For this itinerary you won’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn or crawl along in a traffic jam at the end of the day. But you will be given an opportunity to enjoy an itinerary that combines a fascinating assortment of things: an historic passage through which thousands of warriors have passed, and the sites that protected it, a breathtaking view of the coastal plain, a tour along the clean portion of the Yarkon Stream, and a superb pastoral area for a weekend picnic.
The visit to the Antipatris and the Yarkon Springs are suitable for baby strollers; and part of the tour is suitable for wheelchairs. There is an entrance fee to enter the nature reserve.
How to Get There
The tour will start at Migdal Tzedek. To get there take the access road south of Rosh HaAyin at the end of Route 444. Proceed into Yehuda HaLevi St. 10 m [33 f] after the turn you will see a sharp climb onto a dirt road that leads to a monument in memory of the warriors who fell in the Rosh HaAyin area. Take this dirt road until a fortress looms in front of you and park the car there.
The fortress is located at an altitude of 140 m [459 feet] on the Samaria Mountains and is named after Sheikh Sadiq al-Jamma’ini, the head of a local clan in the 19th century AD. During the Crusader Period the fortress was called Mirabel (a beautiful vision). The fortress looks out over the Afek Passage, a 2-km wide geographical path [1.2 mile] that until not very long ago served as the only area for south-to-north transportation and vice–versa. The landscape viewed from the head of the fortress to the west (the scenery includes Kfar Qasim and Kfar Saba in the north, Herzliya, Tel-Aviv, Givat HaShlosha, and Einat in the west, and Ben-Gurion Airport and Jaffa to the South-West) differs greatly from that which prevailed here not very long ago. The Yarkon which is notorious today for being a polluted stream (and we shall dwell on this point later) was no more than a huge impassable swamp. As a matter of fact the only passage that allowed traffic between both the coastal plain and lowlands and the Samaria Mountains was a 2-km strip of land between Migdal Afek and the sources of the Yarkon. Unfortunately through the years this passage became the grave of thousands of warriors that tried to cross the country from one side to the other. This narrow piece of land saw the sad fate of Pharaonic warriors from the second millennium BC, Israelites who fought the Philistines, Hasmonean warriors in the first century BC and even members of the British and Australian armies led by General Allenby who tried to cross the Yarkon during the First World War. Actually, the Afek Passage was the renowned sea path Via Maris, a commerce route linking Egypt to Trans-Jordan and Syria. It is strikingly obvious that ruling both the fortress and the neighboring Tel Afek, which is located 2-km westward, really gave one control over an essential passage linking the southern and northern parts of the country.
From Migdal Tzedek return to Route 444 and at the Rosh HaAyin Junction turn toward Petah Tikva via Route 483. Climb Route 483 and on the bridge above Route 6 and after 100 m [328 f] turn, following the sign that directs you toward Tel Afek – the Antipatris Fortress.
Information about the entrance to the Tel Afek National Park;
Opening hours:April–September 8 A.M.–5 P.M. October–March 8 A.M– 4 P.M.
Tel: Yarkon Sources Compound: 03-938-8464; Afek Compound and Education Center 03-903-0735;
Entrance fees: Adult: NIS 27; child: NIS 14 Israeli senior citizen: 50% discount
Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 22: child NIS 13.
(Please note: Tel Afek is also the name of another mound in the Ein Afek nature reserve near Akko - don't confuse the two of them.)
Tel Afek was mentioned in numerous sources beginning from the Pharaonic Era through the Israelite Period (the Iron Age A, 1000 – 1200 BC), and the Hasmonean, Roman, Crusader, and Ottoman Periods.
The fortress you will see today is called Binar Bash (Rosh HaAyin, source of the spring, in Turkish) from the Ottoman Period. Antipatris, was a big city on top of Tel Afek that was built by King Herod in the first century AD who named it after his father – Antipater the Edomite, who was a counselor and commissioner during the time of the last kings of the Hasmonean dynasty. The city was built after the Roman fashion, and today, next to the fortress are some excavations along the Cardo – the main street (which stretches from south to north, a typical feature of a Roman city plan. Another remnant of an impressive cardo is in the Beit Shan antiques). This city was ruined in an earthquake in 363 AD, and was partially rebuilt only during later periods. During the Crusader Period Migdal Tzedek was the center of most activities, and Tel Afek functioned only as a minor estate. The impressive fortress of today was built during the years 1572 - 1574, and it includes 4 turrets, one of them is octagonal, surrounded by robust walls. During the building of this fortress former archeological layers were demolished; however, during some excavations, a commissioner's house from the Egyptian Era (15 century BC) was unearthed by the archeologists, including some written documents on clay tables in several languages that bear witness to the profound diplomatic relationships and commercial ties which existed here in that era.
