Nahal Alexander and the Soft-Shelled Turtles

After which name Nahal Alexander is called? There is a controversy about it: some may claim that it is called after the great Hasmonean king Alexander (Jonathan) Jannaeus who seized this land in scope of his many conquests. However, the truth might be different. Whichever might be the truth, this route is an obligatory one for the entire family, whether taking it by foot, car or bicycle. It extended along Nahal Alexander beach from Gesher Hatzabim [Turtle Bridge] to the seashore. Hiking can be good at all seasons, but not during the hot hours in summer.
Updated at: 26/10/2016




Half a Day


Easy, 3 Km


All year

Properties: Water DipFor FamiliesRomanticSuitable for BicycleTrip with BlossomSuitable for WheelchairPublic transportation

Arriving There

Can be reached either via Route 2 or 4. The route begins in the Tsabim Bridge (directions are given hereinafter), where one vehicle should be left, and ends in the river's estuary, under a bridge of Route 2– there the other vehicle should be left. It is possible to take this route with only one vehicle, and to return back by the same way.

From Route 4 – turn west in Hefer Junction [12] to the direction of Kfar Vitkin, and after about 2-km [1.2 mile], right before meeting with the railroad, turn north (right) to a defective road [4]. Follow the signposts toward an event garden on the river's bank until reaching the Gesher Hatzabim car parking [5].

From Route 2 – in Havatzelet Junction (or Giv'at Shapira) turn east to Route 5710 and drive to Bitan Aharon and Kfar Vitkin. On Kfar Vitkin entrance [2] turn right and drive the Vitking bypass road until reaching a rotary [3] and then turn right. Right after passing the railroad [4] turn left to a defective road. Follow the signposts to the event garden near the river until the Gesher Hatzabim car paring [5].

Ending point

Drive north on Route 2 and after crossing the Alexander river [9], leave the route and turn to your right on a dirt road. You can drive via this road, on a path below the bridge to a car parking few meters afterwards where you could leave the vehicle.

Nahal Alexander

 Then after whose name Nahal Alexander is called? Is it after Alexander (Jonathan) Jannaes, the Hasmonean king? The historical truth seems somewhat simpler than that. When the first pioneers of the Zionist movement came to Palestine, they discovered that the river was called Ascander by the local Arabs, probably after Aixander Abu Zbura, a famous watermelon merchant that built the Minat Abu-Zbora harbor on the estuary of Nahal Alexander and exported from there watermelons for good money to Egypt and Lebanon. The port came down the world and with it our friend Aixander, when trains started to be used in Palestine and in other Arabian Countries in the outset of the 20th century.

Beginning – The Turtle Bridge

The beginning of the route starts next to the Turtle Bridge [Gesher Hatzabim] [5]. The bridge was built in the 1930' by Kfar Vitkin settlers, and it is one of the only places in Israel where the soft-shelled turtle can be observed. The soft-shelled turtle can grow to a length of one m [3 feet] and a weight of 50 kg [110 pounds]. The turtle whose origins are in the sweet water lakes of East Africa is a carnivore that feeds on a diet of worms, fishes and other small water animals. In May-June, the soft-shelled turtle female lays its eggs in dents it digs in the river banks, and after two months the small turtles would hatch and run to the water.

In 1991, Nahal Alexander, which has the largest turtle population in the county, was flooded by the enormous rainfall of that year, and most of its soft-shelled turtle population, about 200 in their number, was drifted into the Mediterranean Sea and died. Furthermore, the serious pollution of the costal river also left its print on a sharp decrease in their numbers: only few turtles survived in the sources of the Yarkon river and in Nahal Taninim and yet, most of their population was in Nahal Alexander, which was also polluted. The effect of pollution was to the extent that most of the eggs would not hatch. The youngsters from those who hatched were born deformed. In Nahal Alexander, only big turtles were observed, and seemingly, the youngsters would not have survived. From thence, this animal was saved by a preservation effort. To enable the thriving of younger generation of turtles, the Israel Nature & National Parks Authority people collect the turtle eggs, incubate them in a superficial environment and after the youngsters would grow, bring them back into the water.    

Along the Stream

We shall cross the bridge north, and turn left with a footpath that follows the right bank of the river. After another 200 m [656 feet] the path arrives at an event garden next to the river. Near the water, we'll see a belvedere from which you could watch the fenced hatching surface for the young turtles in the southern bank.

We will continue along the river and pass under a railway bridge, and immediately after the bridge we will turn right to a dirt road. After some 400 m [1,312 feet], near a lift barrier, we will meet with a turn to our left, which is marked with the Israel National Trail (white-blue-orange). We will turn in this way, which passes alongside a canal. This water dyke drains high underground water from the areas east to Emek Hefer Industrial Zone, and originally it was dug by the British as part of their enterprise to drain the notorious swamps of Hedera, and among them, the Ya'ar Pool (Birkat 'Atat). See the Ya'ar Pool directions in the Park HaSharon Route.

From now on, the road continues between the southern border of Hadera Eucalyptus Forest and Nahal Alexander. The forest was planted in the framework of fighting the swamps and malaria; however, the Eucalyptuses were not enough to fulfill this role, and draining dykes like that of the 'Ata tunnel were dug to complete the drainage.

