The Yarkon Stream and its sources are at the heart of the story of this national park, because thanks to them, flora, fauna and humans have existed in this area for a very long time. Efforts are now underway to ensure this existence by protecting Yarkon National Park’s nature, heritage and landscape treasures. Yarkon National Park extends over 13,000 dunams (3,250 acres) from Tel Afeq to Morasha junction. It includes two compounds: Tel Afeq and the Yarkon sources. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) has prepared both compounds for visitors, installing picnic tables, toilets and play equipment. The Tel Afeq compound also boasts a physical fitness trail with sports facilities.
This place is situated to the north-east of Petah Tikva and not far from the Holy Place of the Mazor Mausoleum. This place was filmed by the team of 360HolyPlaces™ for you in Virtual Reality 360°.
The Yarkon Stream and its sources
There was a time when 25,000 cubic meters of water flowed hourly through the Yarkon Stream. It is 28 kilometers long, from the point where it emerges at the Rosh Ha’ayin springs to the Mediterranean Sea. Its main tributaries are the Kaneh, Raba, Shiloh and Ayalon streams, which reach it from the mountains of Judea and Samaria. In Arabic, the Yarkon is called AI-‘Uja, which means “the twister,” due to its many bends. The Yarkon originates at the Rosh Ha’ayin springs, whose discharge rate is approximately 200 million cubic meters a year. The springs come from rain that has fallen in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, and collects in the mountain aquifer (water-bearing layer). The westward incline of the mountains causes the water to flow underground until it emerges near Rosh Ha’ayin. Until World War I (191 4-1918) the springs created wetlands on both banks of the Yarkon. Following the construction of water systems in the area, especially the Yarkon-Negev line, these swamps dried up. Most of the Yarkon’s water is utilized for domestic consumption by the Mekorot water company. A small amount (0.2% of all the water) flows through the stream. For many years the stream was polluted with garbage and sewage. However, efforts have been made in recent years to rehabilitate and conserve it. The Yarkon is divided into three parts in terms of water quality: the upper, clean segment, which is seven kilometers long and within the national park; the 17-kilometer-long middle segment, which is partially polluted (the water undergoes preliminary treatment at a sewage purification facility); and the lower portion, which is four kilometers long, and has become salinated due to sea-water intrusion.
In the Tel Afeq compound and opposite its exit are two rain pools – seasonal pools with cycles of flooding and drying. The rain pools are unique habitats for amphibious species, primitive crustaceans and water insects. The white blossoms of the common water-crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) can be seen in the pool outside the Tel Afeq compound. Numerous rain pools once dotted the coastal plain. However, these habitats have been severely damaged by construction and pollution. The INPA preserves rain pools mainly to foster endangered amphibian species such as the banded newt (Triturus vittatus vittatus) and the spade-foot toad (Prefobatus syriacus syriacus). When necessary, the INPA moves individuals to these pools from those that are endangered.
The Mandate-period water system structures
These buildings are part of the infrastructure built by the British during their rule, and were a component of the system that supplied water to Jerusalem. The water was capped by pipes at the Rosh Ha’ayin springs, and channeled to filter pools for cleaning and to a structure for chlorination. From there, the water was sent to an underground reservoir and a pump house, and on to Jerusalem. The system went into operation on January 7, 1936, but was halted in 1939 when a pump in the Latrun area was blown up. The old buildings you can see in the Afeq compound include the pump house, the filtration and settling pools and the chlorination structure. Opposite them are buildings that served as offices and living quarters for the British soldiers who guarded the pumping station. They are now used by the INPA. During the 1948 War of Independence, Iraqi military forces attacked Rosh Ha’ayin and Petah Tikva from here. Israel Defense Forces troops (the 32nd Battalion and a company of the guard corps of the Alexandroni Brigade’s ‘Ayin District) managed to defeat them, and from July 1948 forces of the Alexandroni Brigade held the line from Migdal Tsedek to Dir Tarif and protected Petah Tikva and the surrounding area.
