Scenic Lookouts in Switzerland Forest

Difficulty: Basic| Distance: 5 kilometers | Length of time required: 1-2 hours| Area: North; Lower Galilee | Recommended Season: All year round | Type of route: Disabled-accessible, scenery and lookout points, part of the Israel Trail
Photograph: Yakov Shkolnik
Photograph: Yakov Shkolnik
Three magnificent lookouts points along the scenic route through Switzerland Forest
How to reach the Oron Shaul Scenic Lookout
From the Poria-Kinneret road (Route 7677) turn northward towards Poria Youth Hostel. The lookout is bang at the southern entrance to the Switzerland Forest Scenic Route, slightly before the hostel.

How to get to the Carl Lutz Scenic Lookout
By private car: Park at the three-level observation point adjacent to the scenic route and walk for 300 meters or so up a dirt road to the Carl Lutz Scenic Lookout (a barrier prevents vehicle access).
By bicycle: A dirt track leads southward from the traffic circle in Sderot Sapir (Sapir Avenue) in Upper Tiberias, adjacent to the entrance to the Kinneret View (Tzofeh Kinneret) cycle path. Follow the track for 1.2 kilometers and you will arrive at the overnight camping area, with the Carl Lutz Scenic Lookout next to it.

How to get to the Switzerland Forest Observation Point
From the north: From Sapir Junction via Sderot Kakal (JNF Avenue)
From the south: From the youth hostel junction in Poria and from the Oron Shaul Scenic Lookout to Switzerland Forest. (This dsn’t seem very informative. Shdn’t it be more detailed?)
The Oron Shaul Scenic Lookout
The Oron Shaul Scenic Lookout is located next to the entrance to the Switzerland Forest Scenic Route, at a point that overlooks the magnificent vista of the Jordan Valley, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the Golan and Mount Hermon. From here we also have a good view of the precipitous slope of Switzerland Forest, which drops steeply down to the Kinneret. Such a sheer slope can easily disintegrate and endanger those at its foot, and this did indeed occur in 1934, when heavy rains caused a huge mudslide that engulfed Tiberias and killed twenty-five of its inhabitants.

The forestry department of the British Mandate began to plant here in 1927, and in 1941 the British authorities declared the forest a special area under its erosion directive. Later the Jewish National Fund took up the task, and planted the forest with a wide variety of trees and bushes.
Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul 
Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul (1993-2014), a combatant in the Golani Brigade’s 13th Battalion, was killed in the bitter struggle that took place in Shuja‘iyya, Gaza, during Operation Protective Edge. On July 20th 2014, IDF forces entered the neighborhood to destroy Hamas battle infrastructures, including rocket-launchers and tunnels. Two armored personnel carriers of the outdated M-113 type (Zelda), which provide a low level of protection, accompanied the force. One of the APCs got stuck and was hit by a rocket. Six of the soldiers travelling in it were killed, and Oron Shaul was posted missing. On July 25th, 2014, the IDF declared him a fallen soldier whose place of burial is unknown.

Oron Shaul had been a resident of Poria. The scenic observation point named in his memory looks out over the scenery he loved so much and which he saw every day of his childhood.

The site was developed with the help of donations from KKL-JNF’s Friends in Switzerland. 

The Carl Lutz Scenic Lookout  
The Carl Lutz Scenic Lookout is situated in the northern part of Switzerland Forest, above the three-way observation point. At the site, KKL-JNF has provided a pergola-roofed observation deck that overlooks the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and the Golan Heights. The lookout is designed primarily to serve walkers along the Israel trail and those cycling on the Kinneret View Trail, as the local three-way observation point is comparatively distant from them. Beside the lookout, KKL-JNF has provided an overnight campsite with scoria gravel surfaces where a sleeping bag can be conveniently unrolled for a pleasant night’s sleep.

The lookout offers a view of the slope at the foot of Upper Tiberias. Here we can observe specimens of river red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), survivors of planting in the 1950s. Many of the trees did not develop satisfactorily, mainly because of fires, felling, uncontrolled grazing and unsuitability for local climate and soil conditions.

