Wildflower Sites in Ramat Menashe

In the Ramat Menashe Biosphere Reserve in the Galilee, we suggest a number of attractive sites where cyclamens flower in abundance.

 
Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 or email moked1@kkl.org.il for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.
 

Cyclamens in the Megiddo Regional Council Biosphere Reserve

Over the years the KKL-JNF pine forests of Ramat Menashe have become home to large concentrations of flowering cyclamen, of which the most famous is on Cyclamen Hill (Giv‘at HaRakafot), to the east of Kibbutz Galed. Although the cyclamen population of this particular site has dwindled in recent years, carpets of cyclamen and additional wildflowers can be found adjacent to other local KKL-JNF recreation areas. 

Wild cyclamen

 
Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is a tuber plant common in the Eastern Mediterranean region, in the area between Turkey and Israel. In Israel it can be found on the Golan Heights, in Galilee, and in Judea and Samaria. Cyclamen plants also grow in rocky crannies in the Judean Desert and the Northern Negev, and these may actually flower before the first rainfall and before their leaves appear.

The cyclamen is a flower of captivating beauty. Each flower is borne upon a long stalk whose upper end droops slightly. The flower also droops downwards, but when it opens its long petals fold backwards, creating its distinctive profile. Each individual flower lasts for about three weeks, but a single tuber can produce a whole series of flowers over a long period of time.

Before setting out

Cyclamen flowering is at its height between January and early March. On weekends in January and February it is best to plan a visit for early in the morning or, alternatively, for the afternoon hours, in order to avoid the crowds.

Geography

The Ramat Menashe (“Menashe Heights”) park is a large, mainly rural area characterized by low hills and gentle topography. Its landscapes are a beautiful mosaic of farmland, KKL-JNF forests, expanses of pastureland, riverbed gullies and springs that flow mainly in wintertime.

Ramat Menashe’s structure, rock formation and scenery distinguish it from the neighboring regions. Most of its area is covered in soft chalk rock that erodes comparatively quickly, and this is what gives the local hills their “soft” rounded appearance and gentle slopes. Cliffs are extremely rare, and only a small proportion of the hilltops surpass a height of 300 meters above sea level. The Arab name for this region, Bilad al-Ruha, refers to the pleasant breezes of these tranquil heights.

To the north of Ramat Menashe looms Mount Carmel, from which it is divided by the Yokneam highway (Route no. 70).
To the east, Ramat Menashe is bordered by the Jezreel Valley, just at the point where the Yokneam to Megiddo highway (Route no. 66) passes through it.
To the south, the Iron Valley and the Wadi ‘Ara highway (Route no. 65) divide Ramat Menashe from Samaria.
The western boundary of the region is less easy to discern, as the hills of Ramat Menashe tumble gradually westwards until they merge with the Nadiv Valley (Biq‘at HaNadiv) between Moshav Bat Shlomo and the town of Givat Ada. This is the area that has been defined as the Ramat Menashe Biosphere Reserve.

What is a biosphere reserve?

In the 1970s the world began to be more urgently aware of the enormous pressure on vital life systems, such as water, air and certain species, which were being pushed to the verge of collapse and were reaching the point at which they could no longer renew themselves at a speed compatible with human life and wellbeing. The assumption that nature reserves alone would conserve a natural equilibrium did not stand the test of reality, and the traditional division between “guardians of nature” and “destructive consumers” had to change.

This realization was translated into a new operational plan initiated by UNESCO, which defines a biosphere reserve as an area that promotes sustainable development; such reserves are delineated by the states of which they form a part, and their status is recognized by the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Program. Biosphere reserve proceedings are based upon local community involvement and the scientific activity that takes place within it.

Around 13,000 people live in thirteen rural communities within the boundaries of the Megiddo Regional Council. These local communities have actively promoted the development of a balance between the region’s human inhabitants and the natural systems within which they live.

In 1996, the Megiddo Regional Council and KKL-JNF, in conjunction with the local committee for planning and construction in the Jezreel Valley, drew up the zoning plan for Ramat Menashe Park. This plan defined the park as occupying an area of around 80,000 dunam (approx 20,000 acres), i.e., about half of the total area under the council’s jurisdiction, and it formulated instructions for its conservation and development.

Thanks to this preparatory work, in August 2011 UNESCO recognized the area of Megiddo Regional Council as a biosphere reserve, and it is now enjoyed by about one million visitors every year.

In the future, areas of especial natural importance will be closed to motor vehicles, and only walkers, cyclists and environmentally-friendly means of transport will be permitted to enter them.

Vegetation in Ramat Menashe

In the past Ramat Menashe would appear to have been entirely covered in forests of Tabor oak. Most of this forest was destroyed over the years, and today only remnants of it can be found on the hills around Kibbutz Galed. KKL-JNF has recently begun to recreate and enlarge the existing forest by sowing acorns collected from Tabor oaks.

KKL-JNF began to plant forests in Ramat Menashe in the late 1920s, and today they cover an area of around 30,000 dunam (approx 7,500 acres). The first settlers at Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek did much of the planting. This well-developed woodland of conifers and broadleaved trees is one of the oldest planted forests in Israel.

Willow of the brook (Salix acmophylla) and holy bramble (Rubus sanctus) grow along the banks of the streambeds. In Nahal HaShofet, Nahal Gahar and a few other places there are clumps of field elms (Ulmus minor), a tree rarely found in Israel.

Herbaceous plants dominate the pasturelands. Conspicuous among them are the tall yellowish stalks of common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), a plant that is popularly added to the salt solution in which cucumbers are pickled.

The cyclamens prefer to grow inside the forests and woodlands, where they appear to benefit from the shade. The open spaces, however, are home to a wealth of other species including crown anemone (Anemone coronaria), Persian buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus), branched asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus), yellow asphodel (Asphodeline lutea), Sharon tulip (Tulipa agenensis) and a variety of irises and orchids.

