(photo credit: KKL)
Over one and a half million people visited KKL-JNF's parks and forests during the recent Passover holiday, taking advantage of the cool weather for hikes, picnics and bicycling on the dozens of trails prepared by KKL-JNF. In the words of KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler: "The winning combination of a little bit of rain and a lot of green gave us an amazing Passover holiday, during which the citizens of Israel enjoyed our country's beautiful natural landscapes." Many more hundreds of thousands are expected to fill the forests today for the Maimouna, the traditional North African celebration on the day after Passover.
KKL-JNF organized activities for the general public in Israel's northern, central and southern regions. One of the holiday visitors' favorite sites was the new Jerusalem Metropolitan Park, which is located in Arazim Valley, beneath the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Tziyon., where we met Yoel and his son Arye, who participated in a special orienteering event organized by the Israel Sport Orienteering Association (ISOA). This was one of a number of events that recently took place in the park, which is fast becoming a major recreation hub for residents of the area and visitors from all over Israel. Besides the orienteering event, there was a guided bike ride through the park before the holiday on the new asphalt bike path and a hike for families through the Refa'im Valley section of the park. After Passover, there will be hikes to the Telem Springs and the KKL-JNF memorial commemorating the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States, an initiative of JNF USA.
"The scenery is magnificent, the weather is perfect, and we wanted to do something physical and challenging," said Yoel. Arye told us that he had just been in the park for the first time on April 15, right before Passover: "I participated in a bike riding activity that took place here, and I liked the park so much that I'm already back with my father. We began biking here in Arazim Valley, and I rode all the way back to Katamon, the Jerusalem neighborhood where we live."
Jerusalem Metropolitan Park is actually a string of four regional parks that when completed will extend over 3,700 acres, surrounding the capital from the west, north and south. The new park is being created by KKL-JNF, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, and other green organizations. It will eventually include a sports center, access roads, hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, forests and historical sites.
Guy and Oren, who were manning the ISOA booth at the park, told us about the orienteering activity: "Participants are given maps that guide them to ten different stations, and at each station, there is a riddle connected to the Passover holiday that they have to solve. We planned a relatively simple activity that's suitable for the entire family. Everyone who finds all ten stations and the answers to the riddles gets a special certificate, plus they all get to go home really happy."
Yitzhak Avisar from nearby Mevasseret Tziyon is no stranger to the park: "I come here all the time to take my dog for a walk. One of my favorite pastimes is to sit here towards the end of the day, and to have a cup of coffee in nature as the sun sets. I've been watching the park's development, which is being carried out with a great deal of sensitivity. It seems like the park is getting more beautiful every day."
Not everyone who came to the park for the orienteering activity was from Jerusalem. Limor and Yanai Flander live in Modi'im, and they came with their two children, Or (7), and Noga (4): "We used to live in Mevasseret, so we are familiar with the region This is the first time we've been here since KKL-JNF began
developing the park, and it's really amazing. Limor will be looking for the stations with Or, and Yanai will be with Noga, and we'll see who finishes first. We brought walkie-talkies with us to make sure we'll find each other when we finish."
The Sokolover family is from Neriya, a moshav near Modi'in: "This is our first time here. We were looking for a new place to go for the holiday and we saw an ad about the park on the internet. You're from KKL-JNF? Please tell them that they've done a terrific job here."
Matti and his two children, Nataf and Mor, summed up the morning's activities: "Happy Pessah, and next year in Jerusalem Metropolitan Park!"
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