Jerusalem Forest - Nature in Jerusalem

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
In the early years of Israel's independence, Jerusalem was a small city surrounded by bald rocky mountains. Yosef Weitz (1890-1972), who was one of KKL-JNF's leaders and gained the nickname "Father of the Forests", led the planting of a large forest west of the city. In 1956, Israel's second president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi planted the first tree in the forest. KKL-JNF continued planting in the forest, and within a few years, it grew to a size of 1,125 acres.
  • How to get there

    Access to the Yosef Weitz – Ottawa Road is from the Givat Shaul neighborhood. From Tel Aviv turn right at Ginot Sakharov Junction. The entrance is from Beit Hadfus Street near the Angel bakery and the gas station. Another entrance is from Moshav Beit Zayit.

    To the Mount Herzl – Yad Vashem route, drive from Yad Vashem to Pirhei Hen Street in the Yefe Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem.
  • Entrance fee

    Entrance to the forest is free of charge
  • Geographic location-

    Jerusalem - Judean highlands and surroundings
  • Area-

  • Special Sites in the Park-

    Halohem Park, accessible cycling tracks, David Cron birdwatching site, Bulgaria Forest recreation site
  • Other sites in the area-

    Britania Park, Beit Govrin National Garden, US Independence Park, Martyrs Forest and Tzora Forest
  • Type of parking-

    Accessible parks,Overnight parks,Picnic parks
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks,Lookouts

About the Forest

Many years have passed since the planting of the first tree in the forest. Jerusalem grew and the neighborhoods bordering the forest – Ein Kerem and Givat Shaul, Kiyat HaYovel and Beit HaKerem, Har Nof and Motza – expanded into the forest's territory. The memorial sites of Yad Vashem and Har Herzl also took land from the forest, as did the town of Beit Zait and the Har HaMenuchot cemetery. The forest's land decreased to a size of 550 acres.
Another factor that harms the forest is the use of its roads as passage from the city to Road 1. In the future, a new interchange to the new Road 16 is planned, and it is expected that with its opening, the forest's roads will no longer be used for quick passage and return to their original goal as roads for travelers and visitors.

While the forest's size decreased, its importance grew. This is the place where the city's residents can enjoy the sight of old terraces with olive trees and of beautiful spring flowers. Travelers' trails, recreation areas and birdwatching sites turn a visit to the forest into a peaceful experience in nature, one that is absent from the lives of many urban residents.

The Jerusalem Forest's importance also extends to it being a link in the chain of KKL-JNF's forests in Israel's capital city – along with the Ramot Forest, the Pisgat Ze'ev Forest, the Shalom Forest and the Gilo Forest, all come together to create Jerusalem's "Green Belt".

 Click here for a map of the forest

Australia Garden

Rehabilitating the Forest

In December 2013, the forest was hit by the hardest snowstorm since its initial planting. Over half of the forest's trees collapsed. The forest's rehabilitation began with a large project of evacuation of the fallen trees, and trimming of the remaining trees. In 2014, the southern part of the forest, on the banks of the Ein Kerem stream, caught fire.

The rehabilitation process was done while consulting the public, with the intention of letting the forest a chance to recover by itself (an adaptive interface). It is expected that in the future, there will growth of pine trees, and that in 20 years, most of the forest will be covered by trees that weren't planted, but grew as a result of self-recovery. The foresters do not set the rehabilitation policy in advance, but follow the development of the forest and interfere only when there is no other choice. In the few places where a natural grove shows signs of recovery, it is allowed to keep growing.

