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.