The beautiful natural sites at the foot of the Gilboa range, which were developed with the assistance of KKL JNF, were enjoyed by the general public at the First Maayanot Festival, which was organized by the Emek Hamaayanot Regional Council and took place during the week of Sukkot 5772.
Thousands of families arrived over the four days of the festival, to enjoy the hiking trails, bike paths, workshops and the many events in nature. These included bird watching at observation points in Kfar Ruppin in order to observe the migrating birds, getting acquainted with the organic farming at Kibbutz Sede Eliyahu, participating in baking workshops at Gesher, camping out and campfires in Ganei Huga, a kite show in Sede Nachum and a variety of musical performances and art events.
The 22nd Annual Maayanot Walk was one of the main features of the festival, and it attracted numerous day trippers, from seasoned walkers to families with children. All along the route, the participants passed sites that were rehabilitated and developed for the benefit of the general public by KKL JNF, with the support of its friends throughout the world. These sites included Ein Shokek, Ein Moda and Nahal Hakibbutzim.
The walk started near Ein Shokek, a spring that derives from Nahal Shokek. The spring water flows into a small pool with basalt stone walls. This segment of the watercourse is known as Nahal Hakibbutzim, and its length is about 2km. It is fed by several channels—Nahal Migdal, the Shokek springs, and Nahal Homa.
The stream was restored by KKL¬ JNF in conjunction with the Nahal Harod Administration, the Gilboa Regional Council and the South Jordan Drainage Authority. Development included paving access roads, constructing recreation areas with the assistance of friends of KKL JNF in England, picnic sites, gazebos, footbridges and footpaths, and planting eucalyptus trees the entire length of the stream.
The children who participated in the walk were thrilled to discover that activities started with ecological games near Ein Shokek. They threw baskets, jumped rope, did some bowling and Frisbee, and played other games using only recycled materials.
Almog Betzer, 8, from Sede Nachum, said that she had participated in all the games and was having a lot of fun. “It’s so nice that there are places like this,” she said, “where you can have a good time.”
Her friend Ela Tubari, 9, said that they had come on a group outing with the kibbutz day camp. “It’s great that there are such special places to go when we are on vacation,” she said.
Tzili Tregerman from Ramat Hasharon came to walk with a group of pensioners from the Tel Aviv Municipality. “Nature is good for the soul,” she said. “Here, in the fresh air, we get to see landscapes and people, and it is the best way to take in additional knowledge about the country.”
Indeed, walk participants could learn a lot about the land of Israel. There were stations all along the route manned by KKL JNF guides, who provided interesting information about the forty springs—large and small, visible and hidden—that gurgle through the valley. The guides told the participants about the history of the valley and its communities, which have recently been expanding.
Nomi Goshen, a KKL JNF guide, did more than just give intelligent answers to questions of the walk participants. She organized a storytelling activity with the children based on the story of the Domim Tree. She was stationed right where the two routes of the walk forked off —the short route, about 3km long and suitable for families with children, and the longer route for experienced hikers, 9 km long. The information she provided helped people choose the route that was right for them.
The walk followed a circular route and included a lot of water and fun. The stream bank was lush with typical aquatic plants such as raspberries, reeds, papyrus and jujube trees. Many visitors took advantage of the opportunity to wade in the cool, clear water, including Revital from Jerusalem. “It’s an awesome place, and the improvements that were made here add so much,” she said. “We go to KKL JNF sites often. We like to be outdoors whenever we have free time.”
The Moyal family from Kiryat Yam was not afraid of getting wet. “I’m glad there are beautiful places like this, so clean and neat, which are open to everyone, where families can go together,” said Ovadia, the father. The interview was cut short, because the children were urging their father to take them back to the water, which was much more interesting than answering questions.
Many families were sitting by the stream and having picnics in the shade of the eucalyptus trees. While the parents were preparing lunch, the children were swimming.
At the end of the march we met Guy Elnatan, 21, from Kfar Saba. Guy and his friend stood out in the crowd because of their huge knapsacks. They were apparently on a much longer trek than usual. “I am on an army discharge trip, and this is an opener for my big trip abroad,” said Guy. “It’s good to discover that you don’t have to go to distant countries in order to enjoy wonderful views and natural waterways. This place is absolutely amazing.”
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