Migdal-Tzedek, Tel Afek & Yarkon origins national parks, and the Yarkon trail
Written by Zvika Gasner Koheleth 17-June-2019, Edited 06-June-2020, 27-October-2020, 28-March-2021; Photography by Angela Hechtfisch
This post was made in few stages with a period time of 2 years and being section 19 – 20 of the “Israeli-Trail” with its 56 stages. A consequence of geographic & methodic continuation of this subject-theme the “Yarkon-River”, with a complete 28 km. in length. Starting at the east with the strategic “Migdal-Tzedek” fortress overlooking the area in the valley below, continuing with “Tel-Afek” national park, proceeding to “Yarkon-River origins” park where the Yarkon springs erupt and ending with the curly “Yarkon” river flowing into the Midetrian Sea, like in the book of “Koheleth” (Ch.1, 7 of “Ecclesiastes”):
“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full”.
“Migdal (Tel) -Tzedek” national park
A new national park called “Migdal Tzedek” or “Tel Tzedek, naming it after the Ottoman Sheikh “Zadek Jameini” that rebuilt it in 1850, has now been reopened after 6 years of total construction and renovation of the fortress, situated on the top of the hill looking down at “Tel Afek”. The firtess was built in the efrench2th century by the 1st Crusaders and its original name is “Mirabel” (“Beautiful View” in franch). After been defeat of the Crusaders at “Karney-Hittin” by Salach Ah-din’s Muslim forces in 1187 it has beeen destroyed, later to be rebuilt by the Mamluks and Sheikh Zadek.
The park around it includes a 10 km. walking path in nature. We visited it only a week after its grand opening in March 2021. It is going to be beautiful, that I am sure, BUT at the moment it is too much of an early stage. Most of the fortress rooms are still in the renovation mode and the men-made greenery surround it is only in its beginning stage. However, the view to the west with “Tel Afek” and the city of “Petach-Tikva” is already overwhelming. We will return in 2022 and watch the site progress because the potential is obvious. Adult entry fees are 28 Shekels.
“Tel Afek” National Park General History
“Tel Afek” is a national park with ancient ruins located between the city of “Rosh Hayain” and “Petach Tikva” in the “Hasharon” district in Israel. It was a city built during the last century BC by Herod the Great, who named it in honor of his father, Antipater, therefore the main castle ruins are still called: “Antipatrus fortress”.
At “Tel Afek” lies at the spring’s origins of the “Yarkon” River, which is one of the main rivers flowing throughout the area till it reaches the sea at Tel Aviv, and for This factor, it gave Antipatris/Tel Afek location strategic importance, from the biblical era of the 13th century BC, the Roman times and till the days of the British mandate in Israel in the mid 20th century, whereas water pump stations were built to channel water from the “Yarkon” river to Jerusalem.
“Tel Afek” Nowadays
Nowadays, the National park, with a 7 Euros entry fee for an adult, is extremely enjoyable. The visit to the reconstructed city, the Roman cardo (main street) and castle are nice and have a panoramic view over the “Dan”(Tel Aviv central) district, with all of its location and Hotels.
The sweet water lake with preserved fish life and the greenery surrounding it gives a peaceful atmosphere, and the 15 minutes’ walkthrough in the “Drimia” (a type of Israeli autumn flower) lane is easy and fun. There is also a huge area for campers and BBQs alongside, some deep ponds for young children and the general feeling of the national park are very relaxing and NOT too big to explore. Dogs with a leash are allowed to visit the park.
The “Yarkon Origins” park
The 2nd part of this national park is called “The Yarkon (river) Origins” and getting there is driving through road #40 near “Petach-Tikva” and more closely the “Baptist village”. The 2 parts are separated physically by the Kfar-Saba East train trail and are physically disconnected, so there is NO way to pass between. What is special about this place is that this is the real water source of the 2nd largest river in Israel, 2nd only to the Jordan river, and this spot is the begging of the 28 km. river.
It must be said, “Hayakon Origins” national park is more than anything a camping spot and a BBQ oriented and LESS a walking trail, even less than the “Afek national park”. It is a PERFECT location for families with young children that can enjoy playing outdoor activities, chilling out in general, and having a BBQ out in the open.
You can explore 10 minutes back and forth at “Lover’s Lane”, or do an extra 10 minutes of secular walking on the bank of the quiet “Yarkon river “with its huge lilies ponds reaching up to the natural water spring eruption from the ground, but that is mostly it. So do NOT expect it to be what it is NOT. The facilities are kept clean, overnight camping is allowed, and adult and children entry fees are 7 and 5 Euros, respectively.
The Yarkon River track part of the Israel trail
From the Baptist village located on the south-west position of the Yarkon Origins park, starts the Yarkon river trail to the west, which runs about 28 km until it meets with the Meterman Sea at Tel Aviv old harbor.
The Yarkon river trail is a small part of the Israel trail which goes from the Israel north position at the museum of “Bet-Oshiskin” in Kibutz-Dan to the Israel southern city, Eilat, a track evaluated as 1,000 km with 56 sub-tracks.
In the part between Afek/Yarkon origins till Ramat-Efal (a hi-tech industrial part of Tel Aviv) the course is wild with a quite surreal sense and its natural look is clear. For the wild part, it is recommended to carry a water supply, good walking shoes and there are NO admission fees.
From this part onwards till the sea the terrain is more urbanist and kept artificial, walking beside Tel Aviv biggest park named “Yehoshaua Gardens”. While This 28 km track can be cut down into smaller intervals and can be walked completely in several tries combined when car entries/exits are possible.
“Yarkon River” from “Ramat-Hachayal” till Tel Aviv port
So finally, we decided to take that challenge and walk the last 12 km. trail of the “Yarkon-river” from “Ramat-Hahayal”/ (the city of)”Bnei Brak” till we end on the streamy waves of the Sea at Tel Aviv harbor. We took the opportunity of cooler March weather, perfect conditions for a tracker. It has taken us 3 hours to complete the tour plus an extra hour break at the Tel-Aviv botanic gardens at (Ganey) “Yehoshua park”, The “7-water stations”, and later the “Rosh-Hamitzpor” compact birds observatory, all located in this biggest tel Aviv green park that situated alongside the north banks of the “Yarkon River”. the 1st half of the last Yarkon river track, one of 56 parIsraelihe “Israeli trail”, is surrounded by natural greenery where the last part is already with Urbanic park scenery.
It wasn`t easy, that I promise you, BUT it has been one of the best coffee we had ever had once we reached our destination and sit comfortably at Tel Aviv port looking at the water, smelling the fresh air and feeling free as a bird(“On a wire…”).
Fresh drinks and toilets are easily accessible at the 2nd part of the walk. comfortable shoes and hats are a Must, and so is more than just a basic physical shape. The time estimated for this stage is 3 hours. We commute back to our starting point with a Taxi.