Travel by Car

The Herzl Mountain Area

About the Trip: a drive through a paved toad and a short walk to the Ben Gurion Cedar Tree. This is the main travel path in the Jerusalem forest. The drive is about 4 kilometers. Starting point: Herzl Montain, the access road to Yad Vashem. End of the trip: at Pirhei Hen street of the Har Nof neighbourhood. Note: if you wish to visit the Raul Wallenberg Memorial, you can park your car at Herzl Mountain and just walk there.
A Bench with a Landscape
Look for the bench overlooking the Jerusalem Mountains. It reveals the Hadassah Hospital and the "Onion Domes" of the Russian Monastery in Ein Kerem. Down below, at the Ein Kerem channel, the ancient terraces that KKL-JNF and the nearby communities rehabilitate can be seen. The Kiryat HaYovel, Har Ora, Har Eitan and the large channel of the Sorek stream can also be seen from here.
The Ben Gurion Cedar Tree
Park your car at the car park next to the Tzipori Center and walk about 200 meters up the Herzl Mountain axis until you see a trail marked in blue. Take the upward trail leading to a small yard with a 5-meter Cedar tree at its center. This tree was planted by David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister.
Today the tree is surrounded by other trees, but originally the slope was bare. Ben-Gurion, like President Ben-Zvi, planted the tree to emphasize the importance of maintaining open fields around Israel's capital.
If you look upwards, you'll see the Ein Kerem lookout. To reach it, don't take the steep slope, but keep going a little and find a more comfortable path leading to the site.
Kerem Overlook
At the Kerem Overlook you'll discover the site of Hirbet Hamama, with the remains of terraces and a few orchard trees. The ditches here were dug by the Turks during World War 1. The British forces fought the Turks in the night between December 7 and 8 on the struggle to take Jerusalem.  
The site also played an important role during Israel's was of independence. An Arab force held on to the ditches dug by the Turks, and the warriors of the Yonatan Company – the only company active in the Israeli Army during the war, whose members were less than 18 years old – fought them. The company commander, Oded Hai and his deputy Eli Zohar came to the company after participating in the convoy that broke the Arab blockade on Jerusalem in 1948.
On July 9, at the end of the first ceasefire, the company met at Sharfa (today, the Herzl Mountain site) and started its journey to the battle site in midnight, but it was discovered and the enemy opened fire. Oded Hai, the commander, was killed. Eli Zohar took his place and commanded the battle. Along with his company, he made his stand behind piled rocks all through the night.
In the morning, the company's fighters came under fire from the Arab force for several hours. When the Arab force was ready to storm them, Zohar ordered the bombardment of the force with 52-millimeter shells, which went on until the mortar broke down. The Arab force retreated, and Hirbet Hamam was conquered. In the battle, the company lost six of its fighters.
 The company participated in other battles in Malha, Ein Kerem and Armon HaNatziv. The battles that the Yonatan Company participated in extended the borders of the state of Israel, but also led to severe losses among its ranks. In August 1948, the company was dismantled, and its fighters were assigned to different units in the IDF.
Lev HaYa'ar and Australia Recreation Areas
If you wish to hold a picnic, you can do it at the Lev HaYa'ar recreation areas near the Tzipori Ceter. KKL-JNF has brought dozens of picnic tables here. Another recreation area is also available; to get to it, drive on the road going upward of the Herzl Mountain road (marked in green) to reach the Australia recreation area near the Yefe Nof neighborhood.

Ottawa Road

About the Trip: Follow the footsteps of the Beit Zait dinosaur and ride along the KKL-JNF recreation areas. Length: about 4 kilometers. Starting point: Beit Zait. End of the trip: Nahum Heftzedi street, Givat Shaul. Note: Ottawa Road can also be reached from Beit HaDfus street in Givat Shaul (near the Angel Bakery) when driving down the Yosef Weitz road.
Did you know?
The town of Beit Zeit, which borders the Jerusalem forest, has a unique site. Park your car near the Old Silo, a high concrete structure at the center of the town. On the other side of the road, a large roofing protects a large rocky surface with over 200 footprints of a dinosaur. The footprints, around 20 centimeters each, are arrow-shaped with a slight split. Based on the fingers' length and the stepping distance, experts speculate that the creature who walked in the area during the Cretaceous era, about 100 million years ago, was an Elaphrosaurus. Its kind lived in the area when the sea level was low. The Elaphrosaurus was a plant-eater with a shape reminiscent of an ostrich. It could reach 4 meters in length and stand as tall as 2.4 meters.
Carob and Cedar Trees
At the top of the Ottawa Road, KKL-JNF has opened many recreation areas. Note the special carob tree with its many arms, surrounded by cedar trees. To reach it, drive 1.9 kilometers from the spot where the road becomes a one-way road, on the right side of the road. The sight of terraces and olive trees that grow in the area is also magnificent.

