Saffron Grove: A Family Tradition and a Connection to Israel

“This is how we envisage Israeli forests in the future. The planted pine forest has been thinned out nicely, leaving room for it for natural woodland species such as mastic, oak, almond and carob."

March 21, 2018 11:29
2 minute read.
The Jerusalem hills, as seen from Saffron Grove in Sataf

The Jerusalem hills, as seen from Saffron Grove in Sataf. (photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)


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Saffron Grove, which was planted in the 1980s on Mount Heret in the Jerusalem Hills, forms part of Sataf Forest and extends over an area of five dunam (about one and a quarter acres). The Lesser family of England donated the funds to plant the grove as a symbol of the family’s connection to Israel.

Saffron Grove overlooks the magnificent landscapes of the Jerusalem Hills and the Nahal Kisalon stream. It combines planted pine trees with native woodland that has sprung up and developed among the pines over the years. According to KKL-JNF Community and Forest Coordinator Gidi Bashan, this is an ideal combination: “This is how we envisage Israeli forests in the future. The planted pine forest has been thinned out nicely, leaving room for it to be interspersed with natural woodland consisting of a variety of local species such as mastic, oak, almond and carob. This creates a natural, healthy, sustainable forest that is also very attractive to visitors,” he explained.The grove was developed thanks to a donation from Janette and Danny Lesser, Friends of JNF UK, who planted it in memory of Danny’s mother Louise Liesl Lesser, as a symbol of the family’s indissoluble links with the Land of Israel.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country visit this area every year. Several years ago KKL-JNF, in a collaboration with local residents, built a path around Mount Heret that passes through Saffron Grove. Its route offers a wealth of scenic lookout points, a refreshing spring and clear mountain air. At this time of year the area is especially beautiful, thanks to the spring flowers that clothe the forest in vivid colors.

But it’s not only human beings who enjoy these natural surroundings: the area is populated by a variety of wildlife species including gazelles, foxes, jackals, porcupines and rabbits, together with raptors and other bird varieties.

In recent years this rich habitat has been under threat because of plans to build extensively on Mount Heret. KKL-JNF was among the leaders of the opposition to this destructive plan, and their struggle caused it eventually to be shelved. “I’m very glad that we managed to conserve this natural landscape in the heart of the Jerusalem Hills,” said Gidi Bashan.

Read more, see photos of the Saffron Grove in Sataf

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