Jerusalem’s Peace Forest (Ya’ar HaShalom) has a special place in my heart. This time of the year, the heat of summer along with the gentle Jerusalem breeze releases from the woods the pleasant smells of cedars, pines, lavender, rosemary, and such. Among the diverse plants growing in Peace Forest are carob trees that produce the tastiest carob. I love rinsing off the carob that I find along the way with my water bottle and snacking on the carob as I relax with friends and family. I also love enjoying leisure activities such as frisbee with strangers along the way (who quickly become new friends).
Peace forest is a relaxing place full of trails, nice sitting areas along the way and open spaces in which children (and adults) can run around and play. Peace Forest is a place where Jews, Muslims, and Christians both locals and visitors alike can simply relax. It’s so green and so full of life, and also close enough to the edge of the city that sheep are often seen grazing on the grass between the trees, their shepherd and his donkey nearby.
One interesting fact about this forest is that it was planted just 50 years ago (in 1968), just a little while after the liberation of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. During the nearly 20 year occupation of East Jerusalem by the nation of Jordan (between 1948 and 1967), the area now known as Peace Forest was nothing more than a barren “no-man’s” land. This forest is just one more reason to be thankful that Israel really is a nation that invests in peace. Peace Forest is also a reminder of the importance of keeping Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel as it serves as a meeting point for all residents and visitors to the city from all walks of life.
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