Steve Kramer – HIKING IN RAMAT MENASHE
The ESRA organization for English speakers (esra.org.il) had a beautiful hike in Ramat (hills of) Menashe during the intermediate days of Passover. This is one of the two regions of the Land of Israel in which the ancient tribe of Menashe resided. (The other area is located in the Golan Heights.)
Nearly 50 of us, including children, walked through Ramat Menashe’s beautiful valleys, climbed gentle hills, passed by springs, reservoirs, and orchards (including a few relatively uncommon pomegranate orchards), enjoying great views along the way. The weather was magnificent, allowing us to fully enjoy the beautiful seasonal flowers.
Ramat Menashe is the very first designated park in Israel. It was given that status by the British during their administration of the Palestine Mandate. It contains natural gall oak forests, pistachio and other trees, cacti, open spaces, fields, villages, orchards, springs and flowing streams. It is listed by UNESCO as a biosphere: a model of sustainable coexistence between man and nature.
Our route passed by the Nili stream, named after the sensational Jewish spy ring which helped the British war effort in Palestine. “NILI was a secret, pro-British spying organization, which operated under Turkish rule in Palestine during World War I, under the leadership of the world-renowned agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn. NILI is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase “Netzah Yisrael Lo Yeshaker,”meaning The Eternal One of Israel will not lie (Samuel I 15:29), which served as its password.” (Jewishvirtuallibrary.org)
Another point of interest was the Taninim Spring, named for the crocodiles which frequented it, until they were hunted to extinction in the early 20th century by Arab hunters. Remnants of a 4th century BCE city, Crocodillopolis, were visible to the trained eye. The lovely hike ended near Moshav Aviel, one of the settlements established by the Herut (Freedom) political party in 1949.
Herut was founded by Menachem Begin in 1948. It was the embodiment of the right-wing, nationalistic, Revisionist movement, which was founded in 1925 by the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Begin became prime minister in 1977 as the leader of the Likud Party (the successor to Herut), overturning nearly 30 years of Labor Party rule.
The three moshavim (agricultural-based collectives) of Aviel, Amikam, and Givat Nili were founded just after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Aviel was named after Israel “Aviel” Epstein, an Irgun (Zionist paramilitary organization) messenger to Rome, who was killed in Italy during 1946. Its original name was Yad HaYod-Daled, after the fourteen Irgun members who died fighting the British. The three communities comprise the Alona (oak) Regional Council, located southeast of Mt. Carmel and Haifa.
This was a lovely and moderately taxing adventure in ESRA’s hiking program. I look forward to the May 17 hike, which will also be in Israel’s north. As usual, we hikers will be led by our excellent guide, Reuven Arad.