Yatir Forest יער יתיר is situated on the southern slopes of Mount Hebron, on the edge of the Negev Desert. The forest covers an area of 30 sq km, 30,000 dunams, 7,413 acres, and is the largest planted forest in Israel.
The first trees were planted in 1964 by the Jewish National Fund at the initiative of Yosef Weitz. It is named after the ancient Levite city within its territory, Yatir, as written in the Hebrew Bible: “And unto the children of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron with its suburbs, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Libnah with its suburbs, and Yattir with its suburbs, and Eshtemoa with its suburbs” (Book of Joshua 21:13-14).
Over four million trees have been planted, mostly coniferous trees – Aleppo Pine and Cypress, but also many broad leafed trees such as Atlantic Terebinth, Tamarisk, Jujube, Carob, Olive, fig, Eucalyptus and Acacia, as well as vineyards and various shrubs. Yatir Forest has changed the arid landscape of the northern Negev, despite the pessimism of many experts. It has proven to be a prime ecological instrument, halting the desertification on the heights northeast of Beersheba.
The forest is situated at a relatively high altitude (between 400 and 850 metres above sea level) in a semi-arid region with an average yearly rainfall of 300–350 mm (12–14 in) and low humidity. The ground is composed of hard lime rocks, and soft chalk rocks.
The Israel National Trail, marked in 1991 runs through the forest. Yatir forest is located on the trail south of Meitar and north of Arad.
The Yatir biological farm is located next to Yatir Forest near the village of Meitar, northeast of Beersheba and the Bedouin village of Hura. The farm is based on permaculture principles, and grows vegetables, fruits, olives and medical herbs. Medical tinctures and essential oils are produced from the herbs and wild plants harvested in the desert, in cooperation with Negev Bedouins.