During the rainy winter months, Israel is green and lush, but soon after Passover, any open spaces that aren’t covered by KKL-JNF forests or natural woodlands turn yellow or brown. The temperature is either hot - or hotter. Anyone who wants to spend time in nature, especially if they have little children, thinks immediately of where to find water, not something we have an abundance of here, unless you count the Mediterranean, Dead and Red Seas, and of course Lake Kinneret.
Thanks to a number of KKL-JNF restoration projects that, like always, were carried out with the help of its friends all over the world, there are a number of beautiful riverside sites perfect for hiking, recreation, or just hanging out next to running water. There are also parks that boast artificial lakes in the most unlikely of places, like the Negev Desert for example. Here are just a few of our favorites. Now that summer has arrived, it seemed like the perfect time to share them with you.
Hide and seek among the River Jordan reeds
Needless to say, Israel’s northern region is also its wettest, and one of everyone’s favorite sites is KKL-JNF’s Jordan River Park, which spreads out over an area of around 1,000 dunam (approx. 250 acres) to the northeast of the Kinneret, next to the eastern channel of the Jordan River. The riverbanks and small islands are covered with dense clumps of vegetation composed mainly of reeds and willows, which create an almost impenetrable thicket. And best of all – this site is open for overnight camping! You can sleep here and wake up in the morning to the sound of birds, running water, and if you have kids, their excited yelps. And don’t miss the watermills, the Bethsaida ruins, and the trails by the river under the shade of willow trees and through natural tunnels created by the tall reeds.
Jordan Park is situated around two kilometers to the north of the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret).
Bethsaida remains at Jordan River Park. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Nahal Harod – Water park, archaeology and birds
The Jordan flows from north to south, but is fed by a number of rivers that flow into it from west to east. Nahal Harod runs for 32 kilometers before it spills into the Jordan. The river course traverses fish ponds, woodlands, amazing archaeological sites and a water park. Not to mention that it’s a perfect place for birdwatching. KKL-JNF began rehabilitating the river in 1992, and now it’s a recreational site with something for everybody, with trails for serious hikers and cyclists, and a riverside path fully accessible for everyone, including people with limited mobility. The starting point for your outdoors adventure is KKL-JNF’s Tel Jezreel picnic site.
Is this really Israel in the middle of the summer? Nahal Hashofet Looking for a sense of peace and tranquility? If there aren’t too many other visitors here, Nahal Hashofet, which is part of the Ramat Menashe Biosphere Reserve, is just the place for you. And if you’re with your family, it’s guaranteed that everyone will have a perfect time. The stream, which has water almost all year long, winds its way through fields and forests. Willows and elms grow along the stream banks, together with brambles that produce juicy fruit in the summertime that everyone is invited to enjoy. KKL-JNF created a path along the stream that is fully accessible to people with limited mobility. There are a number of bridges along the path, which create scenery not very common to the Middle East in the summer. The flowing stream eventually creates a small waterfall and a pool. Stand on the lookout platform and enjoy the view of this beautiful spot, which is dotted with field elms, a tree that only grows beside water and is rarely found in Israel.
Nahal HaShofet. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Playgrounds, gardens and water turtles – Alexander River
If you live in or are visiting Israel’s central region, you don’t have to go far for a beautiful river, great lawns, recreation areas, benches and riverbank flora are what you’re looking for. The Alexander River, which is 32 km long, is one of the longest streams in the Sharon region. Visitors here won’t want to miss Italy Park, which is arguably the most popular river segment. You can walk the 2.7 km long river trail, which is located on the north bank of the riverbed and is suitable for bicycles, strollers and wheelchairs. If you get tired, there are lawns and places to sit in the shade of eucalyptus trees, along with playgrounds for children. Keep going, and you’ll arrive at Water Turtle Park, where you’ll meet the many softshell turtles who like to come and say hello to visitors at Turtle Bridge. They’re quite big, but also friendly, and you can spend some time with them while standing on the beautiful wooden observation deck built by KKL-JNF. There is even a café called Little Alexander if you want to stop for a coffee break among tranquil surroundings.
It’s pretty easy to get here – get off Highway 4 at the access road to Kibbutz Ma’abarot by the gas station and follow the signs. And don’t forget to send our regards to the turtles!
Soft shell turtles in Alexander River. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Golda Meir Park – Yes, a Lake in the Desert!
We promised some water sites in the desert, and the one we chose to tell you about is Golda Meir Park, which is located near Mashabim Junction. Although this area is very arid, there is nothing dry about this site. Nahal Revivim cuts through the park, and KKL-JNF took advantage of its seasonal water to create a beautiful lake, which seems like a mirage when you first see it. The lake is surrounded by towering palm trees, sprawling lawns, picnic areas, playground equipment for children and exercise equipment. Best of all, it’s easy enough to get here – go south on Highway 40, turn right at Mashabim Junction onto Highway 222, and find the park on the right side of the road.
Golda Meir Park. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
If, after visiting all these KKL-JNF summer water spots you feel that your appetite was only whetted and not sufficiently wetted, check out our website for more!