Nahal Gerar: Native Israeli Trees in the Gerar River Gully

The Gerar River (Nahal Grar) is the main tributary of the Besor River (Nahal HaBesor), the park is situated in the Gerar River gully between the towns of Netivot and Ofakim, and the area is planted with tamarisk, eucalyptus, olive and carob trees.

Geographic location: Northern and western Negev

Identity Card

Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

The Gerar River (Nahal Grar) is the main tributary of the Besor River (Nahal HaBsor), which cuts its way through the loess soil of the western Negev plains. The park is situated in the Gerar River gully between the towns of Netivot and Ofakim, and the area is planted with tamarisk, eucalyptus, olive and carob trees. Within the park, KKL-JNF has created scenic routes that lead to the upper and lower Nahal Grar Nature Reserves. In June, the river disappears altogether, because at this time of year the reeds grow at a rate of ten centimeters per day and suck up all the available water. In October, when this growth spurt comes to an end, the water reappears and flows along the gully once more, regardless of whether or not the autumn rains have already begun.

Region: Southern Israel, North-western Negev

Notable sites in the forest: Tel Haror

• Additional sites in the area: Naama Farm (cheese production), Beeri Forest, Ofakim Park, Netivot’s Baba Sali Park, Hatzerim Forest’s Sculpture Trail.

Facilities: Marked path,  Water, Archeological sites.

How do you get there? 
From Netivot and the north: From Netivot, drive south towards Beersheba on Route no. 6. Twenty-five kilometers south of Beit HaGedi Junction (Tzomet Beit HaGdi), opposite Moshav Tidhar, turn on to a dirt road that leads to the entrance to the park. As the road is two-way, access is possible only from the north, from the direction of Netivot.

From Gilat Junction: You can turn right towards Moshav Tidhar then make a U-turn at the gas station and return to the main road. Turn left towards Beersheba, then, around 150 meters further on, turn on to a dirt road. Follow the dirt road back (to the right) until you reach the entrance to the park.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
The Nahal Grar was rehabilitated and developed thanks to
a contribution from friends of KKL-JNF worldwide, including
Australia and France.

About the park

Photo: Avi Hirshfeld

The site is planted with eucalyptus, olive, carob and sturdy tamarisk trees, and scenic routes created by KKL-JNF lead the visitor to the nature reserves of the upper  and lower Gerar River. The section of the river that runs through the park is surrounded by tamarisks and waterside vegetation, and the area is characterized by magnificent loess badlands.

Nahal Grar is the main tributary of the Besor River, which cuts its way across the loess plains of the western Negev.

The park can be accessed from the Netivot-Ofakim Highway (Route no. 25), opposite Moshav Tidhar, to the south of Moshav Sharsheret. As Moshav Sharsheret  is situated so close to the park, the latter was once known as Sharsheret Park. The forest has grown and developed, and in the 1990s KKL-JNF added footpaths and recreation areas to the site, built stone terraces and carried out other work designed to combat erosion. 

At this point in the river, there are a number of springs of brackish water (maximum 5,000 mg. of chloride per liter), which are used by local flocks and the wild animals that inhabit the region.

A remarkable feature of the Gerar River is the fact that its water disappears completely in the month of June every year. This is the season when the reeds along the riverbank start to grow at a rate of around ten centimeters per day, using up all the available moisture. When this phenomenal growth spurt ends in October, the water starts to flow again, quite independently of the autumnal rainfall.

Flora and Fauna

Photo: Yael Ilan

The area in and around the park provides some stunning sunsets such as only the Negev can offer, and at this time of day, there is also a good chance of spotting some of the local wild life: porcupines, foxes, small rodents, badgers, weasels and more rarely hyenas, can all be seen; swamp lynxes (a type of jungle cat) are abound.

At the end of winter, colorful bee eaters, rollers, kingfishers and hoopoes dig their nests in the loess soil, while large colonies of pigeons nest in the clefts in the rock. As the bird migration route passes not far from here, large flocks of kites, cranes and occasionally pelicans can sometimes be observed flying overhead. Partridges are plentiful, as are lapwings and curlews.

The area abounds with eucalyptus, tamarisk, olive and carob trees, all planted by KKL-JNF inside plastic sleeves that protect them from the herds of sheep and goats that graze in the area. These sleeves also encourage the trees to grow tall as quickly as possible as they strive towards the light. Most of the trees are irrigated by the surface runoff harvesting system, which involves the use of dams, limans, furrows, shichim and terraces to capture rainwater and floodwaters.

Among the wild flowers and shrubs found in the area are anemones, bee orchids, Dinsmore’s orchids, ranunculus, tulips, poppies, asphodels, wild chrysanthemums, sage, irises and acacias. Most flower between January and April.

Archeological Sites

Photo: KKL-JNF Archive

From the story of Isaac’s digging of the well in the book of Genesis, we know that the Gerar River served as a source of water; this whole area on the boundary between the desert and the settled region was used to grow crops. Archeological findings provide evidence of many periods of settlement in this area throughout history, as water has been available in the region since the Stone Age.

The Tel Haror site, which some archeologists identify as that of the Biblical city of Gerar, is situated in the heart of the forest and includes a structure in memory of Abu Huraira, a general and companion of the Prophet Muhammad. According to tradition he acquired the name Abu Huraira – literally “Father of the Kitten” in Arabic – because of his affection for cats.

Protecting the Land
When we talk about protecting the land, we may think initially of a soldier with a rifle, and this is, indeed, a familiar picture; in this case, however, we are referring to protecting the land from erosion. As vegetation in the area is sparse, the soil is easily washed away by rain. The meager rainfall of the Negev, although plentiful enough to cause erosion, cannot support the quantity of vegetation necessary to stabilize the ground. When rain falls, water collects on the surface, creating small channels in the ground that lengthen the heads of gullies and sweep soil away downstream. This process, known as “headward erosion,” can encroach upon farmland, causing enormous damage. KKL-JNF is working to combat this phenomenon, and in sensitive areas like that of Nahal Grar, it has constructed stone-faced terraces that protect the stream heads from erosion: drainage of these regions is now organized in such a way as to allow the water to flow to the bottom of the gully without carrying soil with it. Damage is prevented, and the fields remain suitable for farming. This technique was introduced into Nahal Grar in 1996, when KKL-JNF carried out work designed to stabilize the gullies.