Cedars of Jerusalem

Follow the Cedar Trail for a true Jerusalem Forest experience.

Jerusalem forest 88 (photo credit: )
Jerusalem forest 88
(photo credit: )
Two minutes away from the quiet homes of Yefeh Nof, a well-marked trail demonstrates why the Jerusalem Forest is such a unique treasure in our sprawling city. The circular walk of approximately two hours on the forested hillside faces west toward the Jerusalem Hills. The Jerusalem Forest begins at Rehov Shlomo Zemah in Yefeh Nof, a residential section near the Yad Sarah building. Rehov Zemah is reached via Rehov Pirhei Chen. Park and walk to the "gate" of the forest - two stone pillars at either side of the paved road. A JNF billboard displays the forest area. Look for the broken blue line, marked Shvil Ha'erez (Cedar Trail). This is the beginning of the circular path. Cross the street and climb the steps of Australia Park, a playground project donated by the JNF women. The trail marks begin here, a blue stripe between two white ones, on rocks and sometimes trees all along the path. It is suitable for anyone who enjoys outdoor walking. The area is clean and well-maintained with plenty of picnic tables. You are walking south, so look to the right for a view of the dense sections of Givat Shaul and Har Nof on the other side, and farther away to the hills of Beit Zayit, Motza and Mevaseret Zion. The planted forest consists mostly of pine trees. There are also cypress and occasionally other types. Old agricultural terraces repaired by the JNF can be observed. After half an hour or so of walking, look out for a signpost pointing left to a short walk uphill. (The trail continues ahead.) It leads to a stone platform where a cedar sapling was planted in 1958 by David Ben-Gurion, then prime minister as well as defense minister. To mark the event a metal plaque was affixed next to the tree, which is now about 10 meters high. This spot gives the trail its name. Those interested in extending the walk may continue on a side trail (marked in black) on the hill. It reaches a lookout platform toward Ein Kerem, but tree branches get in the way. Further on, one comes to open space used by Yad Vashem for storing building materials. In a couple of minutes one reaches the Valley of the Communities, the dramatic stone maze erected at the lowest part of the Yad Vashem complex. This is proof of the trail's proximity to the city. While the cedar is a must, the rest is a detour. Back at the main trail, you soon come down a few steps to the paved road. Across the road - it is signposted - cement steps lead down to the second part of the walk. Before you pick it up, go down 20 meters on the paved road, where a corner has been dedicated by Vatikei Hahagana, veterans of the Hagana defense organization during the British Mandate. Five boards set in the stone tell the Hagana story. There is also the oath sworn by new members: "I undertake to guard the secrets of the Hagana and shall not reveal anything to anyone, even those closest to me. If I fail, I shall bear the punishment." Now go down those steps. There are playground facilities among the trees. The blue markings take you down to another paved road. Cross it to continue on a wide dirt road with a low stone wall on both sides. Follow the dirt road for 200 meters and watch carefully for a low pole on the right marked Gan Australia and Rehov Zemah, with an arrow. This is where the trail resumes, but in the opposite direction. While the first half was above the paved road, this part is below. At points it descends toward the wadi, called Nahal Revida, a tributary of Nahal Sorek, the most prominent stream in the Jerusalem Hills. Har Nof and Givat Shaul are close by. The way back continues to be well-marked. At one point you ascend 25 steps to cross a narrow paved road (leading to Beit Zayit and Har Nof), to pick up the trail. You have reached the end of the loop when you notice the balcony of the home at No. 1 Rehov Zemah. Follow the markings for an easy ascent to the paved road, right opposite Australia Park. Mission accomplished. At no point is this trail strenuous, and a comfortable pace should not take longer than two hours. There is simply no better way to experience the Jerusalem Forest.