What was a polluted wasteland for many years has now become an oasis for holiday
travelers and their children.
Over 9,000 people visited Yarkon National
Park on the third day of hol hamoed Passover, enjoying its blossoming foliage,
floating pond lilies and sprawling lawns. At the foot of Tel Afek-Antipatris, a
portion of the park located near Rosh Ha’ayin, hundreds of families were
picnicking on a huge grassy knoll under the shelter of scattered trees. Some
parents relaxed on straw mats while others preferred the shade of tents, but
children freely kicked around soccer balls and dipped their bare feet in the
Up a winding, overgrown path around the side of a rain pool
stood the remains of the Antipatris fortress, which was active from about 63 BCE
to 324 BCE and on Tuesday had become quite active once more. Inside the cardo –
the ancient market area – the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) was
hosting a day filled with Olympicstyle games for families, in honor of the
upcoming London Summer Olympics. Each family received a form on which game
station managers recorded the family’s scores in a particular
One of the competitions involved building an obelisk out of
giant Styrofoam cement-like blocks, as tall and as quickly as
Wearing construction hats, children wrapped their small arms
around the blocks and handed them off to their taller parents for building. At
an adjacent station, families were putting together arches out of a wooden
material made to look like stone, with the aim of getting their arch to stay put
for at least 20 seconds.
A bowling station gave children the opportunity
to knock down ceramic plates with their rolling skills, while a nearby rock toss
demanded that they throw large stones as far as possible. There was a
horseshoe-throwing pavilion as well, and a bulls-eye dart toss seemed to provide
a challenge even for the bigger kids.
Several times throughout the day,
on a stage in the corner of the fortress, three families received medals for
their competition victories, stepping up onto elevated steps indicating first,
second and third place – a la the gold, silver and bronze steps for Olympic
In addition to games, there was a drum circle for
children, in which toddlers beat sticks on the bottoms of upside-down trash
cans, following the rhythm of an instructor. Under another tent was a selection
of toys such as ribbon twirlers, juggling rings and pins, and devil sticks,
which often ended up landing on the ground, in between a child’s – or parent’s –
feet. A giant wooden chess set also stood in the sunlight, as tall as some of
the children playing with the pieces.
Tom Amit, manager of Yarkon
National Park, told The Jerusalem Post that while huge crowds had gathered here
for the Olympic games on this Passover Tuesday, the increasing popularity of the
park was nothing new.
Once a month, the INPA conducts an event like this
one, each time drawing a crowd of about 5,000-6,000, he said. Next month, there
will be a Shavuot-related event, while in the future there will be a festival of
frogs, according to Amit.
“We want to give people the extra value of
nature,” he said. “More people come when you are doing these kinds of
Even during the first two days of hol hamoed Passover, when
there was no special event taking place at the park, about 3,000-4,000 people
came to visit and barbecue there each day, he explained. In order to keep people
happy and make sure no one was waiting on intolerable lines, he had about seven
ticket collectors taking money from cars at the entrance-way.
government began rehabilitating the once entirely polluted Yarkon River, there
has been an increase not only in human visitors, but also in animals – who have
come to stay, according to Amit.
“There are much more animals than we saw
two or three years ago,” he said, naming frogs, foxes and porcupines as
particularly common inhabitants nowadays.
The Yarkon bleak fish, which
was once common in Israeli streams, was recently reintroduced into the Yarkon,
“I think it has become very beautiful in the last few years,”
he said. “We’re putting in a lot of effort into making it a better place, and
also, it’s in the middle of the country. There are more than three million
people half an hour’s drive from here.”
Of all the days of hol hamoed so
far, Tuesday was the most popular among national parks and nature reserve
travelers, with the INPA reporting over 300,000 people at its sites. Aside from
the Yarkon National Park, which had the most visitors that day, Ein Gedi,
Ashkelon and Caesarea had approximately 5,000. Tel Dan, Nahal Iyun and Nahal
Amud followed with about 4,500 people, while the Banias Nature Reserve had about
Parks and forests under Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish
National Fund’s administration had about 220,000 visitors on Tuesday, with many
parking lots filled to capacity, the organization said.