Cultural hike around Kibbutz Kinneret 

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 you think your children are sufficiently understanding it will nicely round off your hike.  Otherwise, just go back the way you came.

 

There are a number of worthwhile places to visit nearby. These include  the Galita Chocolate Farm at Degania Bet, rafting from Rob Roy and the Pioneer Museum in Degania Alef. The Yardenit Baptismal Site is also across the road from the beginning of this hike and has a gift shop and cafe. There is also a hike along the River Jordan that starts from here, described on the page "Hiking and canoeing on the River Jordan." There is also swimming in the River Jordan without lifeguards.

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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 and sidewalk of Route 90.

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

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Gan Rachel memorial

Naomi Shemer and her songs

 

As distinct from Israelis, many 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 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 has been 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 (but 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, opposite to the entrance to the parking lot of Yardenit, 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 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 (A). It was built in 1910, and was the first pumping station built in this country.

This pumping station brought water from the River Jordan 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 nearby Degania, the first kibbutz in the country in 1910, and the moshav Nahalal. Not mentioned on the sign here is the story of 10 Yemenite families who worked for the kibbutz draining the swamps, were forced to live in storage rooms in this pumping station, and were eventually driven from their homes after 18 years. Some of the adults and children died of malaria. 

 

  • 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 the amount of water 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.  The reason for going on this particular trail is to pass by the headstone of Booba (B), a much-appreciated horse who toiled for decades doing agricultural work before mechanized ploughs were common who was buried here.

  • 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 (C). This date grove was dedicated in 1933 to the memory of Rachel, Israel’s national poetess, although the stone memorial is not seen until the far end of the grove.


Rachel Bluwstein (1890-1931) is considered to be the founding mother of Hebrew poetry, a field that until then was taken 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 was asked to leave because of the tuberculosis she contracted while in Europe. She is buried in the Kinneret Cemetery. Because these two women, as well as other important figures in the Labor Zionist Movement, are buried here, this cemetery has become very well known. It is still used by the kibbutz.

  • 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 (D) on the other side of the road. Cross the road with care and preferably at the curve in the road from where you see the traffic coming in 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. There is a recording about Naomi Shemer in Hebrew and also a recording with one of her songs. Don't forget to look at the beautiful view of the lakeshore and lake.

  • Go up the hill to the monument to Theodor Herzl (E). 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 they had brought from their settlements one on top of each other. It had to be discontinued after a few years, but has been renewed again together with competitions etc. There is a recording that can also be head in 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 (F). The importance of this place was related to it being on 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 and this palace was used by this dynasty for almost 100 years.

 

  • When you leave the cemetery, turn left and continue carefully on the left side of the road, sometimes on the shoulder of the highway and at other times on the sidewalk for about another 15 minutes or so 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 also 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.

Yardenit Jordan River Baptismal Site is an alternative baptismal site to El Yehud. It contains 12 baptismal pools, a riverside promenade, gift shop, cafe, 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. 

Rob Roy offers 1½-hour rafting on the River Jordan. It is only a short walk from where you are currently parked. Call 052 241-3176.

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 knew then what a kibbutz was. This museum tells the story of how it happened. The museum is open from 9.00 to 4.00 pm and there is no charge. 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 without a guide. A 1½-hour guided tour is offered for groups for a charge, and can be in English. This guided tour shows an authentic pioneer courtyard, a guided tour of the museum, and the movie about Deganya'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). It was an agricultural and social laboratory for the Second Aliya (1904-1914) that formulated such ideas as kvutza, 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 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.