The Afeq Pass
This is a narrow pass, about two kilometers wide, between the mountains of Samaria on the east and the Rosh Ha’ayin springs on the west. The Via Maris (the Way of the Sea), which led from Egypt in the south to Syria and Mesopotamia in the north, went through the Afeq Pass. The Yarkon Stream and its nearby swamps created an obstacle for convoys and armies, making it one of the most significant passageways in the country. Due to the importance of the pass, towns were established in the area in various periods. Their remains can be seen at Tel Afeq and Migdal Tsedek.
Tel Afeq controls the Rosh Ha’ayin springs and the Afeq Pass. The earliest remains on this mound date from the Chalcolithic period (4500- 3300 BCE). The Early Bronze Age I (3300-3000 BCE) saw the establishment of the site’s first walled city. During the Early Bronze Age II (3000-2700 BCE), a period of urban culture in this country, Afeq was a large, planned city, surrounded by a wall. The city was subsequently abandoned and the mound remained deserted until the Middle Bronze Age II (2000- 1550 BCE) – the second period of urbanization in the country. Afeq is mentioned for the first time in the Egyptian Execration Texts, dating to the 19th century BCE, when it was a fortified city with palaces. During the Late Bronze Age (1500-1200 BCE), palaces were built on the higher part of the mound. Remnants of one of these structures, the Egyptian governor’s house (which has been partially restored), can still be seen. The most significant remains are writings discovered in the palace: clay tablets inscribed in various languages – Sumerian, Akkadian and Canaanite. Among these documents is also an entire letter from the ancient city of Ugarit. It is written in Akkadian, which was the international language of those days.
Afeq at this ti me was a royal Canaanite city, and is mentioned as such in the writings of the Egyptian kings Thutmoses III and Amenhotep II in the 15th century BCE. The Egyptian govern or’s house is testimony to Egyptian rule over the region. Afeq is mentioned in the Bible in the list of conquered Canaanite cities Ooshua 12:18) and as a base from which the Philistines set out to fight the Israelites: “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Eben-ezer; and the Philistines pitched in Aphek” (1 Sam. 4:1 ). Indeed, according to remains uncovered on the mound, there was a Philistine city here during the Iron Age (1200-924 BCE), and an Israelite settlement was subsequently located here. During the Hellenistic period the city established here was called Pegae (“springs” in Greek). Later, in the Early Roman period, Herod Expanded the city (in 9 BCE) and named it Antipatris after his father. At the time of the Great Revolt, in 68 CE, there was a large Jewish community at Afeq, which was destroyed by the Roman general Vespasian.
During the Late Roman period (132-324 CE), the city revived and flourished. Remains from this period of the Cardo (the main street) can still be seen, including the shops that lined it, as well as an odeon (small theater). A powerful earthquake devastated the city in 363 CEo During the Byzantine period (324-638 CE), the small town that stood here had military characteristics. Excavations also revealed a palace from the Umayyad period (680-744 CE). Sources from the Crusader period (1099-1291 CE) mention the place as a seignorie (a district estate) belonging to the knights of the house of Ibelin. Their fortress was at Mirabel, the “Tower of Quiet Springs” (today known as Migdal Tsedek), which is visible from Tel Afeq.
The Antipatris Fortress – Binar Bashi
The fortress at the top of the mound was built during the Ottoman period, between 1572 and 1574. It was called Binar Bashi, which means “the head of the springs.” Its purpose was to guard the Afeq Pass on the segment of the Via Maris between Mount Carmel and Gaza. It is mistakenly called the Antipatris Fortress, after the Roman city that stood here.
An artificial lake in the Tel Afeq compound is a reconstruction of the wetlands that were here in the past. The INPA created the lake to augment the landscape in the national park and as a recreation site. It is a wetland habitat with aquatic and stream-bank vegetation.
The water-lily ponds
These are artificial (excavated) ponds in which yellow water lilies flourish. The water lily is an aquatic plant with a thick root that holds tight to the pond bottom and sprouts leaves and flowers above the water’s surface. The leaves emerge rolled up, eventually straightening and floating on the surface by means of long petioles (leaf stalks). The yellow water lily blooms from March through July. This flower has almost completely disappeared from the streams of this country due to pollution; here it is protected thanks to the rehabilitation and conservation of the Yarkon Stream. The INPA is working hard to protect the natural conditions the yellow water lily needs, so as to prevent its extinction.
Discover this place in Virtual Reality 360° by clicking on the image below.