The enchanting wood

Just a short ride from home, the Aminadav Forest.

nature flower 88.298 (photo credit: )
nature flower 88.298
(photo credit: )
It's Tu Bishvat - the season of heavy rains and cold wintry nights with sudden, surprising days of brilliant warm sunshine. And on those wonderful days when spring really seems to be here, take a few moments to visit the Aminadav Forest. Just a few kilometers outside of Jerusalem, the well-maintained area is filled with little known treasures and newly-paved nature routes, blooming with soft pink-white cyclamen, deep red anemones and the gentle flowering of the almond trees. Jerusalem is surrounded by hills and the 7,000 dunam Aminadav Forest, planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), spans the Salman-Sorek Ridge. The JNF has also provided numerous picnic areas, fitness routes, basketball courts, and benches and rest areas throughout the forest. The paths are well-marked, and the JNF supplies maps and flyers. Much of the forest has been designated as a "no garbage area" - garbage cans, the JNF has come to realize, actually encourage a mess, since even well-intended visitors sometimes leave their garbage near, instead of inside, the bins. "Bring it in-bring it out," they are now telling the visitors, who, officials say, are cooperating nicely. The Kennedy Memorial is the best-known of the many attractions in the forest. The memorial, shaped as a cut-down tree to commemorate and memorialize John F. Kennedy, the American president assassinated when he was only 48 years old, is located at the top of the Aminadav Mountain, in the central-eastern part of the forest. At 823 meters above sea level, the memorial site provides beautiful vistas to Jerusalem and the Sorek area. On a clear, crisp day, the Mediterranean and the Ashdod shore beckon along the horizon. Just under the Kennedy Memorial, a statue of homage to poetess Else Lasker Schuler, shaped like a winged angel, leans out over the forest. At the base, Schuler's poem, An Angel for Jerusalem, has been inscribed: "I'm searching for a city in these lands, Before whose gate a mighty angel stands. For broken at the shoulder blade, I bear his wings' gigantic span, and on my brow his star as a seal is laid. Hirbet Sa'adim, a small nature park, part of a Byzantine plantation, is another popular site within the forest. Recently, the JNF has paved a wheelchair accessible short path through the forest and some of the region's largest oak and carob trees. There's even an area for a kumsitz (small bonfire), defined by natural stones and topography. Several longer walks, still very suitable even for families with young children, start off in or near Hirbet Sa'adim. One path leads off to the plantation of eight large, well-preserved olive and wine presses. The size and proximity of the structures indicate that this may have been an "industrial" area for the production of wine, then olive oil, over the centuries, beginning with the Israelite period. And at the top of the plantation, one finds one of the many "rugum" (ancient pile of stones), often piled up over altars or other ceremonial structures. Surrounded by views all the way to the Hebron Hills, the pile of stones, at the top of the mountain, remind the visitor that this area has been revered and considered sacred throughout the centuries. Another path rambles through the hills past numerous springs, some of which flow all year. And not far away, the Arthur Rubenstein outlook, a marble structure shaped like the keys of a piano, welcomes the visitor into its serenity. On a quiet day, the hills and forests provide the music.