which was used as a reservoir in ancient times, is a quarry that provided material for the buildings of the nearby Byzantine site whose stones were later recycled for the construction of Patish Fortress. The quarrymen left stone columns standing to prop up the ceiling of the cave.

Patish Fortress

The Patish fortress (Qal‘at Futis in Arabic) was built by the Ottomans in 1894 in order to impose order in the northern Negev, where deadly feuds had broken out between the Bedouin tribes. In nearby Nahal Gerar, in 1917, the British successfully executed one of the great disinformation tactics of the First World War – the “haversack ruse,” which is attributed to Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, an intelligence officer on General Allenby’s staff.

During this period a battle of wits was underway in the Negev as the British strove to break through the Ottoman line of defenses between Gaza and Beersheba. After two British defeats in the Gaza area, Colonel Meinertzhagen, a British officer sympathetic towards Jewish aspirations and the Zionist cause, formulated a scheme to outflank the Turkish force in Gaza and launch a surprise attack on Beersheba. This plan included a deliberate “plant”: a haversack containing personal documents that a British officer would appear to drop accidentally in the course of a clash with a Turkish patrol. The documents were deliberately fabricated to suggest that the British were planning a third attack on Gaza.

Colonel Meinertzhagen set out alone on his horse and deliberately provoked the Turks, who fired upon him, injuring his horse. As he fled he dropped the bag of documents, whose contents were a masterpiece of intelligence disinformation. The Turks were delighted by the unexpected bounty that had fallen into their hands, and were therefore greatly surprised when, on October 31st, the British launched a major attack on Beersheba and thus paved the way for their conquest of the Land of Israel in its entirety.

Four arches were constructed from the long stones of the Patish fortress. The mound prominently visible on the far side of the river, around a kilometer to the south east of the fortress, is Tel Manoah, where archeologists have uncovered evidence of human settlement from the Israelite period until the Persian period (i.e., between the 11th and 5th centuries BCE). In 2004, KKL-JNF restored the fortress in conjunction with the Drainage Authority, and in the future it will probably be used for business enterprises.

Patish Fortress. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

Black Kites at Ofakim Park

A beautiful gallery with photos taken by KKL-JNF's Bonnie Sheinman