Nature walk in Kibbutz Kinneret and Kinneret cemetery

This is an easy, family-friendly 1½-hour circular hike just south of Lake 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 Noemi Shemer. Both are buried in the Kinneret Cemetery overlooking Lake Kinneret. Visiting a cemetery is not usually regarded as a leisure family activity, but if your children are sufficiently understanding this site will nicely round off your hike. The hike will also remind us of the socialist ethos of the Second Aliya and the success of these pioneers in developing settlements in this area and elsewhere.

 

Close-by activities are the Galita Chocolate Farm at Degania Bet and canoeing from Rob Roy. The Yardenit Baptismal Site is also across the road from your car, and the Kinneret Courtyard is close in Moshav Kinneret.

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THE HIKE:

 

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 of Route 90.

Directions: Enter “Yardenit Baptismal Site” into Waze. Unless you intend visiting the baptismal site, you might park on the other side of the road rather than entering their parking lot.

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Gan Rachel memorial

Who was Naomi Shemer (1930-2004)?

 

To most native Israelis this probably sounds a dumb question. After all, everyone has heard of Naomi Shemer. However, non-native Israelis may not be quite as familiar with her name, although they may well know her songs, particularly her most famous song “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 them 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 being founding members of the kibbutz. As a child she was already demonstrating her musical talents 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 children’s’ 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 is used much in Israel to dry up swampy ground and we will pass such a grove on this hike:

 

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 (not sung by her) - click here:

Another of my favorites - click here:

 

Her song “Jerusalem of God,” which became almost the second national anthem of Israel, 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.

 

She would write 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 by Rachel the Poetess, some of whose poems she had put to music. At her 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

THE HIKE:

  • From the main road, look for the green sign to Motor House. It also has a Bike Trail sign. You will soon come to a eucalyptus grove. This is one of the oldest in the country and is named after Naomi Shemer. In the grove is a restored building called Beit HaMotor. Built in 1910, this was the first pumping station built in the country.

This pumping station brought water from Lake Kinneret for agriculture 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 nearby Degania, the first kibbutz in the country in 1910, and the moshav Nahalal.

 

  • Turn left on the Schvil Yisrael, recognized by its white-blue-orange markings. Follow the green and yellow sign around the lake on your right. You will likely see interesting birds and ducks here.

 

  • At a fork, make a left turn for a short detour to see the headstone of Booba, a much-appreciated horse who toiled for decades doing agricultural work here before mechanized ploughs were common.

 

  • Go back to the main path and head towards a gate. You will pass Gan Rachel on your left. This is a date grove dedicated in 1933 to Rachel, Israel’s national poetess.


Rachel Bluwstein (1890-1931) is considered to be the founding mother of Hebrew poetry for women in a field until then practiced only 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 had to leave because of the tuberculosis she contracted in Europe. She is buried in the Kinneret Cemetery. Because these two women are buried here, as well as other important figures in the Labor Zionist Movement, this has become a famous cemetery. It is still used by the kibbutz. The graves seem to be arranged somewhat haphazardly, reflecting the turbulence in the development of this whole area.

  • Opposite the memorial to Rachel turn right towards the main road. At the main road turn left and continue the short distance until you come to the Kinneret Cemetery on the other side of the road. Cross the road with care.

 

  • In the cemetery, head towards the graves of Rachel and Naomi Shemer, which are close to each other and overlook the lake. There is a recording about Naomi Shemer which can also be listened to in English. Naomi Shemer lived in Kibbutz Kinneret for a while. While you are here, this is an opportune time to think about the challenges that the pioneers buried here faced and overcame when they came to this location in the early 1900’s.

 

  • Go up the hill to the monument to Theodor Herzl. On the fourth anniversary of his death, pioneers from the nearby Galilee settlements gathered here for a memorial service and a memorial was created by placing stones one on top of each other.

 

  • As you continue along you will see the archeological ruins of part of the large tel of Beit Yerach. Its importance is related to its location on major ancient highways. It was a Chalcolithic and Canaanite city, and also inhabited during the Hellenistic, Hasmonean and Roman periods. The first caliphs of the Muslim Umayyad Dynasty also built a palace here, the ruins of which can be seen. As is quite clear, the site has not been kept up.

 

  • When you leave the cemetery, turn left and continue carefully on the shoulder of the highway for about another 15 minutes until you come to the turnoff to Moshav Kinneret and your car.

 

OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN THE AREA:

Galita Chocolate Farm is located near the entrance to Kibbutz Degania Beit. You can buy their chocolate products, kids and adults can participate in a workshop making their own delicious creations, and engage in an adventure in the Chocolate Garden. There is movie on the preparation of chocolate. Enter “Galita Chocolate Farm” into Waze and click on “Galita Chocolate Farm, 10, Degania Bet.” The cost is 99 nis per participant. The workshop needs to be booked in advance and this can be done through their website. The chocolate farm in Degania is open on Saturdays 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 and this is their website.

Kinneret Courtyard has been restored and is in heart of Moshav Kinneret a short distance from where your car is parked.

 

Yardenit Jordan River Baptismal Site is an alternative baptismal site to El Yehud. It contains 12 baptismal pools, a riverside promenade, gift shop, restaurant, WC’s and showers. Entry is free. White robes can be rented or purchased. Enter into Waze “Yardenit Baptismal Site.” Phone: 04 675-9111. This is their Website. The site is often closed because of Covid, so check before visiting.

 

Rob Roy offers 1½-hour canoeing on the Jordan River from Kibbutz Kineret. Call 052 241-3176.

Map of the trail in Kibbutz Kinneret. To follow your location on your smart phone, click on https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/share/DGzrIAzA3M. 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.