HaHamisha Forest and Neve Ilan Forest

Photograph: Yaakov Shkolnik KKL-JNF Photo Archive
HaHamisha Forest and Neve Ilan are at the center of the Jerusalem Mountains, north of Road 1. The forests cover the open fields between Sha'ar HaGay and the town of Har Adar, and they include the Kiryat Anavim and Ma'ale HaHamisha, as well as the town of Neve Ilan. The mountain peaks that reach 800 meters, the deep ravines between the mountains, the rich growth and the heritage sites – all promise and deliver travelers a trip through a fascinating landscape.
  • How to get there

    Ma'ale HaHamisha is reached from the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv road (Route 1): leave the main road at Ein Hemed Interchange, and enter Abu Gosh. At the traffic circle at the entrance to Abu Gosh, turn right (north) onto Route 3975 and ascend to Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim. From it, continue to Route 425, which leads to Har Adar. The forest is before the entrance to Har Adar. To reach the Colleges Forest in Neve Ilan, cross Abu Gosh and drive west on Route 425. Turn onto Route 4115 according to the sign to Neve Ilan. Those coming from Jerusalem can continue onto Route 1, turn right after Abu Gosh according to the sign to Kiryat Ye'arim and Neve Ilan, and left at the traffic circle onto Route 4115.
  • Entrance fee

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

    Jerusalem Mountains
  • Area-

  • Special Sites in the Area-

    Sataf, Nataf, Canada-Ayalon Park, Wind Mountain (Har HaRuah), Ein Nakuba, Abu Gosh.
  • Adaptation for people with limited mobility-

  • Type of parking-

    Accessible parks,Picnic parks
  • Interest-


About the Forest

The British Mandate Afforestation Department, simultaneously with KKL-JNF, starting planting trees in the area during the 1920s near Kiryat Anavim (the British officials planted near Road 1). The planting continued even more vigorously at the end of the 1930s, after the foundation of Ma'ale HaHamisha in 1938. KKL-JNF employed the first residents in afforestation and road works, and with their help a large block of forest, one of Israel's oldest and largest, was created. HaHamisha Forest is about 1,895 acres and the Neve Ilan Forest is about 3,063 acres.

The forests come together in a natural grove and in nature reserve, and landscape roads and traveling paths for foot travelers and cyclists have been opened in them. KKL-JNF created many recreation areas and scenic lookouts in the forests. Some of the forests reach the Rabin Park area, which preserves sites related to Israel's War of Independence. With the Kfira Reserve, which stands next to the forest, the largest green area in the Jerusalem Mountains is created here.

The travel sites in this area are divided according to their forest section. The forests were planted and developed with the help of the Friends of KKL-JNF in Israel and abroad. The names of the donors are mentioned in memorial spots throughout the forest.

1948 Trail

Starting Point: Har Adar entrance gate
End of the track: Kiryat Anavim Cemetery
Length: about 2 Kilometers
About the trip: for experienced walkers, a travel-by-foot trail mostly on the way down

The Track: from the entrance gate to Har Adar, a trail marked in black turns west. In the forest section, the residents created a garden of wood and stone statues. The trail than crosses a man-made forest, and half a kilometer later passes near concrete posts. These are the remains of the "Sanatorium Outpost", one of the posts that defended Kiryat Anavim and Ma'ale HaHamisha during Israel's Independence War. The defenders held back an attack by the Jordanian Legion, preventing enemy forced from disconnecting Jerusalem. The black trail come together with a dirt road, turns right and reaches a siege post. From here, the trail zigzags down slowly to a dirt road marked in red, which it crosses before going down the ravine to the Kiryat Anavim cemetery.

Kiryat Anavim Military Cemetery

A visit to the cemetery is a highly emotional experience. During Israel's Independence War, Kiryat Anavim hosted a base for the soldiers of the Harel Platoon. In 1948, members of the PALMAH who were killed in the battles for the roads to Jerusalem. Over the course of 10 months, 138 soldiers were buried in the site, most of them from the Harel Platoon and some from the Etzioni Platoon. With time, more Israeli soldiers were brought to rest in the site. Some were later transferred to other cemeteries, following the requests of their families.

