5 Expansive Forests Worth Seeing in Northern Israel
A trip to Israel often doubles as a trip through several different climates. The Dead Sea is dry and arid, Eilat is tropical, and northern Israel is green and lush. To fully appreciate Israel’s north, pay a visit to a few of its more impressive forests.
Blossoms of the Gilboa
Mount Gilboa is one of the few mountains mentioned in the Bible. It was the scene of the famous battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, in which King Saul fell on his sword to avoid capture by the enemy. The Gilboa Forest is nourished by streams that collect rainwater that falls on Mount Samaria.
The floor of the forest is covered with beautiful flowers in a rainbow of colors: autumnal squill, lesser grape hyacinth, first-rain colchicum, white winter crocus and bunch-flowered narcissus. If you visit in early spring, keep your eye out for the violet Gilboa iris.
Cycling through Beit Keshet
Beit Keshet Forest covers the eastern slopes of the mountains of Nazareth and is a remnant of the Tabor oak forests that once covered most of northern Israel.
Tabor oaks are known for growing relatively far apart from each other, allowing diverse vegetation to fill in the gaps. You can enjoy the forest by driving through it on a paved road or by hiking or cycling on well-marked trails. A number of scenic lookouts provide breathtaking views of nearby mountains all the way to central Israel.
Biriya's Talmudic Woodlands
The largest planted forest in the Galilee, Biriya Forest, is also a fascinating historical site. In Talmudic times there was an important town in the area, and 16th-century Jewish scholar Rabbi Yosef Caro (author of the Jewish law code Shulchan Aruch) lived here for a time. Baron Rothschild purchased the land for farming in the early 20th century, but attempts at agriculture were not successful. During the British Mandate, a fortress was built in Biriya, which served the Jewish underground movements.
Drive on the scenic road or hike a trail to reach the fortress. Climb to the roof of the fortress to see an impressive landscape. The forest is also home to the tomb of the Talmud's Yonatan Ben Uziel, a popular pilgrimage site for mystically minded singles hoping to find their soulmates.
Tzippori's Tabor Oaks
The natural woodland of Tzippori Forest was decimated by years of tree cutting, fires and uncontrolled grazing. Conservation efforts have saved some of the Tabor oaks here, and the river basin has been replanted with Jerusalem pine and other tree species.
This area was inhabited by Jewish sages after the Bar Kokhba Revolt, and the trails through the forest lead to archaeological evidence of this habitation. See the village where the Jewish high court (Sanhedrin) sat, as well as the Shabbat stone that marked the border of the town of Usha with the Roman town of Tzippori, with its famous synagogue and mosaic floors.
Shaded Wildflowers of Baram
Baram Forest’s shady trails are pleasant even in the summer months, but winter and spring are the ultimate seasons to visit, because the hillside is covered in beautiful wildflowers. This natural woodland features the largest common Israeli oaks in the country.
A two to three hour trail winds through the forest and its mostly dry riverbed. The forest can also be seen by driving along a scenic road. Don’t miss the Baram ancient synagogue, with its impressive façade and pillars.