Exploring Yatir

Yatir forest, in the triangle between Beersheba, Arad and Hebron, is perpetually green area has 4 million trees of different species to color and shade it.

Carting through the purple-flowered fields (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
Carting through the purple-flowered fields
(photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
The largest forest in Israel can be found about 30 km. north- east of Beersheba. Between its tree trunks and pine canopies, it holds interesting sites that are worth a visit.
The forest is in the Yatir region, in the triangle between Beersheba, Arad and Hebron. This perpetually green area has 4 million trees of different species to col- or and shade it.
Yatir Forest can claim several high elevation points ranging from 700 to 860 meters. Get there through Route 60 or 80. As you climb the hills, you will feel the change in the surroundings and at- mosphere, the absence of cars and the quiet. From the main road (Route 60), drive along Route 317 for lookouts in every direction. Start the visit in the new building of the regional council in the Meitarim industrial zone with a cup of coffee or a full breakfast in the Vanilla and Cin- namon restaurant. Now you are ready to start exploring the sites.
The ruins of ancient Anim include the remnants of a fourth-century synagogue, a system of secret tunnels and ru- ins of some cave dwellings. These all date back to the period of the kings of Judah.
Continue onto the forest road to Beit Haya’aran, where a forester’s house acts as a lookout on the forest from 690 meters high. In the past it was used as a fire watch- tower and forest workers’ center. Currently, it is being converted into a visitors center to eventually include lodging in modern Beduin tents for overnight stays.
A good place for a fast stop and a pic- nic is the Yatir water reservoir, where migrating birds like to stop.
Almost 20 years have passed since Si- galit Breuer, who served in the area as a young soldier, decided to stay and build a home in the community of Shani, also called Livna. She fell in love with ceram- ics and became a well-known artist. In Shani, she has a giant studio full of won- derful art accented with her favorite Is- raeli flower – the anemone. Visit her in her studio or join a ceramic workshop to experience a taste of her artistic world.
In Beit Yatir, visit Tehiya Ranch. Ariel Bar runs a therapeutic ranch that offers horse-riding trips, and ponies, goats and rabbits for the kids. Stop for a glass of lo- cal wine at Drimia Winery; this small winery near Sussiya grows fine grapes at high elevations of 880 meters, and has been making quality wines since 2006. The ruins of Sussiya reveal impressive remains and artifacts, including a very well-preserved synagogue with large, impressive mosaics, and structures and cave dwellings depicting a whole ancient town. The synagogue and mikvaot (ritu- al baths) show who was living here in the fifth to eighth centuries CE, and the site tells a clear story of the Jewish life in this otherwise unknown town, which is not mentioned in Scripture.
After walking through history, go to the visitors’ center and enjoy a snack or meal at Cafe Ronen. Then you can enjoy a ride in an electric golf car that will take you into the dirt roads and trails that may not suit a regular car.
To add to the magic of this region, discover relief for all your problems with a visit to Herbs of Kedem, where homeopathic remedies are produced. They specialize in herbal medicine for every complaint. Balms and extracts are produced here from the wild plants and herbs that grow peacefully on these mountains and hills.
There is much to see, feel and explore in the southern part of the Yatir region. If you visit at the end of May, you are invit- ed to enjoy the sweet red cherry festival, which is full of tastes and activities