In the early years after the State of Israel was founded, Jerusalem was a small city surrounded by bare rocky hills. Yosef Weitz, one of the heads of KKL-JNF at the time, initiated the planting of a large area of forest to the west of the city, and in 1956 the second President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben Zvi, planted the first tree in what was to become the Jerusalem Forest. Immediately afterwards KKL-JNF got to work and afforestation continued apace until, within just a few years, the Jerusalem Forest covered an area of some 3,500 dunam (approx 875 acres).
Many years have passed since then, and Jerusalem has expanded enormously. Large neighborhoods and suburbs – Ein Kerem, Beit Zayit, Givat Shaul, Kiryat Yovel, Beit HaKerem, Har Nof, Motza – have thrust their tentacles deep into the forest, as have two important national monuments – Yad VaShem and Herzl’s Tomb. The intention of the original planters may have been to add some beauty to the hills around the capital; today, however, the Jerusalem Forest fulfils additional vital functions: it has become the green oasis of this big city, and as such it provides an urban getaway within easy reach where local residents can enjoy a little time in natural surroundings.
KKL-JNF has developed the Jerusalem Forest and rendered it easily accessible to the general public. Fifteen kilometers of roads have been provided within the woodland, and these enable visitors to reach its most intimate corners. Footpaths have been marked out, signposts have been provided, recreation areas and children’s playgrounds have been built – all in order to make a day out in the forest a memorable family excursion.