Tzippori Forest - Israel during the Talmudic Period

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The Tzippori Forest Scenic Trail runs adjacent to the Tzippori River (Nahal Tzippori), from Kiryat Ata to Alon HaGalil. Along the way are archeological and historical sites, together with a number of springs, some of which flow all year round.

The Tzippori Forest Scenic Trail runs adjacent to the Tzippori River (Nahal Tzippori), from Kiryat Ata to Alon HaGalil. Along the way are archeological and historical sites, together with a number of springs, some of which flow all year round. In the river’s catchment basin, KKL-JNF has planted a forest extending over some 30,000 dunam (approx 7,500 acres). The scenic route is 16 kilometers in length, and it is suitable for all types of vehicle at all seasons of the year. It offers views of the Tzippori River gully, the Zevulun Valley, the Alonim Forests and the peaks of Mount Carmel. At various points along the route visitors can stop and gain access to the river and the many sites along its banks.
  • How to get there

    There are four main access routes to the Tzippori Forest Scenic Trail. From west to east they are as follows:

    1. From the Kiryat Ata access road, from Somekh Junction (Route no. 780). Turn left (eastwards) at the first traffic lights and continue along Derekh Menahem Begin for around 3.5 kilometers until the end of the road. Turn eastwards at the last roundabout for the Scenic Trail.
    2. From the highway between Shfaram and HaMovil Junction (Route no. 79), turn on to the road leading to Adi and Harduf. After continuing for around three kilometers you will enter the eastern part of the Scenic Route and Alon HaGalil.
    3. Start as in Option 2 above, then continue westwards toward Harduf and Adi along the old road for around 6 kilometers before turning towards the Scenic Trail and Kiryat Ata Forest, as indicated by the signposts.
    4. From the Alon HaGalil access road, some 400 meters west of HaMovil Junction. Turn into the forest before the entrance to the community. This entrance to the site includes an information station and other tourist services.
  • Geographic location-

    Lower Galilee / Gilboa
  • Area-

  • Special Sites in the Park-

    Horvat Usha, the Shabbat Stone, Yiftahel Springs, Ein Yivka, the Monks’ Mill (Tahanat HaNezirim), Mount Alil Mill (Tahanat Giv‘at Alil), Henion HaSolelim.
  • Facilities-

    Picinic area, Marked path, Archeological or Historic site, Memorial, Water, Barbecue, Accessible site.
  • Other sites in the area-

    Tzippori National Park, the Monument to the Bedouin Soldier, Shfaram Fortress, Tzippori Field Centre (KKL-JNF), the Eshkol Reservoir, Tel Hanaton, the Bedouin Heritage Museum (Kaabiya), the memorial to those who fell in the Battle of Ramat Yochanan.

Projects and Partners Worldwide

Tzippori Forests were rehabilitated and developed thanks to a contribution from friends of KKL-JNF worldwide.

About the forest

Over the years KKL-JNF has planted some 30,000 dunam of the river’s catchment basin with forest. The natural woodland around the river has for years suffered damage from the activities of the local people, who have cut down trees, caused fires and used the area for uncontrolled grazing.

During the First World War, many of the oak trees were felled by the Ottoman rulers to build the railroad and fuel its locomotives. Since the British Mandate’s Forest Ordinance of 1926, the designation of specified areas as protected woodland and the dawn of KKL-JNF activity in the region, the country’s natural forests have gradually regained their former glory, and today the Tabor oak constitutes a significant proportion of the greenery around Nahal Tzippori. These trees create what is known as forest parkland, i.e., open forested land in which the trees grow at a considerable distance from one another. This spaciousness leaves room for grassy annuals to develop among the trees and cover the ground with brightly-colored carpets of flowers.

Apart from maintaining the natural woodland, KKL-JNF has also planted a variety of trees in the river’s catchment basin – mainly Jerusalem pine, Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia), cypress and broad-leaved trees such as Israeli common oak, Tabor oak, Judas trees (Cercis siliquastrum), terebinth (Pistacia palaestina) and snowdrop bush (Styrax officinalis).

The Scenic Route crosses this beautiful part of the country from west to east. Its sixteen kilometers are dotted with historical and archeological sites dating back to the period of the Mishna, the Talmud and Sanhedrin’s move to Galilee. This surfaced dirt road, which is suitable for all types of vehicle at all times of the year, winds its way from Kiryat Ata to the hills of Lower Galilee via natural woodland and some of the most beautiful of the country’s planted forests, providing visitors with views of the Nahal Tzippori gully, the Zevulun Valley, the oak forests and the peaks of Mount Carmel. Access roads along the way allow a closer view of the river and the many sites adjacent to it.

Sites along the Route

Horvat Usha

Usha was the first permanent seat of the Sanhedrin after its move to Galilee in the wake of the Bar Kochba revolt (132-135 CE). It was here that the remaining sages met to restore the Sanhedrin and the ordinances of Usha were formulated. Of the Sanhedrin’s move to Galilee the Gemara says: “The Sanhedrin was exiled from Jerusalem to Yavneh, and from Yavneh to Usha, and from Usha to Shefar'am, and from Shefar'am to Beit She'arim, and from Beit She'arim to Zippori, and from Zippori to Tiberias,” (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah, 31a-b).

The site is accessed from the southern edge of the recreation area in Kiryat Ata Forest.