Yosef Weitz Road

About the Trip: The road goes through the Revida Stream landscapes and connects to the Ottawa Road. Length: about 3 kilometers. Starting point: Beit HaDfus Street, Givat Shaul. End of the trip: Ottawa Road, near Beit Zait.
The Track
The road goes down to the Revida Stream, which seperates the Yefe Nof and Har Nof neighborhoods. About 200 meters after the turn to Har Nof, the natural grove developed, and KKL-JNF allows it to grow on its own. In this spot, covered by natural growth, is a rock that gained the nickname "The Elephant's Tooth", and right next to it is a small recreation area.
The way down continues and reaches the Mimran recreation area, meeting the Ottawa Road about 400 meters afterwards. Here, it's possible to go down on Road 1 or to continue up the Ottawa Road to Givat Shaul.

Travel by Foot

From Herzl Mountain to Ein Kerem

Length: About 2 kilometers. Starting point: the parking lot at Herzl Mountain (free parking). End of the trip: Ein Kerem (public transportation back to Herzl Mountain is available). Note: this trip can be combined with a visit to Herzl Mountain, the Yad Vashem Museum, and Ein Kerem. It is possible to get back to starting point on foot in the upwards path, though this option is best suited for experienced walkers.
The Track
An easy trip for families, which takes about an hour on a road going downwards. The track goes through the Raul Wallenberg Memorial, goes down to a wide dirt road and past the Nations Grove. The track then passes near reconstructed terraces with orchard trees, and reaches Shvil HaTzukim street in Ein Kerem, which offers a quick access to the center of the neighborhood.
The Raul Wallenberg Memorial
The site commemorates Raul Wallenberg (1912-1947), who worked as a Swedish diplomat in Hungary during World War II. Wallenberg used his position to produce Swedish passports, many of them forged, in order to save tens of thousands of Jews. He was arrested by the Soviets at the end of the war, and no contact was made with him since. It is assumed that he was murdered in the Russian prison.

Reconstruction of Ancient Terraces in the Ein Kerem Stream

Ancient terraces used by the residents of the Ein Kerem village remain in the area. KKL-JNF and members of the local communities take part in reconstructing the terraces and planting orchard trees in them.
The Cedar Track
Length: about 4 kilometers. Starting point: Lev HaYa'ar recreation area. Drive through the Herzl boulevard and turn to the Yad Vashem site. Drive about 100 meters and turn left towards the Tzipori center, then turn right on a short road leading to the Lev HaYa'ar recreation area. Note: make sure you bring water, walking shoes and a hat with you. The trip is not recommended for hot weather hours.
The Track
The trip is meant for experienced walkers, on a circular trail marked in blue. The track begins at the Lev HaYa'ar recreation area, reaches the Australia Garden, passes through the Gimla'ei KKL recreation area to the Ben Gurion Cedar Tree and the Kerem Overlook, and then goes back down to the Lev HaYa'ar recreation area. The track can also start at the Australia Garden.

Australia Garden and the Gimla'ei KKL Recreation Area

The Australia Garden is a nice small garden near the Yefe Nof neighborhood, located between agricultural terraces that include orchard trees. One spot in the garden commemorate Ilan Halimi, who was brutally murdered in 2006 by Muslims.
The Gimla'ei KKL recreation area, next to the garden, provides a panoramic look at the Jerusalem mountains, including the Beit Surik and Bido villages, the towns of Har Adar, Ma'ale HaHamisha and Har HaCastle.
Do You Recognize This?
Near the Australia Garden, on the paved road area, always look for the Mountain Tulip, which is one of Israel's most beautiful flowers. It's easily recognizable, with no more than three leaves, while the flower itself is cup-shaped with six dark-red leaves with a black spot at their base. The Mountain tulip is a protected flower – don't pick it!

Jerusalem Forest – Community Forest

KKL-JNF, in collaboration with the communities that reside next to the forest as well as the Jerusalem Municipality and other parties, work to ensure the continuous existence of the Jerusalem Forest as a nature and recreation site. KKL-JNF holds conferences and collaborates with the public on decisions that affect the forest. Volunteers help in reconstruction of the old terraces in the forest and in planting orchard trees, which brings the heritage of traditional agriculture back to the area.
The public's collaboration is highly important, since the forest is threatens by many development plans. One of these plans is already in place, with the large interchange of Road 16, which started its construction in 2016, leading to changes in the forest's routes and its natural environment.
Photographs in this page are courtesy of Ya'akov Shkolnik, Gidi Bashan, Mira Hen and the KKL-JNF Photo Archive