New Bike Single in Lahav Forest in the Negev

Sunday, December 07, 2014 4:24 PM

"With KKL-JNF, it's possible to make dreams come true!"

Bike riding has become a very popular sport in Israel in recent years, and creating bike trails throughout the country is high on the KKL-JNF priority list. With the help of friends from around the world, KKL-JNF has built dozens of bike paths for cyclists of varying ability across the length and breadth of Israel. On Friday, December 5th, a new bicycle single 13 km long was dedicated in Lahav Forest in the Negev.

Left: Cyclists resting in marquee. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Right: Testing out the new single. Photo: Tania Susskind
"This really is a great celebration. A project like this can be realized only when you work efficiently together with partners. When you're here, there's no need to talk, you can see what's been accomplished. With KKL-JNF, it's possible to make dreams come true!" Sigal Moran, head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the new 13 km single in Lahav Forest on Friday, December 5. And a celebration it was. Thanks to Rinat Kedoshi, KKL-JNF Southern Region Public Relations Coordinator who organized the event, cyclists who rode the new trail early in the morning were ushered into a marquee complete with mats, pillows, low chairs and tables, along with refreshments that put a smile on every face.

The new single in Lahav Forest. Photo: Tania Susskind

The 13.4 km trail, which begins by the Joe Alon Museum of Bedouin Culture, is for intermediate-level cyclists.  It was blazed by KKL-JNF with the cooperation of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council and the Israel Government Tourist Corporation. The last section of the trail was made possible through JNF USA, thanks to a contribution from the Jewish community of Milwaukee. The trail passes through Hirbet Ziklag, Hirbet Abu Hof and the local fire watchtower, and ends at the Discharged Soldiers Recreation Area.

Shlomo Ben Ami is a member of a cycling group based in Beersheva. "We left at 8 in the morning. It takes about an hour to do the whole trail if you ride slowly so as not to miss the beautiful scenery, especially this time of year, when everything is so green. The new trail has a natural flow to it and is shaded by the trees of the forest, which means that it will be possible to ride it even in the summer."

Lahav Forest is located south of the Lower Judean Plain in the direction of Beersheba and covers an area of more than 30,000 dunams. KKL‑JNF started planting this forest in 1952 and expanded it in the 1960s. The forest includes the Joe Alon Center for Regional Studies, underground tunnels, desert wildflowers, active recreation areas, archeological ruins with remains from Jewish and Christian villages, bicycle paths, hiking trails and more. There are also overnight camping sites, including sites that are suitable for people with special needs.

Moshe Mordechai and Sigal Moran. Photo: Tania Susskind

KKL-JNF Southern Region Director Ami Uliel thanked everyone for their dedicated work, including Moshe Mordechai, the KKL-JNF forester responsible for Lahav Forest, and KKL-JNF Western Negev Director Danny Ben David. "It was only ten years ago that we inaugurated the first cycle trail in the region in Beeri Forest, and now there are tens of kilometers of bike trails that cover the entire area. The trails are safe, challenging and inviting, and KKL-JNF looks forward to continued cooperation with the Bnei Shimon Regional Council and the Israel Government Tourist Corporation. I also want to invite everyone to the inauguration of the new Shokeda Forest bicycle trail in the Western Negev, which will take place in February during the Scarlet South Festival."

"The new Lahav single is the first section of a network of bicycle trails that KKL-JNF plans to create in Lahav Forest," said Danny Gigi, Director of KKL-JNF's Northern Negev Region. "There's been a lot of development in this region recently, including the extension of Highway 6, the train and the expansion of local communities. This makes the preservation of open spaces doubly important, and also means that people from all over the country will come here to enjoy bike riding. As the rabbis said in the Talmud, if you're smart, go south."

Yiftach Sa'ar. Photo: Tania Susskind

Yiftach Sa'ar
, who was responsible for planning and blazing the trail, said that he was very excited to be inaugurating it. "At first I didn't believe that it's possible to make a bicycle trail here due to the slopes, dense forest and rocks. Together with the dedicated KKL-JNF workers, we worked meter by meter, doing whatever needed to be done. Thanks to everyone who was a part of this project, the Lahav trail is in my opinion one of the most exact biking trails in the country."

Jerry Eichler is originally from Montreal, and now he lives in Beersheba. "When I was a kid, we used to put nickels in the KKL-JNF Blue Box. Now I see that it really paid off!"

Avishai Loantz is a member of Kibbutz Hatzerim. "The single was planned exceptionally well, it's suitable for both professional and amateur riders", he said. 

Awarding prizes for video clip competition. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

"I've been bike riding since I was 8, but since I retired about nine years ago, I have more time for cycling. I like this sport because I love nature, and I'm really looking forward to riding here in a couple months from now, when all the wildflowers will be blooming."

Moshe Zayit, who everyone knows as "Diesel", is responsible for recruiting members for the Groopy Bicycle Club, the largest of its kind in Israel. "KKL-JNF gets 10 out of 10 on my scale," Moshe said. "We came here today to get to know the new trail, and we'll be telling all our members about it."

The ceremony concluded with the awarding of prizes for the best video clip on the topic of "Keep the Forest Clean", a competition co-sponsored by KKL-JNF, Bikepanel and Shimano Israel. The three winning clips were screened at the end of the ceremony.

Photo Gallery: Click on each thumbnail for the full image