The Shabbat Stone and Rabbi Yehuda Ben Bava

The Shabbat Stone (Even HaShabbat), which is located at the northern edge of Kiryat Ata Forest not far from Horvat Usha, is a rock bearing a twelve-letter inscription in Greek, on which some have discerned the word Shabbat. It would appear to have marked the limit of Usha’s Tehum Shabbat (i.e., the point beyond which one should not venture outside a community on Shabbat or religious holidays). Not far from the Shabbat Stone is a cave in which Rabbi Yehuda Ben Bava’s place of burial is indicated. He was executed by the Roman rulers for having ordained his students as rabbis despite the prohibition against doing so. These long-ago ordinations are commemorated in the name of nearby Somekh Junction (the Hebrew root s-m-kh is that of the verb hismikh, which means “to ordain”).

Einot Tzippori

Einot Tzippori (“Tzippori Springs”), the largest and most important group of springs in Nahal Tzippori, flows with water all year round. They are located some two kilometers south of the Tzippori archeological site; the access road to Moshav Tzippori and the national park passes close by the springs building, which has been uncovered and conserved. According to historic record, the area of the springs was the spot at which the Crusader army assembled before departing to fight the Battle of Hittin in 1187.

Einot Yiftahel (Yiftahel Springs)

Nahal Yiftahel (“Yiftahel River”), which drains the Beit Netofa Valley, is notable for the wealth of aquatic vegetation along its banks, which includes weeping willows, silver poplars, purple loosestrife (Lythrum Salicaria), holy bramble and mulberry trees. These springs emerge close to the meeting point with Nahal Tzippori.

Ein Yivka

The Yivka Spring, which is referred to locally as Ras il-‘Ein or Ras in-Naba‘, two Arabic expressions that mean “the Head of the Spring,” flows with water all year round. In Hebrew it is also known as Ma‘yan HaSusim, i.e., “the Spring of the Horses,” because of its use in the past for washing down horses and flocks. The spring’s pool dates back to Roman times, and the remains of ancient walls can be seen jutting out at its edges. In the early 20th century the pool was repaired, and the Carmelite monks built a wall to raise the level of the water so that it could be carried by aqueduct and used to drive their flourmill. In the past these river waters drove a large number of mills whose remains can still be seen scattered along its banks. Two particularly impressive mills, the Monks’ Mill (Tahanat HaNezirim) and Mount Alil Mill (Tahanat Giv‘at Alil), can be observed along the western section of the river.

The Monks’ Mill

The Monks’ Mill, whose building is well preserved, belonged to the local Carmelite monastery that continued to operate it until the early 20th century. The water that drove the mill was carried by aqueduct from the Ein Yivka spring some two kilometers to the east. On arrival it dropped from the roof of the building on to the paddles of the wheel via a funnel designed to concentrate and strengthen its flow. The mill consists of two storeys, each of which contained two grinding systems, i.e., two paddled wheels and two sets of millstones. Today the building serves as a restaurant and guest house; bookings should be made ahead of time.

Mount Alil Mill (Marfuqa)

The Marfuqa or Mount Alil Mill dates back to the Ottoman period. It too is a water-driven funnel mill, and it is located about 1,200 meters to the west of the Monks’ Mill. The building’s foundations reveal the archeological remains of a sugar mill that operated at the site during the Crusader and Mamluk periods.

The Mount Alil Meander

Amid the twists and turns of Tzippori River the long meander this waterway performs around the north of Mount Alil, which juts out into the gully on a spur of cliff to the south, is notable for its beauty. Geological opinion is divided as to the explanation for this particular bend in the river, but the commonly accepted explanation is that the Tzippori River once flowed directly westward, until the slope above slipped down and dammed the riverbed. The abundant waters behind the blockage accumulated until they formed a lake that eventually forced its way out further to the north, creating the riverbed we know today.

The Solelim Recreation Area

This wayside recreation area was created by KKL-JNF some 500 meters to the south of HaMovil Junction, on Route no. 77. It is equipped with wooden tables, a disabled-accessible picnic area, biological toilets, running water and barbeque facilities. A tranquil spot surrounded by oak trees and lush vegetation, this is an excellent place to stop for a break, as it is wheelchair accessible and ideal for a picnic, or an enjoyable nature walk.

The Tzippori River Footpath

Towards the end (or the beginning, depending which direction we’re coming from) of the Scenic Trail, KKL-JNF has provided another beautiful woodland walk – the Tzippori River Footpath, which extends for a kilometer near Kibbutz HaSolelim. The path, which is paved and suitable for both walkers and cyclists, leads deep into the woodland, providing visitors with a tranquil green forest experience. KKL-JNF has constructed the trail in such as way as to make it accessible in its entirety for people with mobility limitations.

The path begins in the Tabor oak woodland before winding along a forest of conifers. Along the way we come across the remains of a Roman road, ancient farming devices, a cave, and more. To return to our vehicle, we can either retrace our footsteps along the paved track or follow the white dirt road that encircles the forest. Another possibility is to start the walk from Shimshit, which is not far from Tzippori, the most important Galilean city during the Second Temple Period and the time of Roman rule. The Sanhedrin moved here when Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi presided over it. Archeological excavations at Tzippori have turned up a wealth of material: a synagogue, a theater, the cemetery of the Tzippori sages, the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, an impressive waterworks and Roman villas with fine mosaic floors. The Tzippori site is now a national park, and there is an entrance fee.