Hadera Forest occupies what was once the site of the large Birketas swamp, formerly part of a large area of marshland that was the bane of the town’s pioneering settlers. Attempts to drain the swamp were frustrated by its great distance from the Hadera Stream (Nahal Hadera), into which water from neighboring swampland was channeled. This swamp, like many others, had formed in an area where drainage was poor.
The settlers’ attempts to dry up the swamp and prepare the land for farming were unsuccessful, and many of the pioneers fell victim to the malaria that was prevalent locally. In desperation they approached Baron Edmond de Rothschild and pleaded for his help: “We lay our request before your honorable and generous Lordship, may he be granted long life, that he might have mercy upon us and our offspring and condescend to relieve us of our swampland and have it cleansed in order to free us from the flaming sword which turns every way, the sword of death that hovers forever before our eyes…” In exchange the settlers offered to give the baron the drained land in perpetuity. And so it was: in 1896 Hadera Forest, one of the Land of Israel’s first forests, was planted on the site of swamp.
The Northern Recreation Area
The large Northern Recreation Area, which is situated adjacent to Hadera Railway Station, includes a large number of picnic tables. In winter, after a respectable quantity of rain has fallen, an excursion through Hadera Forest is an experience that should not be missed. Walking southwards from the Northern Recreation Area, we soon arrive at the shallow trench that passes through the center of the forest from north to south. In wintertime this trench fills up with large quantities of water and expands to create a magnificent winter pond that constitutes an independent habitat supporting a whole world of flora and fauna that has become acclimated to wet conditions in winter and total aridity in summer. KKL-JNF, in conjunction with the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature, is investigating the possibility of carrying out drainage work that will prolong the winter lifespan of the pool and enrich the variety of wildlife at the site.The trench was originally designed to drain the waters of the
Birketas swamp into the larger area of marshland to the south, which is known as Brekhat Yaar (“Forest Pool”) because of the close proximity of Hadera Forest. In the past it was called Birkat Ata (“Ata Pool”) after the family that owned the land. The more rain that fell, the greater the flooded area inside the forest.
Birketas, the name used to refer to the swamp in Hebrew-language texts, would appear to be a corruption of the Arabic Birkat Tays, i.e. “Billy-Goat Pond.” This Arabic name, too, however, may have been influenced by earlier names. Close to the forest, on its western side, are the remains of Tel Ibrektas, perhaps once the site of the ancient Jewish community of Birkta, which is mentioned in the Mishnah.
We should not be surprised by the fact that the trunks of the eucalyptus trees are comparatively slender for their age. If we look closely, we can see that each trunk is growing out of the stump of an older tree that was cut down in the past. The eucalyptus can regenerate from a stump, and the trunks of the trees in Hadera Forest are slender because they are the outcome of numerous cycles of felling and regeneration. In the past the eucalypts in this forest were cut down for the logging industry, in order to provide those long slender branches that can be used for almost anything, from propping up banana trees in the Jordan Valley to building wooden fences anywhere. Some parts of the forest have suffered from arson and brush fires, and the original stumps can still be seen scattered around the woodland.