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Remembering two talented women in a hike through the grounds of Kibbutz Kinneret

This is an easy, family-friendly, circular hike just south of Lake Kinneret through the grounds of Kibbutz Kinneret (otherwise known as Kvutzat Kinneret). Two well-known Israeli women are memorialized on this trail - Rachel the Poetess, the national poetess of Israel, and the famous songwriter and musician Naomi Shemer. Both are buried in the Kinneret Cemetery overlooking Lake Kinneret. Visiting a cemetery is not usually considered a leisure family activity, but if you think your children are sufficiently understanding it will nicely round off this hike. Otherwise, just go back the way you came.


Kinneret Courtyard (Hatzar Kinneret) is located next to the entrance to Moshava Kinneret (this is a different place from Kibbutz Kinneret) and was an agricultural and social laboratory for the Second Aliya of 1904 to 1914, its goal being to train Jewish agricultural workers for permanent settlement. Such ideas as kvutza, kibbutz and moshav were formulated here. A kvutza is a commune which is small in size and engages in agriculture as distinct from a kibbutz which is larger and engages in agriculture and other ventures. Rachel the Poetess was the first student of Kinneret Courtyard in 1911. Five groups would coalesce from Kinneret Courtyard to form kibbutzim, including Kibbutz Kinneret and Kibbutz Degania Alef, as well as the moshav of Nahalal in northern Israel. Key figures in the Labor Zionist Movement and Second Aliya attended its seminars. (It has a permanent exhibit and tours in Hebrew. Call 04-670 9117 for times. This is its website). 

The formation of kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz) was one of the major achievements of the Second Aliya. They were built on strong socialist ideals, with an emphasis on collective responsibility and the ideal of working the land. Everything was shared, and even children were raised not by their parents but communally.


Degania was the first agricultural commune or kvutza formed in then Palestine and it evolved into Kibbutz Degania Alef. Degania has been called “the mother of all kibbutzim,” not only because it was the first, but also because it became the model for all subsequent kibbutzim. It was founded in 1910 by eight men and one woman, although this soon expanded to ten men and two women. Two years later the founders moved from their mud huts and shacks to a permanent location by the mouth of the Jordan River. Well-known figures who worked here included A.D. Gordon, a well-known philosopher who held that only physical labor could connect Jews with their homeland, the paramilitary commander Joseph Trumpeldor, and David Ben-Gurion, who would later become Israel’s prime minister. Moshe Dayan was the second child to be born here, although the family did not continue living here.


Kvutzat Kinneret, also known as Kibbutz Kinneret, also started off as a kvutza and moved from the Kinneret training farm to its permanent location in 1929. This is where Naomi Shemer lived initially.




Time: About 1½ hours.

Distance: 3¾ Km.

Type of hike: Circular.

Difficulty: This is a very easy hike along smooth jeep trails and on the shoulder and sidewalk of Route 90.

Directions: Enter “Yardenit Baptismal Site” into Waze. Unless you intend visiting the baptismal site, you could park along the opposite side of the road rather than enter their parking lot.

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Gan Rachel memorial

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The songs of Naomi Shemer


Non-native Israelis may be unfamiliar with the name Noami Shemer (1930-2004), although they will probably know at least one of her songs, “Jerusalem of Gold.”


Naomi was a prolific and talented composer, writer and singer who was able to capture the mood of the country with her songs, many of which became extremely popular. When she was awarded the Israel Prize in 1983, the judges wrote: “The Israel Prize is awarded to Naomi Shemer for her songs, which everyone sings, because of their poetic and musical merit and the wonderful blend of lyrics and music, and also because they express the emotions of the people.”


She was born in Kibbutz Kinneret (where you are currently hiking). Her parents were founding members of the kibbutz. She already displayed her musical talents as a child by leading community singing on the kibbutz. After completing high school, she studied music at the Academy of Music in Jerusalem. When she returned to the kibbutz, she taught music to the kibbutz children. Also at this time, she composed childrens’ songs for an album. After she married, she lived for a while on the kibbutz but then moved to Tel Aviv.


