Hiking at the Heart of the Sharon
Hiking the Coastal Part of the Israel Trail - Sharon
Anybody browsing through my “Small is Beautiful” gallery knows I love the desert. But I also promised to do some justice to the center of the country. A group hike at the heart of the Sharon gave me a good opportunity to do just that. This walk demonstrates yet again the incredible variability and variety in this tiny country.
The 15-km hike can be divided into two distinct parts.
Poleg Nature Reserve, Lilies, Persimmons and Pecans
The first part of the walk took place among Kibbutz plantations (Yakum, Udim) and then inside a riparian nature reserve, Nahal Poleg Nature Reserve, only a few meters off the main coastal highway. It was the first time I saw persimmons and pecan nuts growing on actual trees (pictures below)…
Nahal Poleg is considered intermittent for most of its flow, and becomes a perennial stream towards its end. We walked down towards the sea through a man-made opening in the kurkar ridge that runs south-north along the coastal plain. It was dug artificially to facilitate drainage of the stream and prevent swamping. Lilies (roses) of the Sharon could be seen blooming on the slopes.
Click on the pictures to open the galleries lighbox view.
I apologize for the quality of some of these pictures taken early morning with the cellphone, often in rushed conditions due to the group’s hiking speed. We have some very capable male figures in the group dictating the walking pace…
For a second course we walked along the 8-km renovated Netanya Promenade seeing outstanding works of outdoor art, historical sites, memorials, fun spots, sports events and beaches. Netanya’s new high-riser neighborhoods and hotels offered a different background on the east side. The walk with the occasional breaks and rests took about five hours.
Netanya's Stunning Promenade
"Bulldozer" Lady and the Renovated Netanya Promenade
The walk took place on a gorgeous blue summer day (Septmeber 27th – automn in principle, but still summer in actuality). Walking north, the Mediterranean, in its amazing beauty, was washing lazily towards the coast on our left (west). Lilies of the Sharon were shyly blooming on the Kurkar beachrock cliffs overlooking the sea. Netanya’s new high-rise neighborhoods and hotels dominated the view on the right (east).
Netanya’s renovated Tayelet (promenade) kept surprising us, hikers, with magnificent works of art and recreational corners. This is not the Netanya I remember from childhood with one plain beach and a short walk on the cliffs. Netanya’s Promenade has a lot to thank to fifth-term serving mayor, the “bulldozer” Miriam Feiberg, who put an emphasis on culture, preservation and esthetics.
Picture source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miriam_Feirberg
Gaudi-style Sculptures and Environmental Art
Most notable among the many environmental installations along the Netanya Promenade were Gaudi-style sculptures by Russian-Israeli artist Ruslav Sergeyev. The sculptures also served as climbing structures for the kids in the group and as resting spots for the tired adult hikers…
History, History and More History
And there is quite a bit of history along the road as well.
“Illegal” refugees (1934-1939) came here from Europe escaping Nazi persecution on delapidated boats. They were met by Jewish underground members that were waiting for them on the beach, usually at night. The new immigrants (Olim) were hidden in the cellar of the old cinema theater still standing in the main city square today, and from there dispersed clandestinely throughout the Jewish settlements. You can read more about that here.
Park Hotel is the location where the worst terrorist attack of the Second Intifada took place in 2002. A Hamas suicide bomber exploded himself killing 30 civilians, aged 20-70, and injuring 160. The guests were seated around the Passover Seder table. The ruthless attack instigated the launch of Operation Defensive Shield inside the West Bank.
There are also plaques and sculptures (a sun-dial) along the Netanya Promenade in memory of fallen Israeli soldiers.
The Red Army memorial (below) is located next to Beit Yad Lebanim memorial compound commemorating soldiers who died in the various wars defending the country.
Putin was Here – Red Army Victory and Holocaust Memorial
And if all that is not enough for local history, then there is the magnificent Monument commemorating the Victory of the Red Army over Nazi Germany. The initiative to build the monument came from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit to Moscow in February 2010, and received the Russian leadership’s support. The project was funded by Netanya Municipality in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Office, United Israel Appeal and the Russian Jewish Congress.
The memorial was initially planned to be constructed in Jerusalem, but thanks to Mayor Feirberg it ended up being built in Netanya. Jerusalem, with all due respect, already has an overdose of history as it is. The monument was designed by winners of an architectural competition – three well-known Russian masters : Salavat Shcherbakov, Vasily Perfilyev and Mikhail Naroditsky.
Eleven million Russian soldiers died in WWII. More than half a million Jews fought in the Red Army against the Nazis; 120,000 were killed.
The monument is brilliantly composed of two parts:
First you are expected to walk through a dark “bunker” among stunning bronze reliefs on the walls, depicting the history of Jews and Russians along the five years of the War and the Holocaust. Then you emerge out of the bunker into Deliverance – the beautiful white-winged sculpture overlooking the blue sea symbolizing hope and peace.
Russian President Putin and Israeli President at the time, Shimon Peres, attended the unveiling of the monument in 2012.
And then Sports
And if all that was not enough for one hiking day, then we additionally bumped into a sport event – Netanya’s triathlon: