Shoham Forest Park in central Israel offers places for picnics, nature trails (especially during blooming), Bacchus church, and more.
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Shoham Forest Park is located between Road #6 and Shoham. The easiest way to reach this spot is by entering “Shoham Forest Park” into Waze.
Interactive map of the area:
- Hotels, hostels, and apartments in this area:
And here is a map of the park:
Note: you can click on the map to enlarge it.
Here is an interactive map from israelhiking.osm.org.il where the most popular trails are marked:
There are two main routes. You can either hike the short or the long orchards loop trail.
|Name||Color of the Trail on the Map above||Description||Distance (km)||Total climb and descent (meters)||Notes|
|The Short Orchards Trail||Blue||In both trails, you can add a stop at the top of Saflulim Hill (marked in green). This stop will add 200 meters.||1.35||34|
|The Long Orchards Trail||Red||An extended version of the previous path.||2.6||116||In both trails, you can add a stop at the top of Saflulim hill (marked in green). This stop will add 200 meters.|
In Shoham Forest, there is a ten km loop cycling route. It is marked with blue color on the maps.
The main starting point of the cycling route is near Horbat Tinshemet (near the church). The secondary entrance point is in the south, at the intersection of the Israel National Trail and the road leading from Shoham.
It is a medium-level cycling route, and you should ride it clockwise.
Always open. But staying in the forest after dark is prohibited.
None. We did not see restrooms during our visits, and the map has no markings. But, as I read, sometimes you can find chemical toilets near the picnic areas.
Blooming at Shoham Forest Park
You can find daffodils, saffron, cyclamen, anemones, buttercup, and other flowers in winter and spring.
There are three areas where you can see flowers.
- You can find flowers on the hill near the northern entrance (marked as #1 on the following map).
- Between October and February, you can find daffodils near the open class (marked as #2 on the following map).
- Saflulim Hill is a good viewpoint. Moreover, on this hill, you can find many cyclamen and butterflies during the season (marked as #3 on the following map).
Our latest visit was in February, and here are several photos from point #1:
Horvat Tinshemet and Church of Saint Bacchus
We got back to the car and drove from blooming point #1. We continued along the road (green marking) to the Church of Saint Bacchus parking.
While planting trees in 1986, this church was discovered. It was excavated and exposed by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 1995.
Besides the church, they also found an olive press (#2 on the map below), water pool (#3), graves (#4), lime kiln (#5), and a winepress (#6).
Church of Saint Bacchus
The structure combines a field church and an olive press. It was built c. 1,500 years ago, in the fifth century CE (Byzantine period).
What is a field church?
This is a church that is built outside of a settlement. This church was constructed between Horvat Tinshemet in the west (Kh. Sheikh’ Ali Malikina), which has been identified with Betomelgerzis (the King’s House) and appears on the Madaba map, and another contemporary settlement that was situated near where Shoham is located today.
The Mosaic Pavement
The floor of the church is a mosaic that combines geometric Otterns and floral motifs.
What do the patterns indicate?
ln the nave of the church is a carpet on which two circles are depicted: the center of the eastern circle is the exact center of the church. In the middle of the western circle is the Greek inscription which translated to English reads “This place belongs to the Lord and his only son”.
What is the jar in the corner?
An amphora in the corner of the carpet near the circle depicts a wine jar from which grapevines issue to either side.
Here are several additional photos of the church:
At the bottom of the stairs is the Greek inscription which translated to English reads “of Saint Bacchus”, evidence the church was dedicated to a saint with this name.
Who is Sain Bacchus?
He could have been a local saint or he might be Bacchus, one of the pair of Syrian martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, who were physicians in the Roman army, converted to Christianity in the third century CE and were tortured and executed at the order of the emperor Diocletian.
A marble medallion 67 cm in diameter of the goddess Tyche, or as she is called in Latin ‘Fortuna’, was discovered in the church.
Who is Tyche?
She is the pagan goddess of fortune and fate, as well as the goddess that protects cities. Christians in the Byzantine period also preserved the popular cult associated with her. Finding such an artifact in a church is exceptional. The goddess of the city is surrounded by two inscriptions. The bottom inscription makes it possible to date the medallion to the year 582-3 CE.
As mentioned above, you can find additional points of interest near the church. Here is the rock-cut pool.
A deep cistern hewn in the bedrock was used to store rainwater. Alongside the pool are two rock-cut tombs from the Roman period and remains of an earlier wine press that was destroyed when the pool was hewn.
Why was it hewn here?
Masonry stones were quarried from the rock. A pool remained there after the quarrying was completed.
Unfortunately, it started raining. Thus we returned to the car and drove to the Yossi Bresler picnic area.
Yossi Bresler Picnic Area
There are three picnic areas in Shoham Forest Park. This area is located near the beginning of the walking paths. Hence we drove there.
Note: I did not see running water anywhere.
As you can see from the photos, there are collecting bins for coal and barbeque stands. Thus you can prepare barbeques.
Since it was raining occasionally, we decided not to hike along the orchard trail and to head to Saflulim Hill.
In the following photo, you can see the path to Saflulim Hill. Also, note that the Israel national trail passes here.
What does Saflulim mean?
Concavities of various sizes were hewn on this bedrock surface. The smaller ones are called “Saflulim.” These are probably ancient incarnations of altars. Near a group of “Saflulim,” a figurine of an idol (like Ashtoreth and Baal) was set up. And within “Saflulim,” people put tiny sacrifices offered to God.
The larger concavities in stones (20 cm in diameter and more) are the “mortars.” They served as grounding facilities (hand mills) for kernels and herbs. As it is written in the Bible:
Book of Numbers 11:8 (New International Version):
The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil.
On top of the hill, you can also find a memorial to Guy Sudai. On February 23, 1994, Guy fell in combat in Lebanon in a coordinated artillery attack by Hezbollah fighters on the Brosh outpost in the eastern sector of the security zone.
Shoham Forest Park is an excellent place for an upgraded picnic or barbeque. Besides eating, you can see archeological remains, hike, or cycle. Moreover, this forest is close to the center. Thus it is a popular place, and I suggest arriving early during the weekends and holidays.
This area has many attractions. You can explore them using the interactive map above.
Have you visited Shoham Forest Park? Tell us in the comment below about your experience.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.