Below are the lyrics for one of her popular songs “The Eucalyptus Grove”. This Australian tree has been frequently used in Israel to dry up swampy ground and on our hike we will pass the grove with which she was familiar:


When mother came here, young and beautiful

So, father built her a house on a hill

Springs passed by, half a century has passed

And the curls became white in the meantime

But on the shores of the Jordan River, like nothing has occurred


The same silence and the same scenery

The eucalyptus grove, the boat, the bridge

And the smell of salt on the water.


Over the Jordan, the artillery thundered

And the peace returned at the end of the summer

And all the babies have grown into adults

And again on the hill homes were built


But on the shores of the Jordan river, like nothing has occurred

The same silence and the same scenery

The eucalyptus grove, the boat, the bridge

And the smell of salt on the water.


The music for this can be heard on this Youtube link (although this version is not sung by her) - click here:


This is another of my favorites - click here:

Her song “Jerusalem of Gold” became almost the second national anthem of Israel. It was written before the Six-Day War for an annual song festival. Three weeks later Jerusalem was united and the paratroopers who liberated the city sang this song on the Temple Mount. It is probably the most popular Israeli song ever. Click here for a recording.


This is what she wrote about this song: “When I went to write about it, I put all thought of physical, tangible matters out of my mind. I thought about the two thousand years of the Destruction in the abstract, not necessarily about the last nineteen years. Through a kind of telescopic lens, I saw before me a city in heaven and the essence which alone I sought to capture” …. I wept bitterly as I wrote “Anything not born in tears is worth little” and in the last verse I simply reported on all the obstacles that had bound my hands and interfered with my writing until then: “But as I come today to sing to you … I am smaller than the youngest of your children.


When she passed away, she requested that she be buried adjacent to Rachel the Poetess, some of whose poems she had put to music. At Naomi’s request, no eulogies were made at her funeral, but three of her songs were sung.


After her death Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: “Using marvelous lyrics and melodies, she succeeded in connecting us to our roots, to our origins, to the beginnings of Zionism. Today, as we bid farewell to Naomi Shemer, we bow our heads with sorrow and are grateful for the wonderful gift that Naomi gave us.”

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The tombstone of Naomi Shemer

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The memorial to Theodor Herzl


  • Opposite to the entrance to the parking lot of Yardenit and on the other side of the road, look for a green sign to Motor House and a larger purple on white sign indicating the Kinneret Scenic Bike Trail. Turn onto the bike trail. You will soon come to a eucalyptus grove.


This eucalyptus grove was planted in 1912 and is one of the oldest in the country. These are the trees that Naomi Shemer would see on her way to school and which she incorporated into her famous song "The Eucalyptus Grove." In the grove is a restored building called Beit HaMotor. It was built in 1910 and was the first agricultural pumping station built in this country.

This pumping station brought water from the Jordan River for agricultural use and was run by Kinneret Courtyard. This was an experimental training farm founded in 1908 for agricultural workers who intended living in permanent settlements. Key figures in the Labor Zionist Movement and Second Aliya trained here or attended its seminars. Its socialist pioneers founded in 1910 nearby Kibbutz Degania, the first kibbutz in the country, and the moshav Nahalal.


Not mentioned on any sign is anything about the 10 Yemenite families who worked for Kibbutz Kinneret draining the swamp. During this time, some of the adults and their children died of malaria. They lived in storage rooms in this pumping station and were driven from their homes after 18 years of working here. This kibbutz was obviously selective in its socialist ideals.


  • From the door of Beit HaMotor continue along the bicycle trail. At the T-junction turn left in the direction around the lake. You may well see interesting birds and ducks here depending on the season and how much water is in the lake.


  • Just before the first footbridge at the T-junction turn left to go around the second lake.

  • Just before the second footbridge and before the amphitheater on your right take the left fork onto the Schvil Yisrael trail. This particular trail will take you past the headstone of Booba (A), a much-appreciated horse who toiled for decades doing agricultural work before mechanized ploughs were common. She was buried at this spot.

