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Trips on the Trail of Trees in Central Israel

Kermes Oak
Quercus calliprinos

Family: Caesalpiniaceae

Location of tree: Gush Etzion, close to Alon Shvut

Size: height: 10 m. Diameter of boughs: 12 m.

Age of tree:  about 500 years old.
                     

Kermes Oak


How to get there?
The tree is close to Alon Shvut, on the road leading from Alon Shvut to Rosh Tzurim, on the western side of the road, close to the regional school.

The story of the tree:

Without a doubt, the most famous tree in Israel is the Kermes oak in Gush Etzion, known as “the lone oak”. The tree symbolizes, more than anything else, the yearning for Gush Etzion after it fell in 1948. A drawing of the tree appears on the emblem of the Gush Etzion regional council.

The tree is of an imposing size! It has a height and treetop diameter of around 10 m. Its trunk circumference is about 3.5 m. Its trunk is divided into two, and during the 1980s it was restored, and filled with concrete to strengthen the trunk.

After the fall of the Gush, the tree could still be seen from various observation points in the Jerusalem area, which turned it into a “must see” for those visiting the Gush. A rock garden was built enabling groups to sit down together at the entrance to the site.



Canary Island date palm

Phoenix canariensis

Family: Palmae (palms)

Location of tree: Rishonim Park in Rishon LeZion

Size: height: 10 m. Diameter of boughs: 6 m.

Age of tree:  119 years old.
           

Canary Island date palm    

How to get there?

The trees are in the center of Rishon LeZion on Herzl Street, between numbers 90 and 94 up until Carmel Street, east of the main road and near to the winery. You cannot miss the park.


The story of the tree:

The impressive avenue of palms is planted in the center of the park in an “X” shape, with two rows of around 160 trees. This is the first avenue planted in Israel in 1890 by gardeners Gershon Horowitz and Michel Zalman Pohachevsky. The palm seeds were brought by Baron Rothschild from the Canary Islands, sprouted in the nursery, and planted directly. The trees, which reach a height of at least 10m. and have a treetop diameter of around 6 m., are magnificent and are the focus of the park.

In 1996 the municipality restored the park and constructed the new municipality building alongside. Out of concern that the palms may degenerate, an additional avenue of date palms were planted next to them.

The park and avenue are worth visiting. The site is part of the beginning of settlement of Israel. We recommend viewing the park from the vantage point of the municipality building, and you can visit the Rishon LeZion winery and nearby museum on the way.

There are several more interesting trees in the park – an ombú, impressive ficus trees, and a taxodium distichum, commonly known as the baldcypress.



Olive tree

Olea europaea

Family: Oleaceae

Size: height: 9 m. Diameter of boughs: 8 m.

Age of tree:  about 400 years old.

  
Olive tree                

How to get there?

From Highway 1 (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv), turn off at the Sha’ar HaGai intersection to Highway 38, pass the Eshtaol intersection in the direction of Bet Shemesh, pass Bet Shemesh and turn left (eastwards) after about a kilometer onto an asphalt road. Keep driving according to the signs to Bet Gemal monastery.

למשתמשים בתוכנת ניווט GIS, For those using a GIS navigation system, the tree is marked on the Amud Anan navigation software. We recommend parking your car near the monastery and going down to the road on foot (about 300 m. to walk). From there, turn to the grove behind the monastery (south). The tree is around 200 m. west of the monastery (as the crow flies). The tree is hidden by large cypress trees and is right in the wadi.


The story of the tree:

A visit to the tree is suitable for all the family during the fall and winter, and of course during the spring and early summer. The scenery and the route are incredible. Searching for the tree requires a little patience, and it is hard to understand what all the effort is for from far off, but when you identify the tree and discover its impressive and scarred trunk, you can also understand how all the effort was worthwhile. This is a true experience for tree lovers; you can hug the tree, shelter in its shade and have your picture taken in every possible pose. The site is also suitable for picnics.

