Derech HaSheizaf in Yad Mordechai Forest

A scenic route from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai to the Karmiya and Zikim natural sand dune reserve.


Geographic location: Northern and western Negev
Track type: Walking path
Target audience: All
Difficulty: Easy
Track length: 4 km
Season: All

Identity Card

Sycamore fig trees at the Yoram Vanunu Recreation Area. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik.

 


Derech HaSheizaf (“Jujube Way”) is a short scenic route that passes through the northern part of Yad Mordechai Forest. Along the way KKL-JNF has established four recreation areas in the heart of the countryside that serve as ideal departure points for excursions along Zikim Beach, the Shikma River Estuary, Karmiya Nature Reserve and sites at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.



Geographic location: Southern Israel, the southern coastal plain


How to get there:
Around 1.8 kilometers to the north of Yad Mordechai Junction, turn off Route no. 4 to the west, in the direction of Kibbutz Zikim and Kibbutz Karmiya (Route no. 3411). Drive for 1.2 kilometers until you arrive at the access point to Derech HaSheizaf on the right-hand side of the road.

 
Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.
 
 
 

Yad Mordechai Forest

KKL-JNF began to plant Yad Mordechai Forest back in the 1950s, and today the woodland extends over some 3,000 dunam (approx 750 acres) of the low calcareous sandstone ridge on which Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is situated. Derech HaSheizaf (“Jujube Way”) takes its name  from the large number of jujube (Ziziphus) trees that border the main route through the forest. KKL-JNF, however, has added a wide variety of other trees to the site, mainly eucalypts of the tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala ), flat-topped yate (Eucalyptus occidentalis) and red gum (Eucalyptus rostrata) varieties. Jerusalem pine (Pinus halepensis), stone pine (Pinus pinea), sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus) and carob (Ceratonia siliqua) trees have also been planted. Along Jujube Way KKL-JNF has provided signs that describe the different varieties of trees in the forest.

The trees are interspersed with the indigenous vegetation characteristic of calcareous sandstone ridges. Spiny broom (Calicotome villosa), which produces a profusion of yellow flowers in February and March, is especially prominent, and its presence testifies to the area’s use for grazing, as it tends to proliferate on grazing lands.. Desert broom (Retama raetam), whose densely clustered white blossom appears in February and attracts hordes of bees, can also be seen everywhere. Although primarily a desert plant it also grows in abundance on the sand dunes and calcareous sandstone ridges of Israel’s Coastal Plain.


Derech HaSheizaf
The trail leaves the road and turns to the right. On our right is a eucalyptus grove and to the left is a fenced compound enclosing greenhouse crops and henhouses. Beyond it soar the three chimneys of the Israel Electric Corporation’s Rutenberg Power Station. The trail is suitable for private cars.

After about half a kilometer we come to the Sheizaf Recreation Area on the left, where four picnic tables nestle in the shade of some olive trees beside the fence of the agricultural compound. Close by is a large Christ’s thorn jujube tree (Ziziphus spina-christi). However, if you are searching for the ideal picnic spot, we recommend continuing to the other recreation areas further on.

Our route continues northwards beside a long avenue of jujube trees. The Christ’s thorn jujube, which bears small round fruit that resemble miniature apples in both taste and appearance, grows wild in Israel’s Coastal Plain. It is easily identifiable by its three-veined leaves and, of course, by its plentiful long, spiky thorns.


The Nabih Mari Recreation Area
After about 1.2 kilometers, the trail curves round to the right. Immediately after the bend we arrive at a recreation area established in memory of Colonel Nabih Mari of the Galilee community of Hurfeish, who was killed during the riots in Rafiah in 1996 while serving as deputy commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division.

The recreation area, which is equipped with picnic tables and a drinking water fountain, is shaded by eucalypts and pine trees and surrounded also by carob, athel tamarisk (Tamarix aphylla) and olive trees. Two large sycamore fig trees dominate the scene.

The Yoram Vanunu Recreation Area

The Jujube Trail continues northwards from the Nabih Mari Recreation Area and bends to the right (eastwards) after about 400 meters to climb the slope of the calcareous sandstone hill. From the slope a short path leads off to the right into an attractive little valley in the calcareous sandstone ridge where sycamore fig, eucalyptus and jujube trees grow. The surrounding slopes are clad in pine trees among which picnic tables are scattered. In this tranquil spot KKL-JNF has created the Yoram Vanunu Recreation Area in memory of Second Lieutenant Yoram Vanunu, an officer in the IDF Armored Corps who fell in Lebanon during Operation Peace for Galilee in June 1982. Beside the memorial rock at the entrance to the recreation area stands a palm tree. Here we can leave our vehicle for a few moments and set out along the forest path on foot. The site of the signpost that indicates the way to the recreation area offers an excellent view of the sand dunes of the Coastal Plain. On the slope on the far side of the path we can observe the wild vegetation typical of calcareous sandstone ridges. With a little luck we may even spot one of the gazelles that roam the area.


The Olive Recreation Area
The woodland path continues for another 600 meters or so eastward, and just before it touches Route no. 4 it twists round to the right and brings us immediately to the Olive Recreation Area, where we find picnic tables in the shade of a sizeable olive grove. Nearby is a large plot in which KKL-JNF has planted a wide variety of trees. The high tension wire hovering overhead carries electricity from the Rutenberg Power Station, and the tall electricity pole manages somehow to blend into the scenery.
This is the end of the scenic route.
The Olive Recreation Area lies very close to Route no. 4, but there is no safe or permitted access to the highway from here. We can retrace our steps to our starting point or, alternatively, skirt the olive grove and turn westwards to drive along an unmarked though navigable trail that will lead us straight back to the Nabih Mari Recreation Area.


Zikim Beach
Route no. 3411 leads westwards to Zikim, one of Israel’s most beautiful beaches. The area along the coastline is dotted with freshwater pools created by Nahal Shikma, which spills into the sea at this point. In the past the river flowed to the sea at a point further south, but with the establishment of the Shikma Reservoir it changed course to its current route, which is fringed with riverside vegetation. The area of sand dunes to the north of the river forms part of the Zikim Sand Dune Reserve, where we can observe classic sand-dune plants such as desert broom, Artemisia monosperma, sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum) and sand button (Neurada procumbens). In the hollows between the dunes the remains of orchards that grew here in the past can still be seen. The tracks in the sand are a reminder of the lively presence of local wildlife, which includes the Nidua fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactylus scutellatus), the ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus) and mammals such as the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), the desert hare (Lepus capensis) and the mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella gazella).
During the summer months part of the beach provides services for swimmers and beachgoers (there is an entrance fee).

Warning: Zikim Beach is only two kilometers distant from the northern end of the Gaza Strip, and both it and the Jujube Trail are within range of the Qassam rockets sometimes fired from Gaza.