  • Continue along this gravel path as it curves to the right and meets the main footpath. Go through the open gate. You will pass to the right of a grove of established date palms called Gan Rachel. This date grove was dedicated in 1933 to the memory of Rachel, Israel’s national poetess. The stone memorial is at the far end of the grove.

Rachel Bluwstein (1890-1931) is considered to be the founding mother of Israeli poetry, a field until then only occupied by men. She was known simply as Rachel or Rachel the Poetess. She trained here for a while in agriculture. She also worked in Degania, but was asked to leave because of the tuberculosis she contracted while in Europe. She is buried in the Kinneret Cemetery. 

  • Opposite the memorial stone to Rachel turn right towards the main road and go through the open grey gate. At the main road turn left and continue the short distance along the shoulder until you see the entrance to Kinneret Cemetery on the other side of the road. Cross the road with care and cross at the curve in the road from where you can see traffic coming from both directions.


  • Opposite the memorial stone to Rachel turn right towards the main road and go through the open grey gate. At the main road turn left and continue the short distance along the shoulder until you see the entrance to Kinneret Cemetery on the other side of the road. Cross the road with care and cross at the curve in the road from where you can see traffic coming from both directions.


  • From the cemetery entrance, go straight ahead to the graves of Rachel and Naomi Shemer; they are close to each other and overlook the lake.


This cemetery has become very well-known because of these two women and influential figures in the Labor Zionist Movement who are buried here. It is still used by Kibbutz Kinneret. There is a recording about Naomi Shemer in Hebrew and also a recording of one of her songs. Note the beautiful view of the lakeshore and lake.

  • Go up the hill to the monument to Theodor Herzl.


On the fourth anniversary of Herzl’s death, pioneers from the nearby Galilean settlements gathered here for a memorial service. A memorial was created by placing stones brought from their settlements one on top of another. The memorial service was discontinued after a few years, but has been renewed again, together with competitions etc. A recording can be heard in English in front of the stone memorial.

  • As you continue along the path you will see the archeological ruins of part of the large Tel of Beit Yerach.


The importance of Beit Yerach relates to it being situated overlooking major ancient highways. It was a Chalcolithic city from as far back as the 5th century BCE, then a Canaanite city, and was also inhabited during the Hellenistic, Hasmonean and Roman periods. The first caliphs of the Muslim Umayyad Dynasty built a palace here, the ruins of which can be seen. This palace was used by this dynasty for almost 100 years.


  • On leaving the cemetery, turn left and continue carefully along the left side of the road, sometimes on the shoulder of the highway and at other times on its sidewalk, for another 15 minutes or so until you come to the turnoff to Yardenit and your car.



The hike above starts from the same area as the hike The Jordan River for swimming, canoing and hiking. Both are great hikes and not that long - so why not do the two of them?


Galita Chocolate Farm is located near the entrance to Kibbutz Degania Beit. Kids (and adults) can participate in a workshop making their own delicious creations. There is also an adventure activity in the Chocolate Garden. Their chocolate products are available for sale. There is movie on the preparation of chocolate. Directions: Enter “Galita Chocolate Farm” into Waze and click on “Galita Chocolate Farm, 10, Degania Bet.” The cost is 99 NIS per participant. A workshop needs to be booked in advance and can be done through their website. The chocolate farm in Degania is open on Saturday and holidays and therefore does not have a kashrut certificate. However, all the products and raw materials are Kosher Lemehadrin Halav Israel. Their phone number is 072 392-2340. This is their website.


Yardenit Jordan River Baptismal Site is an alternative baptismal site to El Yehud, which is close to Jericho. It contains 12 baptismal pools, a riverside promenade, gift shop, restaurant, restrooms and showers. There is no charge for admission. White robes can be rented or purchased. Directions: Enter into Waze “Yardenit Baptismal Site.” Their phone number is 04 675-9111.​ This is their Website. 