Kiryat Anavim Military Cemetery

HaRuah Mountain, Jethlah Stream Landscape Trail

Starting point and end of the track: the Hadassah and Baruch Levine Recreation Area. Travelers go into Abu Gosh and drive toward Ma'ale HaHamisha (Road 425). At the northern exit from the village, near the Saxum Pilgrimage hotel, the roadsigns led to Nataf. After a 900 meter drive, a left turn leads to HaRuah Mountains.
Trail length: 1.5 kilometers
About the trip: a short easy trip in a circular trail.

The track: near the entrance to the Ruah Mountain, KKL-JNF built a recreation area shaded by pine trees. This section of the forest is dedicated to the Soviet army. At the edge of the recreation area is a memorial site commemorating the victory of the Red Army over Nazi Germany in World War II. KKL-JNF has planted the forest following the initiative of the V-League – an organization supporting the Soviet Union's war against Germany, founded 1941 by a group that included author Arnold Zweig.

At the end of the war, the league issued a "victory badge" used to collect donations for planting the forest and building a memorial for the fallen Soviet soldiers. The forest was inaugurated on May 5, 1951. Every year, on May 9 – the day of the victory over Nazi Germany, or in the immediate following Saturday, the friendship association holds a special ceremony after which the participants hold a picnic. On this day, KKL-JNF holds a ceremony with participants from Russia and other countries.

From the recreation area, a road marked in blue goes westwards. After about 500 meters, a smaller recreation area with a few picnic table, one of them accessible, is available. During Israel's Independence War, a landing for light planes was built in the site, though it's not entirely clear if it has been used. Today, a dancing floor replaced the landing, built in the memory of Shalom Hermon, one of Israel's first dancing teachers. The blue road continues, and 600 meters later reaches a smaller recreation area with two accessible tables. It offers a nice view of the coastal plain.

The Amichai Scenic Lookout – about 150 meters from the recreation area is the Amichai Scenic Lookout. The beautiful view reveals the landscape of the coastal plain between Hadera and Gaza. In the pages of the steel book attached to the site, travelers can read of Amichai Dweik (1946-2000) who led the Israeli Boy Scout Movement.

The Memorial for the Five

In front of the Amihcai Scenic Lookout is a small memorial with five names. These are the names of the members of the group that wished to establish a kibbutz in the location, but were murdered by Arabs on November 9, 1937. The five members worked in KKL-JNF's service, paving a way meant to deliver the plants for the future forest. Their death brought a great grief to the Jewish community. They were buried at night, in a funeral attended by any thousands of people. When the kibbutz was established, it was named "Ma'ale HaHamisha" ("The Five's Ascent") in their memory.

The Walking Trail

The Hadassah and Baruch Levine Recreation Area, which is the starting point of the trail, is about 600 meters from the memorial. Visitors to the are enjoy the shading of pine trees. At the edges is a view of the Jethlah Stream and the Neve Ilan Area. The signs in the area tell of its geology and geography.
The trail goes down a bit in the slope of the Ruah Mountain and reaches the Shvilim Junction. A left turn brings travelers to a water pit carved in rocks. Then, after returning to the junction, travelers can continue to the a wide dirt road.

A left turn on the road followed by a right turn after about 200 meters reveals the remains of the Beit Thul village. Some recognize the place as the biblical town of Jethlah, mentioned as one of the town of the Dan Tribe: "And Shaalabbin, and Ajalon, and Jethlah" (Joshua, 19:42).

After visiting the site, the wide road leads east. On the north side of the road is a memorial for Israeli Airforce pilots Erez Eitan and Yossi Gordon, whose plane crashed in the site in 1980. From here it is a short walk back to the Hadassah and Baruch Levine Recreation Area.