In the area of the mound you can also see some concrete buildings and pools that were built in 1935 during the laying of the Yarkon Negev pipeline. (During those years, Jerusalem had grown remarkably due to waves of immigration to the country; however the local water supply was extremely scarce). This line was damaged badly during the War of Independence.
In the area of the park you can find recreational facilities and a splendid picnic area; however you should wait to eat, the trip is not over yet....
Mekorot HaYarkon [The Sources of the Yarkon]
Take a short walk of about 1-km [0.621 mile] from the northwest gate of the National Park toward the Yarkon River and the yellow water lily ponds.
For groups that have more than one vehicle, you can leave a second car at the entrance to the Sources of the Yarkon National Park. To do so you should continue from the entrance of the Tel Afek National Park on Route 483 to the Ganim Junction and there turn right to the Segula Junction. From the Segula junction turn north until you reach a right turn to the Baptist Village (before the Yarkonim interchange). And after turning right you'll reach the gate of the Mekorot HaYarkon (the Sources of the Yarkon) National Park.
The Yarkon is the biggest perennial stream in the coastal area. In the past the stream was much stronger all year round (and hence the swamps), but since 1955, the year the Yarkon-Negev pipeline (that later became part of the National Water Carrier) was opened, only a small percent of its capacity has been being streamed there while the rest is pumped. The Yarkon is fed by 4 streams: the Kana, Shiloh, Rabba, and Eilon streams, (the last one flows into the Yarkon only 3 km before it empties its water into the Mediterranean Sea). Its name in Arabic is el-‘Uga’ – the tortuous one – due to the difference between its beeline length (14.5 km, 9 miles) and its actual one (about 28 km, 17 miles). The Yarkon's tortuous twists stem from the moderate gradient that it flows along (a descent of only 60 cm per each kilometer). Only 3 – 5% of the Yarkon's water sources reach it in the form of surface runoff (i.e. as stream water); the rest is water that originates from the aquifer mountain springs of Rosh HaAyin. (Aquifer is a waterproof layer below the ground upon which the infiltrating water is pooled. The water gushes out from springs.) The first few kilometers of the Yarkon, until the estuary of the Kana Stream, are clean and its flora and fauna are rich with many rare species, like the plants; the blue Egyptian water lily and the yellow water lily, and Yarkon Bleak fish (Acanthobrama telavivensis) and soft-shelled turtles. Subsequent to the Kana estuary the stream becomes polluted and void of most of its endemic animals and plants. In the 4 last kilometers seawater is discharged into the Yarkon River, used by the Redding Power Station, which is situated at the mouth of the river, for cooling its turbines.
In 1998 the Yarkon Stream Authority was established to regulate the methods of using and streaming the Yarkon's water, as well as for preventing pollution and preserving its landscapes.
If you continue by foot, try to find, near the railroad, the yellow water lily pond and its inhabitants - the yellow water lily, the common reed, and holy bramble. Follow the railroad that was built in 1921 and linked Petah Tikvah to Rosh HaAyin, allowing the local farmers to send their produce by train and export it via seaports. Near where the railroad meets the Yarkon Stream you will notice the Pillbox Guard-post (a guard-post made of concrete that looks similar to the cylindrical boxes in which medical pills were once sold, hence its name), that was built in 1937 to protect the railway during the Great Arab Revolt. From here enter through the back gate into the Sources of the Yarkon National Park.
Many recreational facilities were built in this park. The winding flow of the stream and the el-Mir flourmill, one of the many flourmills scattered along the river, are also part of the park’s attractions. The flourmill is named after the adjacent hamlet with the same name and it was operated by the power of the Yarkon water that was diverted toward it by a dam and canals. The mill consisted of 13 pairs of millstones and it was operated during the initial years of the Moshava Petach Tikvah.
Near the car park you'll come to the Kassar Courtyard, a farm that belonged, during the 19 century, to Salim Kassar, a merchant from Jaffa. This lovely place hosts a well from which water was hoisted by a water wheel (buckets attached to a strip which was pulled out of the well) for irrigating the mansion's sugar cane and orange plantations.
(You can either leave a vehicle in this car park or go back to the Antipatris Fortress, an additional 15 minutes walk).
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