The Museum in the Pioneers Courtyard at Degania Alef. The first kibbutz in Israel was formed in Degania Alef by settlers of the nearby moshava of Kinneret, except no one then knew exactly what a kibbutz was. This museum tells the story of how it happened. The museum is open from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. at no charge, although there is a small charge to watch the movie. However, all the explanations are in Hebrew and there is probably a limited amount one can glean from this site without a guide. A 1½-hour guided tour is offered for groups at a charge, and can be in English. The guided tour shows an authentic pioneer courtyard, provides a guided tour of the museum, and shows the movie about Deganyia's beginnings. Their phone number is 04-660 8641.

Kinneret Courtyard has been restored and is next to Moshava Kinneret (note that Moshava Kinneret is a different place from Kinneret Kvutsa (also known as Kibbutz Kinneret). This was an agricultural and social laboratory for the Second Aliya (1904-1914) and formulated such ideas as kvutza (e.g. Degania), kibbutz and moshav. Key figures in the Labor Zionist Movement and Second Aliya attended its seminars. It has a permanent exhibit and tours in Hebrew. Call 04-670 9117 for times. Click here for its English website.

Map of the trail by Kibbutz Kinneret.

To follow your location on your smart phone, click on Now click on the black box with a cross at the top left of the map and it should change color to green. Unless you wish to, there is no need to download the application.

The sad story of Rachel the Poetess (1890-1931)


Rachel Bluwstein, or Rachel the Poetess as she is more commonly known by her pen name, is considered to be the founding mother of modern Hebrew poetry. She was recognized during her lifetime, but the popularity of her writing only came after her death at the early age of 40. Editions of her poetry have been published and many of her poems have been set to music and become part of Hebrew culture. Her life in Israel was very much associated with the area in which you are hiking. In one of her poems, she expressed her wish to be buried in the cemetery at Kevuzat Kinneret and this was taken by her friends as her last will and testament.


She was born in Russia. She and her two sisters had intended to remain in Europe to complete their studies, but on a short visit to Palestine they fell in love with the country and decided to remain. She and her sister Shoshana put considerable effort into learning Hebrew, including forbidding themselves from speaking Russian and regularly visiting a kindergarten to learn Hebrew from the children. After a year in the moshava in Rehovot, Rachel decided to pursue agriculture and attended Kinneret Courtyard.


She was persuaded by the training farm to study agronomy in France. However, with the outbreak of World War 1 she was unable to return to Palestine and she finished her studies in France and then went to live with relatives in Russia. She supported herself as a childcare worker and it was in Russia that she contracted what was later diagnosed as tuberculosis, then an incurable disease. She returned to Palestine at the end of the war in 1919 and joined Degania as an expert agronomist. However, she was unable do physical labor because of her condition and she worked in the children’s nursery.  



Rachel did not remain long in Degania. Her illness was diagnosed as tuberculosis and she was asked to leave because of the risk to the children. She was left to fend for herself. The topic of the responsibilities of an idealistic community versus compassion to an individual within the commune is a fruitful topic for discussion, recognizing that for many reasons this situation would not arise today.   


She went to live in Jerusalem, then Tel Aviv and finally in a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in Gadera. She was unable to work physically and she supported herself on a small annuity left by her father, royalties from the publication of her poems and by giving private lessons. Her physical condition deteriorated and she died in 1931.


Her first poem was published in 1920 and eventually her poems were published on a weekly basis. The last six years of her life were her most productive in terms of poetic output.

As did many of her short poems, her famous poem “Perhaps” evokes the nostalgia she felt for life in the kibbutz and the sadness from the non-realization of her albeit modest life ambitions. Also, perhaps, the pain she felt at having been discarded by the Degania community.



Perhaps it was never so.
I never woke early and went to the fields
To labor in the sweat of my brow

Nor in the long blazing days
Of harvest
On top of the wagon laden with sheaves,
Made my voice ring with song

Nor bathed myself clean in the calm
Blue water
Of my Kinneret. O, my Kinneret,
Were you there or did I only dream?

(From Anthology of Modem Hebrew Poetry. Institute for the translation of Hebrew Literature and Israel Universities Press, 1966. Translated from the Hebrew by A.C. Jacobs).

Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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