Switzerland Forest - By the Sea of Galilee

Kinneret Landscapes, a Bicycle Path and a Campsite: Switzerland Forest is situated on the steep slope descending from the Poriah Heights to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.


Geographic location: Sea of Galilee, the valleys and lower Galilee

Identity Card



A view of the Kinneret from the forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Switzerland Forest and all its sites were rehabilitated and landscaped with the support of friends of KKL-JNF in Switzerland.
 

About the Forest

Switzerland Forest is situated on the western edge of the Syrian African rift, on the steep slope descending from the Poriah Heights to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. The forest covers an area of 3,000 dunams, from Upper Tiberias in the north to the Poriah Hostel in the south. The forest was planted by KKL-JNF thanks to a contribution from friends of KKL-JNF in Switzerland, which is how it got its name. KKL-JNF developed scenic lookouts, observation points and paths throughout the forest for enjoying the great outdoors.

The steep slope is a result of the sinking of the Kinneret basin and the elevation of the Arbel Cliff and Mount Berenice. The average incline is 30% and the descent is 1,200m from 242m above sea level to 208m below sea level.

The soil west of Tiberias is loose clay-like marlstone, which erodes as a result of the rainwater that flows with great force. The warm surface of the earth causes the air that comes from the west to rise, condense and cause strong rains. During the transitional seasons this causes the singular phenomenon of cloudbursts with many millimeters of rain within a very short period of time. This is why the location has a history of disasters. The most well known was the major landslide in 1934 in which 25 residents of Tiberias perished.

The trees planted on the slopes near Tiberias were meant to prevent erosion and create a green area for outings and recreation in natural surroundings. Afforestation and land preservation were already begun in 1927 by the British Mandate Forestry Department and were continued by KKL JNF with the aim of preventing runoff and soil erosion by stabilizing the soil on the slope.

Until the late 1950s, two main species of trees were planted, river red gum and coojong, along with other species including Persian turpentine, carob, buckthorn, eucalyptus, Jerusalem pine and more. In the 1960s, the forest showed signs of tree degeneration for various reasons such as unsuitability to the region, fires, tree felling and uncontrolled grazing.

In response to this situation, KKL-JNF began to improve the forest, including trail blazing, constructing a drainage basin to prevent damage due to flooding and erosion, and planting suitable trees. The tree that met the requirements of the local conditions best was a cypress called the tetraclinis, also certain species of eucalyptus and acacia. It also became evident that the senna bush grows well and serves as a wind breaker and sand stabilizer. Indigenous woodland trees were also planted, such as Christ’s Thorn jujube, carob, Persian turpentine and more.

With regard to drainage, KKL-JNF worked to contain the runoff by cutting pathways to serve as diversion canals and by using the existing ravine channels and adding diversions to some of them as necessary. Culverts were constructed along the two forest roads, with a channel trellis approximately every 200 meters. This allows the water to flow without washing away the soil and to drain into the Sea of Galilee in an orderly manner. Shrubs and various grasses were also planted beside the water channels. In order not to harm the delicate texture of the earth, these projects were executed without mechanical tools. Each forest section received personal attention from KKL-JNF foresters.

Observation Points along the Scenic Road

The roads in Switzerland Forest are an integral part of the system for regulating the flow of superfluous water to prevent it from causing damage. The main forest road is a scenic road paved with asphalt that has culverts paved with stone or concrete. The route is 6km long and is located between Tiberias and the Poriah Hostel. The roads below this are dirt roads and are used by foresters and firefighters.

KKL-JNF constructed three observation points along the road with magnificent views of the Kinneret, the mountains of the Galilee, the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon, and picnic areas. Two of the recreation areas have playground equipment for children.

Those traveling the Scenic Road starting from the road to the Poriah Hostel will soon arrive at a small planting center with cypress trees, carobs and more. A little farther along there is a covered observation deck. Across from the deck, on the other side of the road, is the Guttmann Recreation Area, which has picnic tables and a playground. A footpath that starts here goes north parallel to the road but slightly lower. The footpath ends at a lookout with two levels. The footpath is 750m long and takes about half an hour to walk.

There is another lookout about 1km farther north, which has three covered observation decks for viewing Tiberias from three directions. Farther on, north of this lookout, is the Kestenbaum Recreation Area, where there are wheelchair accessible picnic tables.

A Campsite and a Bicycle Path

KKL-JNF is completed an overnight campsite for Israel National Trail trekkers. This popular trail traverses the entire State of Israel from north to south. The campsite includes areas for setting up tents surrounded by pretty stone fences, and plans for the near future include bathroom installations and water faucets. It is not hard to imagine how wonderful it will be to wake up in the morning and go out of the tent directly to an enchanted view of the Kinneret. Near the new overnight campsite is a spectacular observation point on three levels with three views of the Kinneret.

KKL-JNF has planted old olive and carob trees around the campsite, which were transplanted from development projects in the vicinity of the Poriah Hospital. Even when it's complicated to do so, KKL JNF makes an effort to save every tree. Water tanks are brought every few days to irrigate the trees until they successfully take root.

Next to the campsite is a Bicycle Path, which is being completed at this time. It is 5.5km long, and parts of it overlap the Israel National Trail. The path will be paved with asphalt and made suitable for family cycling. The work on the bicycle path has been proceeding quickly so that it will be completed before the 2011 rainy season begins. Plans for the next stage include an entrance to the bicycle path where the forest and the city meet and, not far from there, a large municipal park to be developed in conjunction with the municipality of Tiberias.

Ein Poriah (Ein Kadesh)

Ein Poriah is a spring located on the eastern escarpment of Mount Poriah, about 1km east of Upper Poriah. Its water derives from a crevice and drains into a storage pool. The water supply is about 3m3 per hour, and its salinity is about 1,200mg chlorine per liter. (In Arabic the spring is called Ein el Malkha, the salty spring.)

KKL-JNF rehabilitated the pools and the aqueduct, and developed a recreation area with date palms and tamarisk trees, small pools of water, an aqueduct, picnic tables and benches in the shade of the trees and wooden footbridges over the channels. The Israel National Trail passes by the spring en route to Tiberias and Moshava Kinneret. According to tradition, this was where the emissaries of Deborah the prophetess met Barak son of Avinoam.