Wildflower sites in Ramat Menashe

Joop Westerweel Forest

 
  • Location: Around 3 kilometers south of Ein HaShofet Junction, Route no. 672, between kilometer markers 15 and 16.

 

  • Caution: Because of this road’s unbroken central line, the recreation area can be entered only from the south, i.e., from the direction of Galed, and it can be exited only in a northerly direction.  

 

  • Carpets of cyclamen: A great many cyclamens can be found among the eucalyptus trees there. To discover really impressive concentrations, walk northwards from the entrance to the forest, along the trail that accompanies Route no. 672. After about half a kilometer you will arrive at a stand of pine trees, and there you will find a large concentration of cyclamens.
 
This forest is dedicated to the memory of Joop Westerweel (1899-1944), a teacher from the Netherlands, a devout Christian and pacifist, who, together with his companions, founded during the Second World War the "Zionist Pioneers" pioneering Zionist resistance movement that used only non-violent means.

Under his aegis the movement conveyed about one hundred and fifty Jews from the Netherlands across the Belgian and French borders, and from there over the Pyrenees to Spain. While the war was still raging, a group of seventy pioneers arrived at the coast of the Land of Israel.

Many members of the resistance movement, both Jews and Gentiles, paid with their lives for their struggle against the Nazis. Joop Westerweel was apprehended, and he was executed at the Vught concentration camp on August 11th, 1944. In 1947 KKL-JNF planted a forest in his honor at this site.

The forest contains monuments to the memory of Jewish and Christian Dutch Resistance activists who sacrificed their lives to save the pioneers. A path edged with curbstones leads between the memorials. At the end of the path, on a south-facing slope, stands the memorial to Joop Westerweel, at a point that offers a view of the upper reaches of Nahal Taninim, the hills of Ramot Menashe and the Samarian Hills.

Oren Zamir Recreation Area

 
  • Location: About 1.3 kilometers south of the Joop Westerweel Forest, turn westwards (Route no. 672, between kilometer markers 14 and 15), then, at the first junction, just beside the road, turn left towards the KKL-JNF sign that indicates Galed Forest After the sign, continue for another 300 or so meters until you come to the recreation area.

 

    • Caution 1) Because of this road’s unbroken central line, the recreation area can be accessed only from the north, i.e., from the direction of Dalia, and it can be exited only in a southerly direction.

 

    • Caution 2) The recreation area is about 400 meters distant from the road, and the trail that leads to it, though negotiable by private cars, is in poor condition. Please drive slowly and carefully.

 

  • Carpets of cyclamen: To the north of the recreation area is a forest composed of Tabor oaks mixed with planted trees. Cyclamens grow in profusion on the forest slope.
 
The Oren Zamir Recreation Area is a large expanse in the shade of a grove of pine trees. KKL-JNF has equipped the site with children’s play equipment and placed picnic tables in attractive corners. From the western edge of the recreation area, at the edge of the grove, there is a view of the Nahal Raz Reservoir (Pirha Reservoir), which is full of water in winter. The open spaces on the margin of the woodland are also studded with flowers.

Cyclamen Hill (Giv‘at HaRakafot), Kibbutz Galed

 
Location: About 600 meters to the north of the entrance to Kibbutz Galed, Route no. 672, adjacent to kilometer marker 13. You can park in the large open area to the west of the road.
 
To reach Cyclamen Hill, carefully cross Route no. 672 in an easterly direction and walk along the marked trail towards the pine grove – a distance of about 150 meters. KKL-JNF has provided signposts on the hill and has constructed a circular trail that allows visitors to make their way round the site easily. The trail climbs up wooden steps at the edge of the planted forest before making its way into the woodland. The cyclamens peep out from every side, though not in such profusion as in the past. Further on, the trail crosses through the woodland and descends the hill on the other side. You can return to your vehicle along the dirt road at the foot of the hill.
 
Visitors who find climbing difficult can miss out the section with the wooden steps and enjoy the sight of the cyclamen flowers from the dirt road at the foot of the hill.

The Ramat Menashe Park Scenic Route

 
  • Departure point: The dirt road that branches off to the east of Route no. 672, about 200 meters to the north of the Galed Cyclamen Hill parking lot.

 

  • Finishing point: The Ein HaShofet to Mishmar HaEmek highway (Route no. 6953), near Joara. 
 
Caution: Part of the route passes through an IDF firing range. On Shabbat the road is open, and is safe to travel through.
 
This stretch of the scenic route can be negotiated in a private car even after rainfall, but great caution should be exercised. The route is indicated by green arrows marked on posts erected by KKL-JNF. After about 600 meters you will see on the left the monument that indicates the site where Kibbutz Galed was founded. Three and a half kilometers further on the trail passes close by Ein Kfar, a spring that flows all year round, providing water for the cattle that graze in the area. After another 2.2 kilometers the trail arrives at a junction where there is a right turn to the impressive memorial that commemorates fallen kibbutz members and overlooks the expanses of the Jezreel Valley and the surrounding hills. From the junction the trail continues northwards until it reaches Route no. 6953 beside Juara.
 
Those who wish to continue further along the scenic route should cross the road and drive via Nahal Gahar to the Yokneam-Megiddo highway (Route no. 66). This route leads you through the landscapes of HaZorea Forest, one of the first forests planted by KKL-JNF, and meets up with the road slightly to the south of Kibbutz HaZorea.

Credit

Text: Yaakov Skolnik
Design: Ikan Maas Creative Branding
Map: Avigdor Orgad
Photographs: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Published by the Publications Unit and the Community and Forest Department, Central Region, KKL-JNF©