The Three Carobs Recreation Area

Those who wish to extend the trip can walk from Beit Thul west on the road going down about 400 meters, which ends in a small recreation area with three tables shaded by three carob trees. On the opposite side, north of the Hamisha Stream, the roofs of the town of Nataf can be seen. The view of the coastal plain is beautiful.

Fumana arabica

Kiryat Anavim Heritage Trail

Starting point: in front of the entrance to the Kramim Hotel. Parking is available at the entrance to the trail.
End of the track: the Hemed-Interchange-Kiryat Anavim Road, about 150 meters south of the Dor-Alon gas station near the kibbutz. From here, it is about half a kilometer climb to the starting point.
Length: 2.7 kilometers, and an additional half kilometer to the starting point.
About the track: a walking trip which lasts about an hour and a half. Recommended for the autumn, winter and spring seasons.
The track: East of the parking lot in front of the hotel is a large sign showing a map and a general description of the track. A trail marked in green passes near a fence and reaches a pillbox after 250 meters.

The Pillbox

At the top of a two-story structure, with burn marks on its walls, is a metal deep statue. This is one of the concrete posts planned and built by the kibbutz members during the 1929 event. The stature here is the old statue removed from the "Tzvi Israel" pillbox (see the Teachers Union Forest track below).

The Amir Valley

From the pillbox, the trail goes upwards in steps made of wood, and enters a KKL-JNF forest. During the winter and spring seasons, colorful flowers can be seen here. After crossing the 1948 trail, above the Kiryat Anavim cemetery, travelers can go up to the structure that was previous used by the Anavid factory and continue east to a bench overlooking a wide and beautiful valley filled with grapevines. Residents of Kiryat Anavim call the valley "The Tamir Valley" in the memory of one of the kibbutz children, who died in 1952 while still an infant.

"The Altar"

The trail goes upwards to a pine forest, passes near the fence of Beit Nekofa and reaches an impressive stone stage, 10 meters in length. In the 1930s, children gave the site the nickname "The Altar". The stage invites travelers to sit and watch Kiryat Anavim and its surroundings.

From here, the trail goes down to a paved road and turns left to a dirt road with bunkers on both sides, used in 1950s to store ammunition. Until Israel's Independence War, the ceasefire line with Jordan was only half a kilometer away.

The trail continues an additional 100 meters near the bunkers, goes down to a lower terrace and to the fence of the abandoned youth house of the kibbutz. A few more steps bring travelers to the Kiryat Anavim Road, the end of the track.

