Tourist Tip #122 / Source of the Yarkon River

An ancient fortress and modern-day industrial achievement make Yarkon Sources-Afek National Park a fascinating blend of past and present.

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The lumbering fortress that crowns the ancient mound at Yarkon Sources-Tel Afek National Park is just one of many must-see sights and a good place to start an approximately two-hour visit that effortlessly combines nature and heritage.  

From the northwestern tower of this 16th-century compound you’ll get a breathtaking view of the coastal plain. From the southeastern corner of the fortress you can peer down at remains of the Roman road, built by Herod the Great who named it Antipatris after his father. The road recalls the New Testament story of Paul the Apostle, who spent the night here with his Roman guards as they marched him from Jerusalem to Caesarea (Acts 23:31). But the road is a virtual historical toddler compared to the other antiquities you’ll see. 

The city of Afek, straddling a strategic pass on the ancient highway from Egypt to Mesopotamia (the Via Maris) was founded in the fifth millennium BCE and is first mentioned in Egyptian writings some 4,000 thousand years ago. Among the finds unearthed in excavations of the Egyptian governor’s palace are documents written in hieroglyphics, Hittite, Akkadian, and Sumerian.

Later, the Israelites and the Philistines fought a battle literally of biblical proportions (mentioned in I Samuel as the battle of Ebenezer) which went down in history because the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant during their routing of the Israelites. Later, Afek was taken by both the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

If you’re interested in industrial history and architecture, the Yarkon sources waterworks – the beginning of a pipeline to Jerusalem built during the British Mandate – next to the fortress will attract your attention. Israel’s national water company still pumps water to the capital from these springs.

Nature beckons with the easy trail from Tel Afek to the Water Lilies Pool and the sources of the Yarkon River. You’ll be surrounded by flourishing stream-bank plants and flowers, the moist air filled with their fragrance. You may catch a glimpse of nutrias, foxes and various species of water birds, while emerald-green ring-necked parakeets swoop and dart overhead. You’ll find the yellow water lilies in gorgeous bloom from March to July. At the other end of the trail you’ll find a large playground and picnic tables and toilets and more historical sites.

If you’re driving, you can enter the park from either the Yarkon sources side (east of route 40 between the Yarkon and Segula junctions) or the fortress side (off route 483) between Kibbutz Giv‘at HaShlosha and Kibbutz Einat. Fancy a day’s bike ride? Rent a bike in Tel Aviv and pedal the approximately 27-km-long trail from Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park to your destination.

Phones: Tel Afek entrance: 03-903-0760; Yarkon sources entrance 03-934-8462

Hours: April-September 8 A.M.-5 P.M.

October-March 8 A.M- 4 P.M. Last entry one hour before closing time.

A view of the fortress that crowns the ancient mound at Yarkon Sources-Tel Afek National Park.Credit: Moshe Gilad
Nature beckons at the Yarkon Sources-Afek National Park.Credit: Moshe Gilad
The Yarkon River, a lovely place for a boat ride.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum