Lahav Forest - Archaeology & Wildflowers in Southern Israel

A Forest Park in the Northern Negev: Lahav Forest houses the Joe Alon Center for Regional Studies, the Museum of Bedouin Culture, underground tunnels, desert wildflowers, recrational areas, archeological remains from Jewish and Christian villages, and bicycle paths.

Geographic location: Northern and western Negev
Access: Special (adapted for the disabled)

Identity Card

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive



Special Sites in the Forest: Joe Alon Center and the Museum of Bedouin Culture, Rimon Ruins, Tel Halif, Karel Scenic Lookout, Abu Hof Ruins, Fire Watchtower, Za’ak Ruins, Sternbergia Valley.

Facilities: Archeological or Historic site, Marked path, Museum, Restroom, Picinic area, Lookout, Accessible site.

Additional Sites in the Vicinity: Yatir Forest, Farming Implements Road in Yatir Forest, Tel Sheva, Negev Brigade Memorial, Pura Nature Reserve.

How do you get there? From the Beit Kama – Beersheba road (Highway 40), about 2.5km south of Beit Kama Junction there is an exit to an access road to Kibbutz Dvir and Kibbutz Lahav at the Devira Junction (3255). After Kibbutz Dvir there is an access road to Lahav Forest.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Lahav Forest was founded and developed thanks to
contributions from friends of KKL-JNF in Israel and worldwide
including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, USA and England.

About the Forest

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
South of the Lower Judean Plain in the direction of Beersheba is a big forest that covers an area of more than 30,000 dunams. KKL JNF started planting this forest in 1952 and expanded it in the 1960s. In the forest you will find the Joe Alon Center for Regional Studies, underground tunnels, desert wildflowers, active recreation areas, archeological ruins with remains from Jewish and Christian villages, and bicycle paths.


The climate is arid with an average annual rainfall of 240mm. The forest stands out against the bleak background that surrounds it, which has mainly low desert shrubs. In the forest glades there are wonderful wildflowers in the springtime, a festival of colors.


In the Lahav nature reserve the vegetation is typical for the intermediate regions between the desert and the Mediterranean terrain. One of the plants that are typical to the region is Jerusalem sage, which is a low bush that blooms in springtime with yellow flowers. Its leaves are covered with a thick layer of fuzz on both sides that make the leaves look almost white. This layer of fuzz is much thicker than the leaf itself, and its purpose is to protect the plant from loss of moisture. In the fall, the sternbergia blooms first. In the forest, in addition to conifers there are also olive groves, pistachio, terebinth and carob trees.

Sternbergia Valley

Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

The Sternbergia Recreation Area is one of the newest recreation areas in Lahav Forest. When coming from the north, drive on Highway 40 until Lehavim Junction, turn left there towards the town of Lehavim, and right after entering Lehavim you will see the Sternbergia Recreation Area. You can park there and continue on foot on a dirt road parallel to the main road that leads to the Sternbergia Valley. You may alternatively climb to Givot Goral, which is next to the recreation area and descend from there to the Sternbergia Valley. After a visit to the valley, where the yellow Sternbergia, also known as the autumn crocus, blooms from October to December, you can continue having family fun in Lahav Forest and enjoy the playground equipment, the marked bicycle paths and a Bedouin experience in the Joe Alon Center.


Birds and Bird Watching

Lahav Forest is located on the northern edge of the 1,800km strip of desert that songbirds have to cross in the fall in order to reach the region where they will be wintering. This forest is the last chance for many birds to recharge their batteries before the rest of their demanding journey.


Lahav Forest is comprised mainly of conifers that provide little food for the birds. In the 1980s, however, forested areas were planted with broad-leaf species including groves of pistachio trees that started producing fruit in the mid 1980s, which ripens from August to November.


Long term research was done between 1995 and 2000, funded and assisted by KKL-JNF in conjunction with the Ben Gurion University Department of Life Sciences, on the stopovers in the forest of the migrating birds. Findings showed that there were five species of songbirds that sojourn in the forest regularly in the autumn—the orphean warbler, the black capped warbler, the lesser whitethroat and the common redstart.


The fruits of the pistachio tree are an important source of energy for the migrating birds, who must store energy quickly for the rest of their journey. During migration the birds hardly utilize the pines, because they do not provide much food.


Bicycle Riding

Photo: Eyal Fisher.

Bicycle paths were created in the forest as part of the policy for developing leisure attractions for recreation and touring in the forest. The bike paths are circular routes, so that the cycler can lengthen or shorten his or her ride in accordance with different levels of difficulty. All the cycling paths start at the main recreation area near the fire watchtower, and have signposts along the way as well as potable water fountains. The cycling paths go to the different sites in the forest.

Sites in the Forest

The Joe Alon Center and the Museum for Bedouin Culture

Situated in the heart of the forest, it is a center for scientific and educational research undertaken in conjunction with the museum, which is dedicated to Bedouin culture. The exhibition is fascinating and includes a film, folk tales, a visit to a hospitality tent, a presentation about the Jewish development of the Northern Negev and an exhibition about the work of KKL-JNF, The Awakening Desert. There is also an audio presentation on the roof of the museum explaining the surroundings. The Center is open daily including Saturdays, for a fee, telephone: 08-9913322 and 08-9918597.


Rimon Ruins

Hirbet al Remamin, south of Kibbutz Lahav, is on the eastern slopes of the forest, where there are remains of an ancient Jewish synagogue from the time of the Second Temple (Nehemiah 11:29). The inhabitants of this village comprised the remnant that had not been exiled to Babylon. In the center of the building that remains, there are parts of walls, architectonic features and a floor with five engraved rosettes—a typical Jewish ornament in the days of the Second Temple. There is also a bird ringing station at the site.


Tel Halif and the Halif Ruins

North of Kibbutz Lahav is a mound identified with Rimon, a town recalled as having been part of the territory allotted to the tribe of Shimon (Joshua 19:7). Remains from the Bronze Period were discovered at the site as well as remains from the early Israelite Period – 6th to 9th century BCE. There is an excellent view of the Coastal Plain from the top of the ruins. Some of the remains were damaged in the 1950s, when communication trenches were dug there for military purposes. At the Halif ruins, remains of vessels from the Egyptian period were also found, as well as nearby Jewish burial caves from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, which attest to the Jewish presence on the plain after the Bar Kochba rebellion.


Karel Lookout

From the area of the watchtower there is a dirt road on the western slopes of the forest. On one of the turns in the forest KKL-JNF constructed an observation deck facing the Southern Coastal Plain.


Abu Hof Ruins

Abu Hof. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

About ten minutes walking distance from the observation point are the Abu Hof ruins, which are from the Byzantine period and include a church, with its columns prone. A columbarium was discovered among the ruins with small cells for pigeons. It is exceptional because it was made of stone and not hewn from the bedrock like the other columbaria on the plain. There are also remains from the Chalcolithic period including a well considered the oldest in the world of its kind.


Fire Watchtower

At 518m above sea level, the fire watchtower has a view of the Judean Plain, the mountains of Hebron, the Southern Coastal Plain and the Beersheba Valley. It is useful for KKL-JNF foresters in protecting the forest from fires. (No visitors are allowed to enter!)


Za’ak Ruins

Not far, between Kibbutz Dvir and Kibbutz Lahav, on a paved road, there is a ruin with hidden tunnels connecting the larger cave with underground chambers.The tunnel system was apparently dug out in the days of the Bar Kochba rebellion and was used by the insurgents. The cave is pitch dark, and a good part of the way through it requires crawling. (You must be equipped with a flashlight!) At the top of the ruins there is a great view of the Yaval Valley and the southern slopes of the Hebron Hills.


The Campbell Recreation Area

Located near the parking area next to the fire watchtower, it has picnic tables, playground facilities, water fountains and paved access paths that are wheelchair accessible.


Hashdera Recreation Area

Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

Located at the northern entrance to Lahav Forest, it has picnic tables that are wheelchair accessible.


Additional Recreation Areas

Additional recreation areas include the Mitzpe Recreation Area, the Doron Recreation Area, the Reches Recreation Area and the wheelchair accessible Oranim Recreation Area.