The Pillbox

Teachers Union Forest

Starting point: the entrance to Ma'ale HaHamisha
Length: about 10 kilometers
About the track: a drive on 4X4 vehicle and visiting the sites
The track: from the entrance to Ma'ale HaHamisha, a ride east towards Har Adar (on Road 425) brings travelers to the Marcel Luria scenic overlook after 700 meters. Using the information boards, special views in the Judea Mountains can be spotted, including Tel Tzuba, the Aminadav Ridge and Gush Etzion. The overlook is named after Marcel Luria, who served as the president of KKL-Belgium.
The Centaurium Ridge   
About 500 meters further, the road turns right through a dirt road into the Hamisha Forest (trails are marked in red). From the Mashhad recreation area at the entrance to the forest, travelers can take a short trip in the area. A short dirt road goes east and reaches a concrete pillbox commemorating Yitzhak Scoza (1930-1987), who fought in battles in the area during Israel's War of Independence and was badly wounded.
About 150 meters further, the road reaches a high concrete structure with a steel statue of a stag painted in yellow. This pillbox was previously known as "The Centaurium Stand 2". The stand, visible to Jordanian forces at the Radar Hill, was meant to draw the enemy fire, and only the bravest soldiers were sent to man it. In this stand, Israel Shapira, a resident of  Kiryat Anavim, was killed. The original statue was built following the initiative of Shapira's son Michael, by sculptor Michael Katz, and in 2010 it was replaced by KKL-JNF with a replica of the original statue, which was transferred to another pillbox.  
The Aloni Recreation Area and the Teachers Union Scenic Lookout
After returning to the trail marked in red. This section of the forest is called the Teachers Union Forest. After 2.2 kilometers, the path meets another path marked in blue. The junction contains a recreation area with two benches, established in the memory of educator David Aloni.
In the Memory of the Fallen
Back down the main dirt road, after a 500-meter walk, a monument commemorating Janusz Korczak and Stefania Wilczyńska, who managed the famous orphanage during World War II, and chose to die with the children under their care even though they had the opportunity to be saved. The dirt road marked in red turns right a reaches monuments commemorating teachers who fell during Israel's wars, and a monument commemorating the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.
Ein Nakofa
About 1.1 kilometers from the monuments, in a junction, grows a large common oak tree. This is the channel of the Kislon Stream, one of the longest at the Jerusalem Mountains. A walk on a dirt road leading up left (marked in blue) brings us to a large strawberry tree after 400 meters, surrounded by old terraces and orchard trees. This is Ein Nakofa.
A place of true beauty, Ein Nakofa is a wellspring inside a small cave. Its water run in a small channel, carved in rock. They reach a small pool that fills up after the winter. The pool was part of a collapsed stone domed structure. Travelers should avoid trying to test the strength of the structure's remains. The friends of IDF fallen soldiers Uri Grossman and Cyril Golanshin took care of the site and set up a sign in their memory.
End of the track: after visiting Ein Nakofa, travelers can return to their cars on the way the came. Those who wish to try another path, can continue driving on the "blue" path to a point overlooking the security fence, on the village of Beit Surich and the Radar Hill. This is a difficult road which passes between grapevines and reach the Teachers Union scenic lookout and the David Aloni Recreation Area, which the travelers visited before. Alternatively, there is an easier and shorter exit which passes in the Kislon Stream and reaches Beit Nakofa and Road 1.
Open classroom at the Teachers Union Forest

