12/28/2011 03:53

The trails were designed by architect Otto Friedman, who specializes in planning bike paths.
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The Jewish National Fund opened a NIS 1 million, 32- kilometer, dual-path bike trail on Monday that winds through the western portion of the Ben Shemen Forest and continues on through the Modi’in area, the organization announced on Tuesday.

Recognizing the increased popularity the sport has taken on among the Israeli public, JNF was aiming to respond to the high demand while continuing to protect nature by launching these paths, according to the group. The bike route begins with the 10 km., circular Herzl trail, an intermediate level riding path that goes through ancient Cyprus Pine forest of Ben Shemen. After about seven kilometers, the Herzl trail connects to the 25 km. circular Anava trail – creating one of the longest continuous bike paths in Israel, a release from JNF said.

During the Anava portion of the route, bikers are able to see historical and archeological sites like Tel Gamzo and the Monks Valley, as well as stop at various lookout points over Modi’in.

The trails were designed by architect Otto Friedman, who specializes in planning bike paths, and was supervised by bike trail constructor Doron Emetz. The first trail received the name Herzl in honor of the first forest ever planted by JNF, the organization said.

“There is no better time than today, Hanukka, Rosh Hodesh, to inaugurate this biking trail that runs through the ancient olive presses that probably produced the oil for the temple,” said JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler at the Monday launch, according to a statement released by his office. “JNF is 110 years old today and is focusing on the establishment of biking trails throughout Israel. I invite you to ride safely and enjoy the beautiful scenery.”

Yotam Avizohar, director of the NGO Israel for Bikes, praised JNF for opening the new path.

“JNF is doing a very great job by opening the forests to cyclists,” he told The Jerusalem Post, noting that his organization has been working directly with JNF on the project.

An increased presence of bikers in the woods will mean an increased public awareness about the forest in general, and will discourage people from littering or committing acts of vandalism, according to Avizohar.

“It’s really good for the forest because usually bikers are equipped with cellular phones or GPS,” he said. “They’re like the JNF’s eyes in the forest.”

Meanwhile, by making the trails in specific portions of the forests, JNF is succeeding in preventing bikers from off-roading in other areas, where plant and animal life might be more sensitive, he explained.

While Israel for Bikes also works with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) in a similar way that is does with JNF, Avizohar said that the latter is not quite as “progressive” as the former and has been less willing to establish bike paths within nature reserves due to the vulnerable species that reside there, according to Avizohar. However, within the past year, the INPA has opened five different bike paths in national reserves and is also in the process of establishing a national Israel Bike Trail, he said.

“When people are not allowed to cycle anywhere in a reserve, it’s Israel – unfortunately, sometimes people ride everywhere,” he added.