If you reached Ma’ayan Ha’ulmusim – Elms Spring – near Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet and no one else is there, then fate is smiling on you. This is the moment to think small. We’re in the land of the miniatures. It’s worth knowing that the spring is a beautiful, green place, with bubbling water, but also tiny and hidden in a thicket of trees – in other words, there isn’t room for many visitors. When it’s crowded, the magic can disappear. During the week there’s a good chance you’ll be lucky, on weekends it’s a gamble.
Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet, in Ramot Menashe, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The kibbutz and the Nahal Hashofet stream are named for Julian Mack, a U.S. federal judge who helped found the American Jewish Committee and served as president of the American Jewish Congress of 1918 and of the World Jewish Congress from 1936-43.
Just to confuse matters, a neighboring kibbutz – Ein Hashofet – was named for a different U.S. judge, Justice Louis Brandeis, who among many other things was a co-founder of the American Jewish Congress.
Picnic and a wade in a spring
Take the trail down to the southern tributary of Nahal Hashofet. The trail circles around the kibbutz from the west, outside the community’s fence. It leads to a small, well-kept site – Emek Hazeitim (“olive valley”): an olive grove with picnic tables alongside old farm implements. The place looks like a cross between a junkyard and a playground. It’s pleasant to sit there. The (marked) trail continues east and north to the spring.
It’s a small spring, with clear water, from which kibbutz members created a tiny pool, about 1.5 meters (5 feet) in diameter and 40 centimeters deep. The water is cold and because I was there alone, I could simply dip my feet in it and moan with enjoyment. Further down the path there’s another similar tiny pool.
Several mulberry and pomegranate trees that are now in bloom complete the picture. On the day of my visit there was also a bench and an office chair there, both of them completely unnecessary.
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The tall gray-leafed elms (ulmus canescens) that grow on the bank of the stream are part of the magic. This is a deciduous tree that is very rare. Israel is the southernmost area of its distribution.
How to get there: Waze: Ramat Hashofet Wood Industry. At the factory parking lot is the head of a trail that leads north to Emek Hazeitim and the spring. Part of it parallels the fence of the kibbutz. The hike is about 2 kilometers for the round trip. There is a moderate decline on the way there scent going there and an ascent on the way back. Entry is free, and no reservation is required.