A green pearl in central Israel

Right in the heart of the country, between Tel Afek and the Morasha junction,lies the Yarkon National Park – a huge park with ponds, antiquities, and paths that wind through the water.

Families enjoy Hol Hamoed Passover at Yarkon Park 370 (photo credit: Sharon Udasin)
Families enjoy Hol Hamoed Passover at Yarkon Park 370
(photo credit: Sharon Udasin)
Greater Tel Aviv residents tend to complain that there aren’t enough parks in the country’s central region, but sometimes we just don’t know how to appreciate what we have right under our noses. For example, the Yarkon National Park stretches from Tel Afek to the Morasha junction, covers 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) and offers a wide variety of entertainment options, including a visit to a 16thcentury fortress and a tour of the Yarkon River’s water sources.
The park was built around Tel Afek, where the biblical city of Afek once stood (during the era of the Roman Empire, the name of the city was changed to Antipatris in honor of Herod’s father). Afek, one of the oldest communities in Israel, carried great strategic importance due to its proximity to the sea, and was a popular resting point for people traveling between Damascus and Egypt.
One of the most well-known sites in the park is the fortress at the top of the hill, to which many refer erroneously as the Antipatris Fortress.
Its walls and watchtowers are actually remains of an Ottoman fortress called Binar Bashi (Turkish for the spring’s water source). Next to the fortress, you can find an archeological dig that unearthed remains of an Egyptian governor. Just east of the fortress, you can view remains from Antipatris.
Another landmark in the park is the water pump that was built during the British Mandate on the northeastern slope of the hill. The pump transported water from the Yarkon River to Jerusalem until it was blown up in 1948.
After you finish exploring the ancient ruins, you can walk along the path just above the river, which leads to another park called the Source of the Jordan River. There is a man-made lake at the beginning of the trail that is a perfect place to stop for a picnic or a short rest. From there, if you continue along the path, you will pass through an emergency exit in the fence and begin walking on a dirt path that leads through a field. There is not much cover from the sun in this part of the park, so bringing along hats and sunscreen is imperative.
Go further down the path until you reach the parking area. From there, follow the path along the bank of the Yarkon River that leads away from the spring. At the beginning of this path, you will see a pond covered with yellow water lilies. Keep going until you reach the second pond, which is called the Water Lily Pond.
This is another great place to stop for a rest, especially if you sit beneath the massive eucalyptus tree. When you’re ready, continue along the path until you reach the railway tracks and the bridge that crosses over them.
The Yarkon is the country’s longest river. The 28-kilometer-long river starts in Tel Afek and winds around before spilling out into the Mediterranean Sea. Apart from the flowing water and the nice walk alongside it, you can also see ancient ruins. There is an old Arab farmhouse and a pumping station that farmers in the region once used, and the Mir flour mill, which has one of the oldest arches discovered anywhere in the world. From the flour mill, walk due west until you reach the remains of the Kasser Courtyard, which was a farm belonging to Selim Kasser of Jaffa until he sold it to the first Jewish settlers in Petah Tikva. At this site, you can see the old wall, well, and water reservoir.
Next, continue along the path that follows the curves of the river until you reach the Concrete House, which was built in 1912 and was used to supply residents with drinking water. Then, just after you pass under Highway 5, turn left until you are once again walking on the path alongside the river. A littler farther down, you will cross over the river where it is shallow.
Continue along the path for a while until you reach the reconstructed Abu Rabah mill, one of five mills that operated in the area.
This is where the trail ends. You can return to the starting point in one of the cars that you left here ahead of time, or by walking up to the street and walking on the side of the road for about 20 minutes until you reach the entrance of the park.