When people think of Jerusalem, they think of holy sites, ancient ruins, and the tensions that riddle the surface of daily existence. But what people rarely think about are the natural attractions of Jerusalem: the beautiful landscape of mountains and hills that surrounds and pervades the city.
Outsiders also tend not to realize that like New York City, Jerusalem has a vast green space where the peace and loveliness of the natural world can be experienced: the Jerusalem Forest. But unlike Central Park, the Jerusalem Forest is very much a part of the Holy City: the very foundation stones of the Holy Temple—and thus, the Western Wall—were quarried from this spot. Visitors with an inclination to enjoy nature and who prefer a more rugged landscape than the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens can find it here, in this pine forest that stretches between and throughout the Judean Mountains.
The Jerusalem forest is located symbolically between Yad Vashem, the monolithic museum to the Holocaust, and Mount Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery. The forest can be seen as a living bridge that connects one of the biggest tragedies in Jewish history with the rebirth of a nation.
The forest was planted soon after the establishment of the State of Israel by the Jewish National Fund, a non-profit organization that has planted more than 240 million trees in Israel. While urban development has shrunk the forest since its first planting, it still covers nearly 600 acres. The neighborhoods that border the forest include Har Nof, Yefe Nof, Ein Kerem, Beit HaKerem and Givat Shaul.
Jerusalem history abounds in the Jerusalem Forest: ancient winepresses and other artifacts have been discovered on the site, as well as the ruins of a Byzantine church. Farmers in ancient times would use the area for the cultivation of vineyards and olive groves, and fragments of the stone terraces they built still remain to this day.