In the 1960s KKL-JNF introduced changes in the forest, established a drainage system that protected the soil from erosion and planted vegetation better suited to the locality, principally sandarac gum trees (Tetraclinis articulata), small conifers whose origins lie in the western Mediterranean, principally in North Africa. Another innovation was the planting of large cassia shrubs, which are doing very well in the forest. Special types of eucalyptus, acacia and Mediterranean woodland trees have also been planted. Carob and oak trees have been planted at the overnight campsite, and are holding their own very well.
Carl Lutz, Righteous Gentile
Carl Lutz (1895-1975) was a Swiss diplomat. From 1935 until 1941 he served as Switzerland’s vice-consul in Jaffa, where he became sympathetic towards the Zionist movement. In his consular capacity he prevented the British from expelling 2,000 Jews who had immigrated to the Land of Israel from Germany.

In January 1942, Lutz was posted to Budapest, where he again served as Switzerland’s vice-consul. Prior to the German conquest of Hungary in March 1944, Lutz helped around 10,000 Jewish children and young people to immigrate to Palestine. On May 15th, 1944, the Germans began to send Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, and within two months had dispatched around 450 thousand of them to their deaths. Lutz did not stand idly by. After negotiating with Nazi officials, including Adolf Eichmann, he issued 8,000 preventative orders on behalf of Switzerland to every Jew in possession of a certificate of immigration to Palestine.

Later he extended this protection to include the families of immigration-certificate holders, thereby safeguarding around 30 thousand Jews. He additionally forged thousands of protective documents on paper purloined from the offices of the S.S., and acquired over 70 apartment buildings, declared them to be under Swiss protection and populated them with thousands of Jews who were in possession of his protective documents.

The Swiss Embassy did not approve of his activities, and after the war Lutz was assigned only to minor posts. As he had saved over 60 thousand Jews, Lutz was one of the first people to receive the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Both observation points and the sites in Switzerland Forest were developed thanks to donations from KKL-JNF’s Friends in Switzerland.

The observation point was developed thanks to donations from KKL-JNF’s Friends in Switzerland. Which observation point does this refer to, and isn’t the issue covered in the paragraph above?

The Switzerland Forest Observation Point
Switzerland Forest was planted by the British Mandatory authorities, and came under the control and management of KKL-JNF after the State of Israel was founded.

To protect the city of Tiberias from winter mudslides, a forest was planted to clothe the steep slope that descends from Poria Ridge to Tiberias and the Kinneret. The highest points of the forest cliff tower to a height of over 400 meters above the lake below, and provide magnificent views of the Kinneret, Mount Hermon and the Galilean hills. The city of Tiberias lies spread like the palm of a hand at the base of the forest’s northern slopes.

In the 1960s, KKL-JNF installed a drainage system based upon channels designed to divert the water flow, with Irish bridges all along them. The forest, which was planted with trees and bushes well adapted to the terrain, is crossed by a scenic route that has recreation areas and lookout points scattered at intervals along the 6 kilometers of its length.

Switzerland Forest’s largest observation point – a site of some significance – was constructed in 1986 for the benefit of hikers and visitors, thanks to donations from KKL-JNF Switzerland. The site was refurbished and upgraded over the years, to meet the changing needs of visitors and the local terrain. When eventually it became unsafe, it was dismantled, and June 2022 saw the conclusion of three years’ work on an airy observation structure at the site, which provides a sense of suspension between earth and heaven. This new lookout, which is faced with local basalt stone, stands on poles buried in the ground and is roofed with a pergola decorated with carvings of the eucalyptus leaves characteristic of Switzerland Forest.

Around 2.5 million NIS were invested in this scenic lookout, of which one million were donated by KKL-JNF Switzerland.

Text and photographs: Yaakov Skolnik
Professional consultation: Uzi Eliyahu, KKL-JNF forester, Switzerland Forest
Map: Noga Mizrahi, Noga Graphic Design
Updated: December 2023

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