Khirbet Samra

After 1.5 km [0.932 mile] we will meet with khirbet Samra [Samra ruin], on top of a hill, which allows a spectacular view of the area. Abdullah Samra who owned the lands of the area built this mansion in the end of the 19 century. In a later period, when the watermelon export from Abu Zbura harbor was at its peak, this building had turned into an Ottoman Police Station and a customs post. The JNF [Jewish National Fund] bought the Samra lands in 1940. There is some blossoming on top of this hill at all seasons but its manifests its best during springtime, when we can see the blossoming of anemones, poppies, buttercups tulips and more. The mastic tree (lentisc) also populates the area which is encompassed also by heliotropium the flowers of the suavenolens, golden crownbeards and more. Down the hill, to the direction of Nahal Alexander, hewed in the kurkar (eolinite) rock, some caves can be seen. These are remnants to an ancient quarry. Notice that Khirbet Samra is on one of the kurkar ridges that constitute the Sharon formation. Nahal Alexander is one of the Sharon Rivers that have had carved through the kurkar ridge an outlet to the sea. South to the river, the settlements of Kfar Vitkin, Hofit and Bitan Aharon are built on top of the ridge.

The Estuary and Mikhmoret Mound

After continuing with a dirt road along the river and toward the Costal Road, we will meet with the following plants that grow next to river banks: Dutch rush, holy bramble, and many athel tamarisk trees. Heading under a bridge of the Haifa-Tel Aviv Highway [9], the path will take us right to the place where the second vehicle was parked. However, the best of the route is still in front of us – we will continue with a short walking on a footpath alongside the river and up to its estuary where it spills its water to the Mediterranean Sea. From this point it is very prominent that the southern estuary beach is much more sandy than the northern one. The reason for this stems from a process of sand formation, which in its being drifted from south is swallowed by the river in this point.      

If we will take a glimpse north from the estuary, we could see the Mikhmoret mound. It is worth following along the beach to the mound. In its western side we could see the port of Mevo'ot Yam, a youth village for nautical studies. This is the bay that served in the past as a watermelon harbor. In 1945 Moshav Mikhmoret (=a very big fishing net) was built here, and it's interesting to note that in June 20 1948 the IZL [National Military Organization, one of the pre-state undergrounds] armor ship Altalena anchored here.

From here we shall return to the vehicle.

Nahal Alexander – River Park Model

Adjoined to Route 4, on the right ramification of the southern route of Hefer Junction, a tremendous project for restoring the Alexander river has been carried out. Parking is available here on a paved parking, and it is recommended to take an enjoyable one-hour-walk along the beautiful river (to the Alexander River Administration's site ). Follow from this parking the cute footpath that leads to the Tzabim Bridge, and from there start the route.

The Bridge that Disappeared from Wadi Havarith – chapters from an activity diary of the Hefer Valley, by Haim Ben Tzvi (5690, 1930, 5735 1975) concludes this route.

The Vanished Bridge Story

The big house looks like an old fortress which is prominent on the ridge and rules the entire surrounding, whether it toward the sea – westward, or toward the fields – eastward. The two-storey building and the two stalls were carved in the ground floor stone. The access to the upper store is available by an exterior staircase, that had also been carved in the stone. This living store consists of 3 rooms and a flat veranda facing north.

I write in my diary that in January 5 1930, before three days, we, only few of us, had inhabited the effendi house on top of the hill. We are a Halutz [pioneer] group led by Shaul Karbal, the JNF representative, Haim Ha-Hermoni who is in charge of security and guarding, and Suliya Zeltzer who is responsible for the building. We ought to prepare gradually the building for the absorption of the rest of the members. For the time being, we drive each morning in wagons from Hedera to work in the house and return to the village at dusk. Certainly, this has been going for about two-three months. An Arab guard that lived in its bounds – Abu 'Isa – had been sticking up for the place, lived with his family in a building he built until he passed away in a grand old age during the sixties. The renovation works began in installing two living rooms on the veranda, a kitchen, bathroom and dining room. In addition, a set of staircase for the building, a small water tower, and security balcony on top of the past living rooms were built.

The passage to Alexander river was allowed in accord with the state of mind of the sea. In days of low-tide it was possible to cross the estuary either by wagon or foot. With time we had an additional transportation means, a small dimension truck, but during tidal and storms there were a lot of mishaps, until we had an idea to build a wooden bridge above the estuary, next to the river mouth of the sea.   

By the permission of the JNF, some poles and eucalyptus stakes were bought in Hedera. A Hedera man, Shamai Kulodni, had undertook it upon himself, with our Suliya Zeltzer, to plan and erect the bridge. Most of our group members were drafted for this project. A huge hammer was brought and we had stricken with it the pegs, everyone in his/her turn. Sometimes, it was necessary for one of us who knew swimming to dive to the depth of the river and check if the poles hold on in the deep, and afterwards the diver had been rewarded by a price – a drink of cognac to warm the body in such a winter day.

A place to sleep

The Fain Family's Wooden Cabins Sea Wind in Michmoret.
2 spacious seclueded wooden holiday houses,7 minutes walking distance from the beach and Gador nature reserve, 15 minutes by car from ceasarea,5 minutes by bike to the Alexander Stream, the beginning of a beautiful ride to kibuz maabarot.

Phone - 0544627126

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