Yom Ha'atzmaut 2018

One of the most popular ways to celebrate our country’s birthday is by having a barbecue out in nature, and so I’ve gathered together below a short list of the best places to enjoy a picnic.

A BRIDGE over placid water at the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv (photo credit: YAKOV SHKOLNIK AND MEITAL SHARABI)
A BRIDGE over placid water at the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv
There will be lots of exciting festivities throughout the country in national parks and heritage sites for Independence Day. One of the most popular ways to celebrate our country’s birthday is by having a barbecue out in nature, and so I’ve gathered together below a short list of the best places to enjoy a picnic with friends and family on this special day.
EIN AKUB The Golan Heights is still extremely green this time of year, and there’s an endless number of excellent spots to have a picnic. One of my favorites is Ein Akub (or Ein Tawfik in Arabic), located in Mevo Hama Forest, just south of Lake Kinneret. There’s an organized parking area there and you can combine a picnic with a nice hike. Water from the spring flows through a stone channel into a pool where you can get your feet wet, and there are tall eucalyptus trees that provide nice shade for picnics.
Directions: From Ma’agan Intersection, drive along Road 98 toward Hamat Gader. After three kilometers, make a sharp left turn into Mevo Hama.
Follow signs for the Ein Akub parking area.
BIRIYA FOREST Located just east of Safed, you’ll find Biriya Forest, one of the largest forests in the Galilee. This popular forest, which spreads out over more than 200 hectares toward Rosh Pina, includes beautiful views, lots of quiet and pastoral areas where you can hide away and enjoy some privacy, fragrant gardens, lots of varieties of native flora, springs and even tombs of holy people and an ancient synagogue. The highlight of the forest is the reconstructed Biriya Fortress, which is a great place to hold barbecues, especially since there are lots of play areas for little kids.
Directions: Drive along Road 90.
Turn left at Mahanayim Intersection onto the road that leads into the forest. At some point, this road turns into the trail with green trail markers.
KULA FOREST The KKL-JNF Kula Forest, located between Shoham and Rosh Ha’ayin, is a wonderful place for families looking for a nice spot to stop and have a barbecue in a shaded area. The forest is spread over 320+ hectares and there are a number of circular trails you can walk along, as well as a great biking trail. If you’re willing to walk a little, you’ll find there are lots of nice places to stop for a barbecue on your own instead of crowding alongside the rest of the country.
There are play areas for kids and a few picnic tables, too.
If you’d like to add a historical twist to your day, you can visit the Alexandroni Brigade Monument, which was erected in honor of the combat soldiers who were killed there during the War of Independence.
Directions: If you’re driving east on Highway 1, turn off onto Road 443. Soon after, turn left onto Road 444 and continue until you see a sign that directs you to turn right into the Kula Forest.
ALEXANDER RIVER This 30-km.-long river located in the Hefer Valley has been a magnet attracting people for many years. The river starts in the mountains of Samaria and flows all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The most popular place for picnics is near Turtle Bridge, since you can sit and watch the turtles swimming below in the water. If you’d like to get away from the crowds a bit, you can move back a little from the water and search for a shady corner.
The Alexander River Trail is part of Israel’s National Trail, and so once you’ve finished your picnic, you can pack everything up and walk to Khirbet Samara, where you’ll have a breathtaking view of flowers and the sea.
Directions: You can reach the Alexander River from Road 2 or Road 4. If you’re driving north on Road 2, at the Havatzelet Intersection turn onto Road 5710 toward Kfar Vitkin. At the entrance of the village, turn right and then make another right turn at the next traffic circle. After crossing over the train tracks, turn left. Then you’ll see a sign for the Turtle Bridge parking area. YARKON PARK If you live in central Israel, you won’t be alone if you choose to celebrate Independence Day close to home. The Yarkon River, whose source is springs in the Rosh Ha’ayin area and which flows into the Mediterranean Sea, is the green lung of the Dan Region. There are plenty of spots along the river to have a picnic, such as Tel Afek near Rosh Ha’ayin (which has a entrance fee), or free areas along the seam between Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv, such as Givat Napoleon, the Yarkon Park lake, and the Seven Mills.
Directions: The best place to park for a visit to Yarkon Park is at the Convention Center lot near the Maccabiah Bridge.
LAHAV FOREST With more than 3,200 hectares of forest, Lahav Forest is one of the best places to go for a hike in southern Israel. There are a number of parking areas scattered around the region, making it very convenient for people to visit the area. Lahav is one of the largest forests in Israel and you’ll find a plethora of vegetation, fruit trees, gorgeous views and interesting heritage and historical sites. A few such places are the Joe Alon Center, an educational tourist center dealing with Negev settlement and Beduin culture, Be’er Tziklag, a Turkish fortress from World War I, Hurvat Rimon, and remains from an ancient synagogue.
Directions: Drive south on Road 40 and then turn at Devira Intersection onto Road 3255. Drive along until you reach the road that leads to Lahav Forest.
YATIR FOREST Yatir Forest is one of my absolute favorite places in all of Israel, since it’s a unique juxtaposition of natural desert landscape and blossoming desert flora. Spread out over 3,200+ hectares, it is the largest forest in all of Israel. It is accessible by driving along Road 316, which was paved by KKL-JNF. I recommend that while you drive along this road you stop at a number of points of interest, such as the Foresters Fortress, which was built in the 1960s and has an incredible view, or Hurvat Anim, an ancient city that is spoken about in the Book of Judges.
If you’re looking for a nice place to stop for a picnic, continue along the road toward the water reservoir, where you’ll find some picnic tables.
Directions: Drive on Road 31. Pass Hura and then turn left on Road 316. You’ll soon reach the Yatir Forest parking area. ■ Translated by Hannah Hochner