Budding talent

A few recommended options for a trip out in the woods across the country.

almond tree 88 (photo credit: )
almond tree 88
(photo credit: )
Here a few recommended options for a trip out in the woods across the country. SATAF ROUTE The flowering of the almond tree (shkediya) marks the very beginning of spring in Israel. Before the tree produces any leaves, the almond bursts and overnight becomes covered with magnificent large white, and occasionally pink, flowers. The blossom of the almond trees has become the symbol of Tu Bishvat. This extraordinary gift of nature can be seen in many places at this time of the year, and is definitely not to be missed. One place is the Sataf, a corner of hidden beauty in the Judean Hills and only a few minutes drive from Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem. Five easy hiking trails between olive plantations, vineyards, and cultivated plots are offered at this site where visitors have an opportunity to see biblical farming landscapes and ancient mountain agriculture techniques still in practice. The hikes range in length from 500 meters to 3 kilometers and provide a fantastic lookout over the scenery. Make sure to visit the Sataf pool which was the old village's main water supply. If you're hesitating about which trail to take, there is an information booth at the entrance to the site (from the Sataf junction) where JNF people can help you make up your mind. A caf -restaurant overlooking the Jerusalem hills is located at the main parking lot; and Shai Seltzer's dairy farm with artisan goat cheese is along one of the marked path on the way down to the olive groves. Getting there: Turn south off the main highway to Jerusalem (Road No. 1) at the Harel exit and continue south through Maoz Zion toward Kibbutz Tzova (Road No. 3965). From Jerusalem, take Road No. 395 from Ein Kerem in the southwestern part of the city. SOREK-SALMON RIDGE The Sorek-Salmon ridge southwest of Jerusalem is another place where you can enjoy a good glimpse of the almond trees. In the midst of a 7,000-dunam forest planted by the JNF lies the Aminadav forest, offering numerous hiking trails, natural springs, picnic tables and recreation areas. You can start your trip in the forest at the memorial site of Yad Kennedy built in 1966. At 830 meters above sea level, it is one of the highest places in Jerusalem - offering an unbelievable view of the area. From here, one can view Mount Hebron, Gush Etzion, Betar, the Gilo Mountains, and a host of settlements in the Sorek and Refaim valleys below. The memorial to John F. Kennedy is shaped like stumps of tree trunks symbolizing a life cut short, and consists of 51 columns representing the number of American states, plus the District of Columbia. A short walk to the east leads to a panoramic overlook of the Judean Hills. An impressive monument shaped as piano keys bursting into the magnificent view was built here by Israel Ladani, in memory of the Jewish pianist Arthur Rubinstein. Getting there: On the road from Jerusalem to Hadassah Hospital via Ein Kerem you pass by the Kiryat Menahem neighborhood and turn left on Road No. 3877 to Moshav Ora and Aminadav. Follow the signs to the site. For those who come from Tel Aviv on Road No. 1, turn right at the Harel Junction and drive south on Road No. 3965 to Tzova. Turn left (east) and continue on Road No. 395 to Ein Kerem towards the Kiryat Menahem neighborhood until the turn to Moshav Ora and Aminadav and follow the signs to Yad Kennedy. BIRIYA FOREST Planted during the '50s and the '60s, the Biriya Forest is one of the largest green spaces in the Galilee, extending over some 20,000 dunams north of Safed. Offering glorious panoramas of Mount Meron, the snowy Mount Hermon and the entire Naftali Ridge, the forest boasts picnic grounds and walking trails. A revamped 6-km. scenic road for cars passes through archeological remains and graves of sages, including that of Yonatan Ben-Uziel. The synagogue of the ancient Jewish settlement known as Navoriya is also on this road, as well as a pistachio and walnut orchard at the Botna Valley and the natural spring at Ein Gever. The end of the road joins with Road No. 886 leading to Ein Zeitim, next to Dalton. HULDA FOREST A wide variety of trees such as sycamore, eucalyptus, palm, acacia and cypress can be found in the Hulda Forest, southeast of Rehovot. Known also as Herzl Forest, this is the first forest planted in the early 1900s by the JNF. A marked path through the forest leads to Herzl House, which was restored a few years ago by the JNF. The place is a landmark in the history of settlement as well as a fantastic spot for a leisurely picnic. The first floor of Herzl's villa houses a modern Mediterranean-style restaurant for the greater enjoyment of visitors.