Jerusalem Forest - Nature in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Forest is located southwest of Jerusalem and is the green lung of the residents of Israel's capital. The forest has a variety of trees, flowers and wildlife, remains of ancient farming implements and burial caves.


Geographic location: Jerusalem, Judean highlands and surroundings
Access: Special (adapted for the disabled)

Identity Card



Blossoming in Jerusalem Forest. Photo: Zvi Yuchtman.

 
Special Sites in the Forest: Cedar Trail, Yosef Weitz – Ottawa Road, Yad Vashem – Yefe Nof Road, Yad Vashem – Ein Kerem Road, Nations Grove.
 
Facilities: Picinic - Barbecue area, Lookout, Active recreation area, Archeological or Historic site, Marked path, Accessible site.
 
Additional Sites in the Vicinity: Moshav Beit Zayit, Givat Shaul neighborhood in Jerusalem.
 
How do you get there?
Access to the Yosef Weitz – Ottawa Road is from the Givat Shaul neighborhood. From Tel Aviv turn right at Ginot Sakharov Junction. The entrance is from Beit Hadfus Street near the Angel bakery and the gas station. Another entrance is from Moshav Beit Zayit.
 
To the Mount Herzl – Yad Vashem route, drive from Yad Vashem to Pirhei Hen Street in the Yefe Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
The Jerusalem Forest was created and is maintained thanks
to contributions from friends of KKL-JNF worldwide
including Argentina, Israel, Italy and Australia.
 

About the Forest

Throughout the forest, pine and cypress trees were planted, as well as Palestine oak, terebinth, carob, olive, fig, pomegranate and other species of Mediterranean woodlands and orchards that used to cover the slopes of the Judean Hills. The flowers that grow among them in the spring are anemones, daffodils and cyclamens. KKL-JNF implemented the community forest model in the Jerusalem Forest, in which residents who live near the forest participate in its planning and maintenance.
 


Jerusalem Forest. Photo: Malka Barkai.

On many of the slopes there are agricultural terraces, remains of ancient farming implements and burial caves, winepresses and cisterns that attest to the inhabitation of the region long ago.
 
One may often see gazelles running in the area and hear the sounds of the numerous songbirds. KKL-JNF blazed 51 km of roads in the forest, which provide access to many beautiful spots. Sites in the forest have been marked with signs, and there are many recreation areas with playground equipment.

Sites in the Jerusalem Forest

The Cedar Trail

The Cedar Trail is a loop footpath about 4 km long. Its difficulty level is medium, and it takes 2 to 3 hours to complete. Access is from the Yefe Nof neighborhood, from Pirhei Hen Street, which branches off from Yefe Nof Street. After entering, the Australia Garden is on the left, a small recreation area with a slide for children. There you can park the car and continue on foot following the trail marked in blue. The trail climbs a flight of stairs and proceeds on a forested slope passing another recreation area surrounded by rockrose and thyme. In spring you can also see orchids there.
 
Further along the trail is the KKL-JNF Pensioners Recreation Area, which has agricultural terraces with olive trees, cedars and other orchard trees. The trail descends from there and reaches a eucalyptus grove, where there are playground facilities and picnic tables. Some of the tables have chessboards on them. One can digress slightly from the trail and climb the slope to see the ruins of a hut and a pool of spring water.
 


Walking trail in Jerusalem Forest. Photo: Eyal Bartov.

Back on the trail there is a cave in which a magnificent fig tree is growing, and near it is the Ben Gurion Cedar. To the left of the trail there is a small clearing where David Ben Gurion, the first President of Israel, planted a cedar in 1958.
 
The trail ascends from there to Mitzpe Kerem, where there are trenches that were dug by the Turkish army. During the Israel War of Independence, Arab forces were positioned there until the area was conquered by the Yonatan Brigade of the Gadna (the Youth Battalions). From the Mitzpe there is a great view of Mount Heret, Tzuba, Kiryat Yovel, Har Gilo, Ein Kerem and Even Sapir. There is also a dirt road from the Mitzpe to Mount Herzl.
 
If one returns to the trail and proceeds, one reaches the recreation area near the Zippori Center. Up the road and left, to the west, there is a wide dirt road that goes to the Ontario Recreation Area. This is the main recreation area in the forest. It has picnic tables, playground equipment, sports facilities, bathrooms and water fountains, and it has been made wheelchair accessible.
 
The trail continues from the recreation area and ascends through cypress trees. In this area you might find a nest of a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, one of the few couples that nest in the forest. The Eurasian Sparrowhawk builds its nest at the top of a tall tree and makes sure to keep it at a distance of 100 meters from inhabited areas. It is possible that the Sparrowhawk preys on birds that live in residential areas. Along the trail there are ancient winepresses. In order to return to the starting point, one has to cross the road that descends to the Har Nof neighborhood and Moshav Beit Zayit, and continue on the trail, which climbs back up to the Yefe Nof neighborhood.
The Yosef Weitz – Ottawa Road


Cycling trail in Jerusalem Forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

This trail is named after Yosef Weitz, who directed the KKL-JNF Forestry Department for many years. It descends alongside Nahal Revida, passes a horse farm and the Pi Glilot petroleum terminal and arrives at the Elephant Tooth Recreation Area, which is an important junction in the forest. It got its name from the huge boulder there, which looks like the tooth of an elephant.
 
The Yad Vashem – Yefe Nof Road

This road goes from Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem to the Zippori Center and from there to the Yefe Nof neighborhood, to Pirhei Hen Street.
 
The Yad Vashem – Ein Kerem Road


Jerusalem Forest facing city. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

This route starts across from the entrance to Yad Vashem, from the Recreation Area commemorating Raoul Wallenberg, one of the Righteous of the Nations of the World, and descends along Nahal Ein Kerem to the Ein Kerem neighborhood. It is marked in blue and is also suitable for bicycles. It is recommended that you leave a car parked in Ein Kerem to pick up the hikers.
 
Community forests have become more important all over the world as green areas surounding developed areas and as an essential environmental resource for the quality of life of urban residents. They are usually characterized by their proximity to residential neighborhoods, and they mainly serve the people who live in the adjacent communities. The physical closeness of the community forest to a residential neighborhood facilitates the creation of a sense of belonging and commitment of the community to the forest by means of involving the community n the forest interface—in its planning stages, development, maintenance, community forest activity programming and the establishment of public support for preservation of the forest.
 
A community forest has many benefits, from taking an evening stroll away from the urban buzz to bringing the rhythm and values of nature into the city, providing possibilities for improving physical and mental health, and reducing air pollution. It is a powerful tool for sustaining the connection between city dwellers and nature, and it contributes to the quality of social consciousness in the city.
The Nations Grove – Trees of Peace, Cooperation and Brotherhood
 
Below Yad Vashem, in the heart of the Jerusalem Forest, KKL-JNF created a special grove, the Nations Grove, where heads of state from all over the world are invited to plant trees symbolizing peace, cooperation and brotherhood. World leaders on state visits to Israel, who go to nearby Yad Vashem, the museum commemorating those who perished in the Holocaust, plant a tree afterwards in the earth of Jerusalem, which symbolizes life and continuity.
 
The grove was founded in 2003, initiated by KKL-JNF and the Foreign Ministry, and it is now part of the Olive Tree Route, which was created in Israel as part of the UNESCO and EU project for promoting intercultural dialogue and peace among the nations of the region, through the advancement of sustainable development and agricultural tourism.
 


The Nations Grove. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

 
The Nations Grove is part of the Jerusalem Forest preservation and development project, and tree planting by world leaders supports the efforts to preserve the forest and the vicinity. Since its creation, [29] many leaders and heads of state from all over the world have planted trees here, adding diversity to the trees in the forest, including olive trees, carob, fig and terebinth. Travelers, youth, families and groups of tourists spend time in the Nations Grove, when they visit the many recreation areas in the Jerusalem Forest or hike the trails from there to the picturesque village of Ein Kerem, which is situated on the slopes below.
 
The first olive tree in the grove was planted in 2007 to support the world effort to create a green belt of a billion trees, as announced by the UN for combating global warming. The tree was movingly planted by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, who said the following at the ceremony in honor of the occasion: “Many thanks to KKL-JNF and the Jerusalem Municipality for involving the United Nations in the Nations Grove, which is planted by the leaders of the world. When this tree grows, in a few years, I hope to return and see how it has prospered alongside the prosperity I wish for the cooperation between Israel, KKL-JNF and the UN. It is an honor for me to plant an olive tree, whose branches are part of the UN logo, here at the foot of Yad Vashem.” At the festive ceremony, KKL-JNF presented a certificate to the UN General Secretary, stating that the tree he planted in the Nations Grove would absorb 1.5 tons of greenhouse gases and thereby contribute to the improvement of world ecology.

History

The Jerusalem Forest was planted in the late 1950s and the 1960s. Yosef Weitz, director of the KKL-JNF Forestry Department at the time, who was called “the father of the forests of Israel,” promised Jerusalem Mayor Gershon Agron that he would cover the hills of Jerusalem with green.

The first tree was planted in 1956 by the second President of Israel, Itzhak Ben Zvi, and the area of the forest, after being planted, covered 4,700 dunams. Over the years, the boundaries of the forest receded. Its area now covers only 1,250 dunams and it still faces the danger of destruction.
 
The Fight for the Forest
 
In recent years, there has been a public outcry to save the forest. The area of the forest has been getting smaller and smaller due to the pressures of increased development including the construction of a large highway intersection, the installation of power lines, the enlargement of the cemetery and Yad Vashem, and building development programs.


Snow in Jerusalem Forest. Photo: Yossi Zamir.

An association was established to save the forest, led by KKL-JNF in conjunction with the residents of the communities next to the forest, and various protests were organized. A forest preservation organization was also formed as well as an activity center in the forest, which supervises thousands of children and adults in maintaining the forest. KKL-JNF implemented the community forest model, where the local residents participate in the planning and maintenance of the forest. The determined struggle assisted in obtaining approval for a forest preservation program, which constitutes a major tool for the preservation of Jerusalem's green lung.
 
The Story of Mitzpe Kerem

We invite you to get to know the story of the Jerusalem Forest ridge, where the forest meets the city. It has several names including Khirbet Hamama, Mitzpe Kerem and Givat Oded Hai.

You can read about the site in a pamphlet that was written to commemorate the fighters of the Yonatan Brigade, who liberated the hill in the battles of 1948, and in honor of Mr. Eli Zohar, who has been telling the story about that battle since then.

The pamphlet was written by Efraim Shalin and was produced by KKL-JNF's  Central Region and Publications Department.