President’s Forest in Tzora Forest - Art & Nature

This forest is located between Shimson Junction and Nahshon Junction, and forms part of a larger donated forest dedicated to the memory of Chaim Weizmann, the first President of the State of Israel.


Geographic location: Jerusalem, Judean highlands and surroundings

Identity Card



The Sculpture trail. Photo: Avi Hayun.


• Special sites in the park: The Sculpture Trail, the Rekhes Tzora (“Tzora Ridge”) Scenic Trail, Tel Tzora, Mitzpe Tzora.

 

Facilities: Picinic - Barbecue area, Lookout, Active recreation area, Marked path.

 

• Additional sites in the area: Eshtaol Forest, the Martyrs’ Forest, Beit Jamal Monastery, Deir Rafat Monastery, Mitzpe Harel, Burma Road, the Canada-Ayalon Park, the Masrek Nature Reserve.

 

• How to get there? We recommend accessing Tzora Forest from the highway between Shimshon Junction and Nahshon Junction (Route no. 44). A large wooden sign to the south of highway, between kilometer indicators 1 and 2, invites visitors to enter the forest directly along the Sculpture Trail. Another entrance, from Moshav Tarom (Route 44, between kilometer indicators 3 and 4; not on Shabbat), leads to the Tel Tzora area.

 

• Note: We recommend that you drive through the forest from north to south. We do not recommend approaching Tzora Forest from the south, i.e., from the road that ascends from the area of Kibbutz Tzora (marked in red).

Projects and Partners Worldwide
The President’s Forest - Tzora Forest was rehabilitated
and developed thanks to contributions from Friends of
KKL-JNF worldwide, including Sweden.
 

About the Forest


Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

Within the forest, the vantage point of Tzora Ridge provides a splendid view of the Coastal Plain, the Judean Plain and the Judean Hills. This is the land of Samson the Valiant and the site of battles between the Philistines and the Israelites in Biblical times. The forest contains natural vegetation, archeological sites, sculptures, observation points and a large number of recreational areas. Two roads suitable for vehicles run through the entire length of the forest, providing access to footpaths that lead to hidden corners of woodland.

The Judean Plain is an intermediate region that divides the Judean Hills from the Coastal Plain. Its soft chalk hills are easily molded and furrowed by rain, creating a soft undulating landscape with comparatively gentle slopes.

The Judean Plain was the site of fierce battles between the Philistines and the Israelites, and Tzora Forest is situated in the area that was home to the Biblical hero Samson; he was born at Tel Tzora, in the very heart of today’s woodland, and it was from there that he set out on his daring exploits.
 
The forest’s special charm lies in the combination of natural vegetation, archeological sites, environmental sculpture and observation points it offers the visitor. Two convenient signposted roads that run the length of the forest from north to south provide access for all types of vehicles. Smaller trails run between them, providing links to the more distant parts of the woodland.
 
KKL-JNF has created a large number of recreational areas in the forest, thanks partially to a special project in 1993 when new immigrants to Israel were employed to carry out forestry tasks, construct recreational areas, and create and signpost new footpaths.

Sites at the Tzora Forest

The Sculpture Trail

The Sculpture Trail winds its way through Tzora forest for a distance of around 10 kilometers. KKL-JNF supplied the artists, both veterans and new immigrants, with large chunks of rock, which they transformed into sculptures that were placed along the path, creating a collection of environmental sculpture. Some of the works blend into the existing landscape, while others emphasize the region’s historic past. One work, for example, portrays the heroism of Samson, while another consists of spikes of rock arranged in the shape of a comb – perhaps a reference to the comb wielded by Delilah the Philistine, who was the cause of Samson’s downfall.
 
 

The Sculpture Trail. Photo: Avi Hayun.
 
Tzora Ridge Scenic Trail
 
In winter and spring, the forest is full of flowers. In early winter, the narcissus and autumn crocus (Colchicum stevenii) emerge from patches of soil amidst the rocks, only to be replaced later by cyclamen, which grows here in great profusion, anemones, Persian buttercups (Ranunculus asiaticus) and many others. Mycologists (and those who like to eat mushrooms, too) will be delighted to come across the tasty white giant fennel mushroom (Pleurotus ferulae), which is generally found in close proximity to the common giant fennel plant (Ferula communis), a tall umbelliferous herb with yellow flowers.      
 
In the southern part of Tzora Forest, KKL-JNF has provided a special footpath for walkers: the Tzora Ridge Scenic Trail, which branches off southwards from the Sculpture Trail, climbs to the top of the ridge and passes through its highest points, allowing the walker to view the landscape from a variety of different angles.


Walking in the President’s Forest. Photo: Avi Hayun.

This trail continues for around a kilometer and a half, but it can be walked as two separate circles. In the middle, the path descends to a small recreational area shaded by eucalyptus trees, and at its end, another path ascends to altitude point 401, where visitors receive a sudden “scenery shock” as they are confronted by Nahal Soreq Valley and the expanses of the plain spread out below them in a wonderful conclusion to an enjoyable walk.

Tel Tzora and Mitzpe Tzora

 

Tel Tzora, which is located in the middle of Tzora Forest, is generally identified as the site of the Biblical town of the same name. The slopes of the tel are full of caves, burial sites, cisterns and ancient wine presses that bear witness to the importance of wine production in historical Tzora. 

 

Tzora was the birth place of Manoah, Samson’s father, whose barren wife was visited by an angel who foretold that she would give birth to a son. Manoah detained the angel and offered a sacrifice to God upon a rock. Manoah's son Samson, was visited by the holy spirit: “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol…” (Judges 13:25).

 


Photo: Avi Hayun.

To the north of Tel Tzora, KKL-JNF has established an observation point (Mitzpe Tzora) shaped like the prow of a ship, from which the magnificent landscapes of Nahal Soreq Valley and the Judean hills can be seen. The stone building that supports the observation point was formerly the home of the mukhtar of the Arab village of Sar‘a, whose remains are still visible, and which has retained the sound of the name of the ancient Biblical city.

 

The village was occupied in Israel’s War of Independence, and the building served as a temporary command post for the Harel Brigade of the Palmach. Later it was used as living quarters, an office and a storage room by the pioneering settlers of Kibbutz Tzora, until they moved to permanent accommodation.

 

KKL-JNF has provided three footpaths to the top of the tel, and a picnic and recreation area at the bottom.