Meitar Forest Scenic Route

This is a scenic route that traverses the Meitar Forest and ascends to Yatir. Part of it runs next to the security fence, with a view of the South Hebron mountain ridge and additional interesting sites.

  • Geographic location-

    Northern and western Negev
  • Area-

  • Target audience-

  • Track type-

  • Season-

  • Duration-

    2-3 hours
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

General Information

How to get there? At Shoket Junction, turn onto the Beersheba – Hebron road (Highway 60). Immediately after passing the town of Meitar, turn right onto the scenic route (there are signs), and follow the blue markers that accompany the length of the scenic route until the road that runs inside Yatir forest (316).

Recreation Areas: Along the scenic route there are many KKL-JNF picnic areas—the Riverbed recreation area, the Pine and the Prosopis recreation areas, and there are many more recreation areas in the Yatir forest. The scenic route is marked in blue.

Additional sites in the vicinity: Lahav Forest, Yatir Forest, Arad Park, Tel Arad National Park, Ancient Susya, the Maale Deragot Roman Road. Foresters' Foretress is a 15 km drive.

Accessibility for physically challenged: None.

Before starting out, call Kav Layaar, the KKL-JNF forest hotline, and find out about any updates or changes in the route: 1 800 350 550.

Tour Information

The hills of Hebron slope southward to the Beersheba valley, and here, on the edge of the desert, KKL-JNF planted the largest bloc of forested area in Israel, Yatir Forest, which covers an area of about 40,000 dunams (about 10,000 acres). KKL-JNF has diversified the forest, and alongside the pines added special kinds of eucalyptus trees, including the Coral Gum, which has big red flowers, as well as groves of pistachio trees. Tree planting and the many attractions in Yatir Forest, including recreation and picnic areas, were accomplished with the help of friends of KKL-JNF in Israel and abroad.

The forest roads provide breathtaking views of the Judean Desert, the Arad Valley and the South Hebron mountain ridge. In places that are suitable for agriculture, in between the forested areas, there are deciduous groves of fruit trees and vineyards that are cultivated by local residents.

Because of the aridity and high altitude, about 600 meters above sea level, the weather is relatively pleasant even in the summer. The scenic route is traversable for any vehicle and part of it overlaps the Israel National Trail.

The Route

Before starting out, we would note that the town of Meitar was founded in the 1980s. Its name is symbolic: Meitar is the rope used by desert nomads to tie tents to wedges in order to attach them to the ground. KKL-JNF began planting the Meitar forest in the early 1980s. The forest encompasses the town, and its hiking paths are accessible directly from the residential neighborhoods.

Near the entrance to the forest is a bridge suspended over the Hebron ravine by the Hebron – Beersheba highway. This bridge was famous during the War of Independence. The day after Beersheba was conquered (October 23, 1948), a task force from the 9th Brigade of the Negev Corps, led by Captain Gershon Dubenbaum, was sent to blow up the bridge in order to halt a possible counterattack by the Egyptian army, which was on the Hebron Ridge. In the course of the action, Dubenbaum was shot. He was taken to the hospital in Kibbutz Ruhama but died from his wounds two days later. In 2007, on Israel Memorial Day, he was commemorated at the bridge that bears his name.

A short drive along the scenic route brings us to the Prosopis recreation area. In Hebrew the Prosopis is called yanbut sihani, and it is not good for the fields. In America, the Prosopis is similar to the assorted acacia trees we have in Israel, and it grows like a tree in every way. Prosopis trees originating in America were planted in the Yatir forest and did so well that KKL-JNF installed picnic tables in the shade of the Prosopis trees, and the site became a favorite of Meitar residents. This segment of the National Trail lies slightly south, by the riverbed recreation area, closer to the town of Meitar. It is equipped with faucets, and hikers are welcome to use it for overnight camping. Its proximity to the Meitar supermarket is helpful for stocking up before continuing on the trail.

The scenic route proceeds past Mount Hiran (Jabel Um el-Hiran). On the summit is the Hiran ruin, where there are remains from the Byzantine era. The route then crosses Nahal Eshtamoa, one of the tributaries of Nahal Hebron that descends to Nahal Beersheba and from there to Nahal Besor. During the winter, it is worth stopping here to walk down the slope of the ravine a bit and view the water pools.

The route crosses Nahal Eshtamoa (Wadi el-Halil), a ravine with a large drainage basin that originates in the vicinity of the town of Yatta, which is why a significant amount of water flows in it during the winter. The scenic route intersects the ravine right by the security fence and has therefore become a kind of new patrol route, which is why it was reinforced with boulders that prevent erosion of the road, and then paved with asphalt, so that passenger cars could also cross the streambed.

The route then climbs up the ridge overlapping the Israel National Trail and arrives at the Yatir ruins (623m). You can park at the foot of the ruins and go for a short walk. This site has been identified with the Levite town of Yatir, a place also marked on the 6th century Madaba map. In biblical times, Yatir was a city of refuge, a safe haven for people who had committed unintentional homicide. Most of the findings here are from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras, including two churches, domestic dwellings, cisterns, burial caves and presses. Two monuments were also constructed here, one of them for Sheikh Atir, a local saint, whose name sounds like the original name of the site. From the summit of the ruins there is a beautiful view of the Hebron mountain ridge.

A few more minutes of driving brings one back to the paved road that traverses Yatir forest. We recommend that you turn right and visit the Foresters Fortress.

The Foresters' Fortress

The Foresters Fortress is all that remains of the Foresters Village, which was built for the planters of the Yatir forest and their families. The building was constructed as a fortress, because in those days the Yatir forest was a remote area, and the fortified structure provided its residents with security. After the Six Day War, everything changed. Yatir forest was opened for visitors, and KKL-JNF's Education Department began to use the fortress for lodging youth tours and groups that worked in the forest and hiked in the area. These days the fortress is used as a center for forest workers, and its roof, which is open for all, has a great view of the vicinity.

The site was also given a new function. Talila Livshutz, KKL-JNF Community and Forest Coordinator, together with forester Abed Abu-Alguian, initiated a special hospitality room there. The room is available free of charge for hikers on the Israel National Trail. The room has four cots, a shower and a toilet, and hikers are allowed to use the kitchen facilities. One can look in the guestbook and find good advice from former visitors. For those who like to cook outdoors, there are also good camping recipes.

One may end the trip here or at one of the recreation areas near the fortress. Those who wish to continue are welcome to drive on the main forest road (the paved road) to the Kerayot scenic lookout. But please, be careful. The road passes by the ancient synagogue in the Enim ruins. Archeological excavations have been carried out there recently, and the site is not yet ready for visitors. For your safety, do not enter pending further notice.

Kerayot Scenic Lookout

The Kerayot scenic lookout is located on the top of the ridge overlooking the Arad Valley and farther east, towards the mountains of Moab, a bit north of the highway. KKL-JNF constructed this observation point in memory of Itzhak Armoni, who served as the Head of the Mount Hebron Regional Authority and was one of the founding pioneers in the area. Near the scenic lookout one passes the remains of the Roman road that went from Jerusalem and Hebron to the Arad Valley, Mamshit, Maale Akrabim, and from there to Petra. What remains of the road is paved with stone and is about five meters wide, in some places even wider.