 

The story of the tree is unknown, but possibly its proximity to the monastery and the nearby burial cave are linked to the tree’s preservation. The burial cave in the place is that of Rabban Gamliel the elder and the Christian saint, Stephen.

You can visit the Bet Gemal monastery and its beautiful garden. There are around eight elderly monks in the monastery, and there is a convent nearby of French silent nuns – home to about 20 nuns.


River-Red-gum

Eucalyptus camaldulensis

Location of tree: Eucalyptus grove next to Or Akiva
Size: height: 20 m. Diameter of boughs: 42 m.

Age of tree:  about 90 years old

River-Red-gum


How to get there?

The eucalyptus grove is situated on the west side of Highway 4 (the old Tel Aviv-Haifa road), between Highway 4 and the mall at the entrance to Or Akiva. It is very easy to reach and identify the tree.

The grove has plentiful parking, benches, and water fountains. It is cared for by the JNF in cooperation with the local council.


The story of the tree:

 

Without a doubt the story of the eucalyptus grove and the impressive tree at its center is the story of the settlement of the Land of Israel.

The grove is a part of the eucalyptus planting which already began at the end of the nineteenth century. This grove was planted a little later, at the beginning of the twentieth century, probably by Baron Rothschild’s officials through the PICA association, during the period of the Second Aliya. The theory is that the first settlers of neighboring Binyamina were employed by PICA to plant these trees so as to contain the sand and drain the nearby Cabra swamp.

Those taking a trip to, or relaxing in, the grove have their eyes drawn to the giant eucalyptus in the center, with uncovered spectacular and picturesque roots. There are many theories how this happened – erosion, planting in a high spot, the development of Highway 4 and others. You can add your own. What is important is that the grove and tree serve as a significant datum-point in the role of trees in creating Israel’s landscape, and their contribution to the beginnings of settlement.



Ombú tree

Phytolacca dioica

Family: Phytolaccaceae

Location of tree: Menashe Park, Givat Aliya neighborhood,
Kfar Saba

Size: height: 10 m. Diameter of boughs: 12 m.

Age of tree: about 75 years old.
      

Phytolacca dioica


How to get there?

Gan Shaul is northwest of Kfar Saba’s Aliya neighborhood. It is worth coming from the Raanana Tzafon intersection and turning east in Menachem Begin Avenue. Turn north into Tchernichovsky Street, and immediately left into David Remez Street, which leads to the Aliya neighborhood. Here, turn right into Kaplansky Street, from which you will reach Ringelblum Street and park at the end (north), and from there you can reach the area leading to the park.


The story of the tree:

The park is private property, currently owned by the Eisenberg family.

Due to the development there, it is intended that the garden will become a historic park open to the public. The park is at Givat Humra in the heart of orange groves. There is an impressive path leading between old cypress trees which served as windbreakers in the past. The park was built in the 1930s by Baron Felix De Menasce who was a descendant of the rich and honorable family from Alexandria. During the 1920s and 1930s the Baron bought lands in Palestine with the encouragement of Dr. Chaim Weizmann and the Aaronsohn family.

In 1934, he purchased the said plot of land where he planned to build a grand house with a garden at its side. In reality, only the garden was constructed, with a very modest house alongside for his work supervisor. The garden was designed by a French architect, and some say also by the late architect, Lipa Yahalom. The garden was sold during the 1960s to the Eisenberg family and named Gan Shaul in memory of Shaul and Leah Eisenberg.

The garden is amazing in its beauty and simplicity. The development using kurkar stones has lasted for many years. There are ancient trees in the garden, such as the taxodium distichum (baldcypress), giant umbrella pine trees and Canary Island pine, a beautiful holly oak, and two ombú trees with magnificent surface roots and which have shade which serves as a superb center for resting and photographs.

Since it is private property, a walk around the garden requires permission from the owners.