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Hike a reminder of killer forest fire

Best foot forward for the ESRA hikers

 During Succot the ESRA midweek hiking group went out for an easy hike on the Carmel. As usual for these trips, we were led by Lawrence Bertfield and our guide was Reuven.

Driving up the twisty, mountainous road from Atlit, we were painfully reminded of the fire that struck the area in December 2010. Although there is some re-growth to the forest that existed before, we were struck by the starkness and exposure of the earlier hidden houses of Kibbutz Beit Oren. We passed by the memorial site for the forty-four mostly Israel Prison Service officer cadets who lost their lives in the fire. They were on their way to Damun prison to evacuate its prisoners from the path of the flames.

We started hiking close to Haifa University and walked along Nahal Kelah, which is in the area known as Little Switzerland. We passed through the Carmel Nature Reserve. This is the second such reserve, the first being at Yotvata in the Negev. Endangered and locally extinct animals which formerly lived in Israel are bred here for possible reintroduction to the Mediterranean forest of northern Israel. Some of these species are the griffon vulture, the Persian fallow deer, mountain gazelle and the white-tailed eagle. During the Carmel Mountain forest fire, the animals had to be temporarily relocated to a safe area.

Descending down Nahal Galim, we were under the gaze of the Haifa suburb of Dania on the ridge above us. Some years ago, a highway was proposed along this valley to alleviate the traffic situation in Haifa, but local public pressure brought this suggestion to a halt. The unspoiled ridge opposite is the site of the Ornit caves. This is a karstic cave where relics from the mid-Paleolithic and Chalcolithic periods have been found.

From here, the valley widened out and our route became a dirt road, leading on to our destination at Tirat Carmel. This is the site of the former Arab village of Tira, from which the inhabitants fled during the War of Independence, after attacking traffic on the way to Haifa. It is now a Jewish community of 20,000 people.

On the way back we stopped at Atlit for a well-deserved refreshment break, and the early return to our families to continue with Succot celebrations. 



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Thursday, 13 June 2024

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