Neve Ilan Forest Tracks

From Neve Ilan to Sha'ar HaGay
Starting point: the entrance gate to Neve Ilan
End of the track: the Neve Ilan gas station
Length: about 8 kilometers
About the track: driving a 4X4 vehicle and visiting sites. The drive is up to the Colleges Forest with a possibility of visiting the Matzad Ruin.
The track: to get to the Colleges Forest, travelers need to enter Neve Ilan. A stop at the remains of the historical Neve Ilan is recommended. The town was founded in 1946 as an outpost assisting the convoys to Jerusalem. A sign tells the story of the town and the town's defenders.
Further west, before the pool's parking lot, a right turn leads to a dirt road marked in black. After 300 meters, the road reaches a commemoration compound to Belgian Jews. From this site, three roads lead to the Statue Garden at the Colleges and Seminars Forest.
The Loki Scenic Lookout – taking the green (central) way and going up 150 meters by car or by foot, leads to the Loki Scenic Lookout. The site offers shaded wooden benches and a view of the Ilan Stream, the Masrek Reserve and outposts in the Yitzhak Rabin Park. A paved asphalt road provides access to people with disabilities.
Owners of a 4X4 vehicle can continue on the green road and reach a small valley after 1.5 kilometers with a recreation area named after the Kaplan Family, and the Statue Garden. Owners of private vehicles can drive west on a mostly-paved dirt road marked in red, which also leads to the Statue Garden after 2.5 kilometers.
The Statue Garden – founded in 1998 by KKL-JNF's Education Division in collaboration with the Teachers Union, the garden contains five statues: "Ibex" by Yael Segev, "Spirit" by Eli Shuki, "Chairs – a Tribute to Book of Proverbs" by Itzik Adi, "A Window with a View" by Yehuda Eshel and "A Character in the Forest" by Ayala Friedman.
The statue garden is the last stop for those traveling by vehicle, but they can also go up on foot to the Matzad Ruin, about 400 meters west of the garden.
The Matzad Ruin – of the structures that once stood in the site are now only the remains of a hall with two or three surviving wall layers. The site overlooked the old road from Amaus in the Ayalon Valley to Jerusalem. The site, on top of a 530 meter-high hill, overlooks the hills of the plains – Modi'in, the Ben Shemen Forest, Rehovot and Tel Aviv.
Digging in the site revealed seven layers that go as early as the Bronze and Persian (7th century BC) and as late as the Middle Ages. The most important layers from the Hasmonean period and the ancient Roman period. The site was built during the Hasmonean period, under the rule of Alexander Yanai, and since then residents of the area knew better and worse times, depending on the status of the road's importance.
During King Herod the Great, a large khan was built in the place, the site was surrounded by a yard and was added with living dorms and storage rooms. On the southeast corner, beyond the ancient road, a large water pool was built. The ruins contain evidence of Roman military presence, indicating that the site was used during patrols of the Roman Army units.
The milestones site – from the ruin, a 4X4 drive west on a difficult dirt road passes along a junction where KKL-JNF planted a few cedars that diversify the pine forest and the natural grove. About 900 meters further on the "red" road, between the forest trees, there is an impressive group of milestones, some broken. These stoned were used as road signs and often carried Latin writings marking the distance to the closest city, the date of the stone's setting and a dedication to the ruling emperor.
The milestone site marks the 14th mile from Jerusalem. One of the stones carries a Latin inscription. It reads: "To the Imperator Emperor Julius Versus Maximianus, believer, lucky, Augustus, and to Gaius Julius Versus Maximus, an Emperor of Maximianus Augustus, the invincible, believers and lucky. Emperor Maximianus ruled the empire from 235 to 238 AD.
End of the track – about 1.5 kilometers from the milestones the red road ends and a road marked in black begins. A right turn leads to the Ayalon-Canada park. A left turn and 1.5 kilometers later, near the Harsis ruins, the Diefenbaker Road (marked in red) leads down. A right turn brings travelers to the gas station at Sha'ar HaGay, and the end of the track.
Post-Fire Forest Rehabilitation
In 1995, a fire broke out in the area. It was the most destructive fire in Israel until the Carmel fire of 2010. Another great fire broke out near Nataf in 2016. Huge forest sections burned down.
KKL-JNF rehabilitates the forest using natural means that take into account the self-rehabilitation ability of the growth and the ground's seed supply. Only when no other choice is left, the KKL-JNF foresters intervene and take action to help rehabilitate the grove trees.
KKL-JNF rehabilitates the forest using natural means that take into account the self-rehabilitation ability of the growth and the ground's seed supply. Only when no other choice is left, the KKL-JNF foresters intervene and take action to help rehabilitate the grove trees.
Diefenbaker Road at Rabin Park
Starting point: the roundabout near the Jerusalem Trailblazers Memorial near the Shoresh Interchange and north of it.
End of the Track: the Sha'ar HaGay Gas Station.
Length of the Track: about 8 kilometers.
Track type: a dirt road drive for a 4X4 vehicle.
The track: Rabin Park spreads east of Sha'ar HaGay. During Israel's War of Independence, Yitzhak Rabin commanded the PALMAH's Harel Division, tasked with breaking the Arab blockade on Jerusalem. Two high branches rise above Sha'ar HaGay: on the south, the Shayarot Branch, above the Burma Road and on the north the Mishlatim Branch, through which the Diefenbaker Road passes.
Trailblazers Recreation Area – contains a memorial site for the PALMAH's sixth battalion. Here, travelers will find signs telling the story of the battalion and the way to Jerusalem during Israel's War of Independence. The large rock with the inscription "Rabin Park" was brought to the site on June 24, 1997, the same day of the park's declaration.
The battalion's main mission during the first months of fighting was securing the road to Jerusalem. One of the battalion's platoons was stationed at Kiryat Anavim and in Ma'ale HaHamisha, and operated outposts along the ridge. The platoon's warriors also operated against villages used as bases for Arabs who attacked the convoys on their way to Jerusalem. Two of the platoons were "Foremen's Platoons" – tasked with securing the convoys. The battalion had many more missions as the campaign continued.
The Trailblazers Memorial – about 200 meters west of the recreation area, a staircase goes up to the top of a small hill, the former sire of a small Arab village named Hirbet Zunukla. Today, it is the site of The Trailblazers Memorial, sculpted by Naomi Henrik. The memorial, which was revealed in 1967, is made of six steel rods that point the way to the capital and symbolize the break into the city during Israel's War of Independence.
The Mishlatim Branch - Hirbet Zunukla and the Mishlatim Branch were conquered during Operation Maccabi, which took place on May 1948. Yitzhak Rabin commanded the operation, carried out by the Harel Division, with reinforcement from the 51st Battalion of the Givati Division. The operation started on May 7, 1948. The outposts along the ridge were taken, but the force had to retreat due to complication at the Masrek section.
On the following night, another attempt to take over the ridge south of Jerusalem. On the night of May 9, the outposts on both sides of road were taken, and the forces stood successfully against constant Arab attacks that lasted for a few days. Some of the outposts changed hands, but eventually remained under the control of the Israeli forces.
The Armored Vehicles Site – back in the Trailblazers Recreation Area, travelers can take the Diefenbaker Road that passes at the top of the Mishlatim Branch. The road, marked in red, is named after John Diefenbaker, who served as the Prime Minister of Canada from 1957 to 1963 and was a loyal friend to Israel.
Drive carefully! From the Trailblazers Recreation Area, a road marked in red goes east. The road bypasses the recreation area branch from the east and then changes direction to the west. After another 500 meters, travelers reach The Armored Vehicles Site. Travelers will be greeted by a sign explaining on the site, and a trail leads to an olive grove on the left. Here, between the grove and Road 1, are the remains of seven armored vehicles from Israel's War of Independence. They are positioned in a way that allows on the road to see them.
Outposts and Japanese Garden – up on the road marked in red, the heightening way above Road 1 demonstrates the huge strategic value of the outposts during Israel's War of Independence. A drive up the branch and 1.5 kilometers from the armored vehicles site, travelers will reach the Japanese Garden. The garden consists of a batch of rock surrounded by natural growth dedicated to Father Otsuki – founder of the Christian society of Beit Shalom. According to the society's faith, Jerusalem is the key to world peace, and the garden was therefore founded on the road leading to the capital. Near the garden was Outpost 5, one of the outposts overlooking the road to Jerusalem.
Further up the road, against the landscape of Sha'ar HaGay, travelers pass near a commemoration sign for Uzi Narkis, who commanded the 4th battalion of the Harel Division during Israel's War of Independence and participated in the defense of Sha'ar HaGay. Two large oak trees mark a large forest section planted in the memory of Zevulun Hammer, former Minister of Education in the Israeli Government. A short dirt road leads to outposts 7 and 8.
On the way to outpost 9, travelers will suddenly see the landscape of the plains. The city of Modi'in can be seen clearly, as well as the cities of Rehovot and Ramleh. On a bright day, the high towers of Tel Aviv can also be seen. Up next is the sign telling of outpost 10, which was positioned in front of the Jordanian "The Turrets Ridge" in Latrun.
The road goes down to the Ilan Stream and meets a junction. A left turn passes the Harsis Ruins and brings travelers to the end of the trip at the Sha'ar HaGay gas station.

KKL-JNF for the Community

The forest section near the entrance to the town of Har Adar is one of the community forests that KKL-JNF develops within urban areas. The forests are developed in collaboration with the community and the municipality. In Har Adar, the residents chose to focus on environmental art and they gave their forest the nickname "Totem Forest".
The place became a garden of wood and stone statues, made mostly of natural materials. Among the things travelers can see here is "The Tree of Creation" – a thin, long sculpted trunk, placed as a totem. A particularly impressive statue of "Man and Nature" presents a hand hugging animals sculpted on a large eucalyptus trunk.
Chairs, created by Itzik Adi in the Sculptures Garden
Photographs courtesy of Yaakov Shkolnik, Malka Barkai, Ariel Ben-Ze'ev and the KKL-JNF Photo Archive