Eshtaol - Hiking KKL-JNF Trails from Eshtaol Forest to Neve Shalom

An excursion for nature lovers in Eshtaol Forest to Neve Shalom especially recommended by KKL-JNF. Before taking this trip it is recommended that you call the KKL-JNF Forest Hotline at 1-800-350-550 for any changes or updates concerning the route.


From Eshtaol Forest to Neve Shalom
30.05.2013 1MOTHER.NET
Ruta Danino
The development of Eshtaol Forest and its facilities was made possible with contributions from friends of KKL-JNF in South America, Israel, Canada and Switzerland.

Eshtaol Forest covers an area of 12,000 dunams south of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway (Highway 1). The forest is on the slopes of low chalk hills with an altitude of up to 350 meters above sea level. The road from Shaar Hagai to Shimshon Junction (Highway 38) borders the forest on the east.

KKL-JNF developed Eshtaol Forest, built marked scenic roads in it for private vehicles, and installed signs at its main sites. Alongside the forest roads there are many recreation and picnic areas. The Israel National Trail and the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Cycling Trail pass through the forest.

The following is a description of the route that crosses the forest from south to north, from the Eshtaol Recreation Area to the town of Neve Shalom.

The route begins at the Eshtaol Recreation Area next to Highway 44, goes north, crosses Burma Road and reaches Neve Shalom. The route is 9 km long, it is suitable for regular cars, and it is marked with black KKL-JNF blazes all along the way.

How do you get there? The entrance to the Eshtaol Recreation Area is on the road between Nahshon Junction and Shimshon Junction (Highway 44), between the 1 km and 2 km markers.

Eshtaol forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

Eshtaol Recreation Area
The Eshtaol Recreation Area, which is adjacent to Highway 44, is a convenient starting point for the outing. It also serves as an entrance to the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Cycling Trail, a cycling trail developed by KKL-JNF from the Tel Aviv Port all the way to Jerusalem.

Leave the recreation area by driving on the paved road and passing the Eshtaol Nursery, where KKL-JNF prepares saplings for developing the forests of Israel. The paved road proceeds past the KKL-JNF regional offices of central Israel.

Mordechai Road
Right after the turn to the KKL-JNF offices, the paved road ends and becomes a dirt road marked with black signs. The next segment is called the Mordechai Road to commemorate the late KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Mordechai Dayan. Dayan involved the South American communities in contributing to the afforestation of Israel. This is also why many recreation areas in Eshtaol Forest are named after communities in South America.
Olive Recreation Area

On the right side of the road a little farther on is the Olive Recreation Area with picnic tables shaded by olive trees. KKL-JNF maintains 160 dunams of groves and orchards in Eshtaol Forest, primarily olives and carobs.

Eshtaol forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

O’Higgins Recreation Area
About 1 km after the Olive Recreation Area is the O’Higgins Recreation Area, one of the main recreation areas in the forest. Bernardo O’Higgins (1778-1842) was an important statesman and military hero in the liberation of Chile and other South American countries. Friends of KKL-JNF in South America funded the development of many recreation areas in Eshtaol Forest and asked that this one be named after him. The image of the general is engraved on a medallion installed at a memorial on the edge of the recreation area, which also has playground equipment for children installed by KKL-JNF.

Shiri Scenic Lookout and Panoramic Lookout
The road continues north, passes a branch of the ATV route marked in blue, and reaches the Shiri Scenic Lookout, which is to the left of the road and features a breathtaking observation point. Wooden stairs descend to an observation deck with benches and a table shades by a pine tree. This scenic lookout in memory of Shiri Levinger overlooks the Sorek valley, Mount Karmila and the Tzora ridge. There is a panoramic lookout nearby with a recreation area and playground equipment for children. The recreation area is accessible for the physically challenged.

The road marked in black proceeds north, with several recreation areas developed by KKL-JNF along the way. Approximately 1.8 km from the panoramic lookout, there is a road marked in green that exits the forest and turns left to Moshav Taoz. Half a kilometer farther on, our route crosses Burma Road near the serpentines. We will not explore Burma Road this time, but only cross it.

About 1.2 km after crossing Burma Road, it is worthwhile to stop at the recreation area named after Abraham (Boma) Goldstein. There are remains of a Byzantine church mosaic next to the road with decorative squares in brown and a circle in the center of which is a large crucifix. At the edge of the recreation area, near the Mekorot facility, there are ruins of a lime pit

Eshtaol forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

Hill 314
Continuing on the road towards Neve Shalom, at the junction, is the Abie Nathan Recreation Area, about 300 meters west of which is Hill 314, right next to Neve Shalom on the left side of the road.

This hill played an important role in the Israel Independence War, in the battle for Latrun. On the night of May 24-25, 1948, in Operation Bin Nun, the young 7th Brigade and the 32nd Battalion tried to break through the Latrun zone, which was controlled by the Jordanian Legion. The forces were under heavy fire. Commander Ram Ron of the 1st Company of the 32nd Battalion took Hill 314, withstood counterattacks and covered the retreat of the 2nd Company of the brigade. Over 70 casualties were sustained in Operation Bin Nun.

Hill 314 was situated in between Jordanian Latrun and Burma Road. After the Israel Independence War, an IDF outpost was positioned there, which secured the ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan. The nearby village of Neve Shalom was founded in 1969 with the aim of promoting coexistence between Jews and Arabs. The population of Neve Shalom includes Jews and both Muslim and Christian Arabs.

From the O’Higgins Recreation Area to Mesilat Zion
From the O’Higgins Recreation area, which is in the heart of our route, one may exit the forest via the Mesilat Zion access road and find additional recreation areas on the way. The road is suitable for regular cars. It is approximately 3.5 km long and is marked in orange.

Eshtaol forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

This road goes east from the O’Higgins Recreation Area and passes a forest of stone pines on the left. The seeds of this tree are the pine nuts we like to eat. About half a kilometer down this road is the Reut Road, which branches north from the main road and returns to it after about 300 meters. KKL-JNF developed a number of recreation areas alongside this road as well as a memorial for Simón Bolivar (1783-1830), the great military hero who helped liberate six countries in South America. Bolivia is named after him, and every city and town in Venezuela has a main square named Plaza Bolivar.

About 900 meters farther on, where the road veers north, is the Recreation Area of the Four, one of the most beautiful in Eshtaol Forest. To get to it you have to go up a flight of wooden stairs, and there you will find ruins of an ancient olive press and a beautiful observation point with a view of the Nahal Sorek basin.

Farther on down the road is the recreation area commemorating José de San Martin (1778 -1850), an Argentinian military hero and statesman, who was also famous for liberating South America from Spain. Near the place where the road reaches the Mesilat Zion access road is the Yonatan Recreation Area, where there is a short trail leading to a playground for children. The exit from the forest is very nearby.

The development of Eshtaol Forest and its facilities was made possible with contributions from friends of KKL-JNF in South America, Israel, Canada and Switzerland.

Before taking this trip it is recommended that you call the KKL-JNF Forest Hotline at 1-800-350-550 for any changes or updates concerning the route.

Making a fire endangers the forest!
Take all necessary precautions for the prevention of forest fires!