Tucked Away Between the Border and the River, This Is Israel’s 'Most Preserved Nature Reserve'

Cooler weather provides the perfect time to visit this area of the Jordan River, where you can observe the pelicans, the river and the neighboring kingdom

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Ein Avuka, with shade and pleasant places to sit
Ein Avuka, with shade and pleasant places to sitCredit: Gil Eliahu
Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad

Many out-of-touch pelicans haven’t received the memo that the autumn migration is over. This week, hundreds of them glided gracefully over the fish ponds of Maoz Haim and Kfar Ruppin in the late afternoon, looking for a place to spend the night. A spectacular scene.

The area east of Beit She’an and around Kfar Ruppin doesn’t get many visitors. This is the best season to visit it. The weather is cooler, the pelicans are still here and the region affords observation points on the river, the neighboring kingdom in the east and a few peaceful, isolated places.

The Ge’on Hayarden Kfar Ruppin Reserve, formed between the security fence and the river, is considered “the most preserved reserve in Israel.” The reason is simple: It’s closed and nobody visits it, but it can be observed from several convenient sites. The reserve is a globally significant ecological corridor for wildlife passage, sprawling from Kibbutz Hamadia in the valley’s north to Tirat Zvi in the south.

The view from Maoz HaimCredit: Gil Eliahu
Ein AvukaCredit: Gil Eliahu

The route from Road 6688 eastward, opposite Kibbutz Maoz Haim, leads to a wonderful lookout named for Yoram Merlander of Kfar Giladi, who was killed in the War of Attrition. A comfortable wooden swing enables observation of the winding Jordan River, the villages across the border and the thick shrubbery.

Three kilometers to the south you’ll find a few mounds. The northern one is Tel Karpas, which offers an observation point on the Gilead mountains, with benches and a shady roof.

Tel Artal, or in its Arab name, Tel A-Sheikh Daoud, stands further south, near where a new birding center will apparently open in two months. Remnants of an ancient community were discovered here in past digs. Another mound, Tel Maluach, is located south of Kfar Ruppin, in the kibbutz’s fish pond area. It affords nice observation over the river, but is currently closed.

Tel Karpas observation pointCredit: Gil Eliahu
Tel Karpas observation pointCredit: Gil Eliahu

Before the entrance gate to Kfar Ruppin you should turn right (west) to a good gravel road and drive about a kilometer along the Avuka stream to Ein Avuka. There is plenty of shade and pleasant sitting places around the beautiful spring. Kibbutz Avuka, which was established here in 1941, was abandoned in 1951 and only a memorial remains in its former location.

Until 1948, the Arab village Masil Aljl lay near Ein Avuka. Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin was founded in 1938 on land bought from the Arab village’s residents. The village was conquered immediately after Israel's establishment and its 120 residents were deported to Jordan.

Getting there: Kfar Ruppin on Waze, or Bus 16 from Beit She’an. The sites are free of charge and do not require prior coordination.

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