September 13th 2014
Have you ever seen a soft-shelled turtle? The place to get up-close and personal with this unusual sea creature is the Alexander River National Park. Historians believe the Alexander River, known in Hebrew as Nachal Alexander, was named after Arab watermelon merchant Aixander Abu Zbura who became wealthy by exporting watermelons to Egypt and Lebanon. Located between the cities of Hadera and Netanya, the Alexander River is one of the few rivers along the Mediterranean shore that flows all year long. The just under 2-mile long route is perfect for a hike or a bicycle ride. Begin at Gesher Hatzabim (Turtle Bridge) and head toward the sea. Once you get to the Mediterranean, take a dip off the modest stretch of beach.
The hike or ride is lovely all year around, but it is recommended to avoid attempting it during mid-day in the hot summer months. Turtle Bridge was built by residents of Kfar Vitkin in the 1930s and is arguably the best place in Israel to spot soft-shelled turtles. At 3 feet in length and weighing 110 pounds, the mature soft-shelled turtles are hard to miss. After two months of gestation, the turtle eggs that were laid in May and June hatch, and the baby turtles can be seen running toward the water. At the northern end of the park, there’s a grove of eucalyptus trees and an open area that’s ideal for a picnic. After lunch, talk a short walk over to the ancient ruin of Hurvat Samra. The ruins, which were once an Ottoman police station, provide a spectacular view of the area.
In spring, you’ll be rewarded with carpets of anemones, poppies, buttercups, tulips and other colorful flowers. Just north of the beach are remains of a small dock that was built in 1938. At that time, Palestine was ruled by the British and Jewish immigration was severely curtailed. Ships full of European Jews escaping the Holocaust landed at this clandestine dock. Consider spending the night in the Fain Family’s Wooden House. This wooden veranda of this spacious, completely furnished beach house is perfect for a candlelit dinner. The cabin is a five-minute bike ride or a seven-minute walk to the Alexander River.