Although the Kula Forest and the area between Rosh Ha’Ayin and Ben Shemen are extremely close to most of the Israeli population, it is an unknown area; however, there are some nice and easy trails in the area, especially during winter and spring. One of them is a tour of the Kula Forest which interweaves pieces of history mixed with nature and archeology. It is recommended to end this short trail with a picnic in one of its charming spots. This itinerary is also very popular among cyclists.
How to Get There
Leave the Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv highway No. 1 at the Ben Shemen Junction and continue toward Route 443 and Modi’in. After 100 m [328 ft] turn left to Route 444 which leads to Shoham and Rosh Ha’Ayin.
Drive on the road that leads to the Rantis Junction (1 on the map). At the Rantis Junction turn east (right) to Route 456 and follow the signposts to the Alexandroni Monument and the Kula Forest. Drive an additional 1.5 km [0.930 mile] and then turn left with a dirt road  follow a sign to the Alexandroni Monument. After 100 m [330 ft] you will see the monument on your right, park there and begin the route.
About the Area
The area of the Kula Forest links the Costal Plane with the lower part of the Samaria Mountains. This area was highly populated during most historical periods. The two main reasons for that were: first, the arable areas and fertile soil of this geographical area; second, the fact that this area strategically bridges the southern Costal Plane with Samaria, the Sharon, and the North.
It should be noted that until the 20th Century the Yarkon Stream that emanates from the Yarkon Springs in the Rosh Ha’Ayin area stood as an obstacle in the passage from the south to the north of Israel. There were only two crossing points: the first, a small passage at the Yarkon estuary to the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, and the second, the main passage, the small piece of land between the Yarkon Springs and the Samaria Mountains. This area, which is only 4-km wide, upon which Rosh Ha’Ayin is stretched today, allowed for the crossing. Soon it became a strategic crossroad. The Via Maris [the sea route], a trade route for merchandise from Egypt to Syria passed through here. Naturally it resulted in the building of watch towers, stations for tax collection, khans, accommodation lodges and more. Simultaneously a central town was developed here – Antipatris – Migdal Tzedek. “The Yarkon Springs” itinerary answers many questions about Antipatris.
The Kula Forest, which you will be visiting today, is named after an Arab village that stood here before of the War of Independence.
The Kula Monument
During the War of Independence the Kula village served as an outpost for the Arab Legion’s military deployment. It was decided during Operation Danny that the area must be seized and cleared of Arab forces. The task of seizing the village and the hills that hold control over the area was given to Battalion 89 of the Alexandroni Brigade. On July 10, 1948 units of the battalion seized the village. During the next few days several battles were fought between the IDF and the Arab Legion forces during which the village was seized again by the Legion forces after which it was re-occupied by the IDF during a counter- attack. The casualties of the battles amounted to 32 dead – 28 from the 32nd Battalion (after whom the Monument is named Koach, or kaf-het כ"ח, 28 numerically) and 4 from the 33rd Battalion.
A Tour in the Kula Forest
After visiting the monument and looking out at the view from it, continue by vehicle (or by foot) about 800 m [2,624 ft] until you reach a Y Junction off a dirt-road to your left . Leave the car here and start walking. There are no marked trails of the footpath marking system in the forest, so just walk around freely amongst the trees and flowers, just for the fun of it; it is not mandatory to walk on the dirt road; on the contrary – it's more fun if you don't.
Proceed westward; you will notice the ruins of an Arab village and fields of thousands of flowers. At the end of winter you will see the stretches of cyclamens and anemones and during the spring the pink butterfly orchids, oriental viper's grass, bindweed, corn poppies, turban buttercups, Judean viper’s buglosses, Narbonne stars of Bethlehem, great stork’s bills, scarlet pimpernels, red everlastings and more.
Follow the terrain of the dirt road as it winds after 1.5 km [0.930 m] and turns right (north) [3b] until you reach the northern entrance to the forest. From this point continue with the road leading north toward the Roman Mausoleum . On your way you will pass through a fenced area which was called “Hatzerot Koach” and that until not very long ago, since June 1992, served as a temporary caravan housing site for Ethiopian immigrants; however it is now vacant.
The Roman Mausoleum
After a short walk on the northern access road to the forest you’ll reach one of the only structures from the Roman Period (more than 2,000 years ago) that is fully preserved. This building which rises to a height of 4.8 m was used as a monumental tomb. During the excavations done here two chambers were unearthed: with its two sarcophagi the first served for burial purposes and the other as a columbarium (for breeding pigeons). The opening between the two rooms was breached during a later period, when the Muslims turned the site into the tomb of Nebi Yichye.
Notice the grandeur of this edifice and the columns with their arched Corinthian capitals and the superimposed stoa on top of them. Inside the chamber the arches that hold the roof are made from hewn stones – undoubtedly, like today, this monument served during the Roman Period as an impressive sepulcher for the rich people that were buried here.
To return to the vehicle, turn around and walk toward the south. A short distance before the caravan site, you’ll notice a dirt road that turns left and is marked with the Israel National Trail mark (white-blue-orange). Turn east with this trail and continue walking with it for 2 more kilometers [1.2 mile] to the car. There are plenty of captivating picnic spots along this road where you can rest.
Continuing the Tour by Car
After a rest and a picnic you might want to continue the tour. This part entails taking a car (or bicycle) and two visits to attractive sites. The first one is the archeological remains of an elegant building with mosaics and the other is the Charta pool, a small nature reserve.
Turn the car back to the road from which you will reach the monument . On this road turn left and then immediately right again  onto a dirt road. Note that this area is a closed army area so it is only possible to enter without preliminary coordination with the IDF during weekends and holidays. On other days it is recommended to coordinate it with the Coordination Centers of the IDF’s Central Command (for the phone number try the emergency number information plate at the end of the trail). Follow the dirt road and enjoy the typical view of Lower Samaria. Drive along the curves of the winding road left > right > left > right > left. At  the fifth curve, that consecutively makes a 90 degree break left (south), stop the car. You will not be able to see the mosaics from the road, so in order to see them climb carefully on the slope which is east of the road. After a short search you’ll discover the Khanni Ruins.
This site is from the Byzantine Period (1,500 years ago) which probably served as an agricultural farm. There are some buildings in this Khirbe [ruins] with several living rooms, water cisterns, wine and olive presses. After you take a short tour around these rooms you will finally come to the beautiful well-preserved mosaics.
The Charta Pond
After visiting the Khirbe Khanni return to the car and continue with the dirt road for about 2 km [1.2 mile] until you reach a sign that indicates the location of the Charta Pond  which is actually an ancient 5 X 9 m quarry that fills with water during the winter. This winter pond gives shelter to many marsh plants including, horned pondweed, common spike-rush, starfruit as well as a few populations of lepidurus [members of the crustacean family].During the spring and summer the pond dries up and the living creatures find a number of solutions to the seasonal pond. Amphibians only need water during the initial phases of their lives and as adults they abandon the water. Others like the branchiopoda (class of crustaceans) and worms must complete their whole short life cycle during the winter and must lay eggs at the end of the season which will survive the harsh, hot, dry season. Other creatures such as the ostracods [class of crustacean] will go into a long hibernation in the mud at the bottom of the pond until the next winter.
After enjoying the pool continue straight for a few hundreds of meters and then turn right (west) with the road leading back to Route 444 that will lead you on your way back.
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