Thursday, 8 November 2018

Back in the Golan Again

My dad has been back here for another visit and during his stay we took a trip to the Golan with him, an area of Israel which we all love to visit. The eldest son, who has now flown the nest and is living on a kibbutz whilst doing a pre-army course, was home for a few days as well, so off we went to explore. I would say that it was also an opportunity for some well-earned rest, but no one gets any rest on one of my trips!
I had booked guest rooms at Kibbutz Ortal, a kibbutz in the northern Golan Heights. The main source of income for the kibbutz is mostly through agriculture but it also has a vineyard which is affiliated with the Golan Heights Winery and produces several varieties of grapes for their own boutique winery. On the first morning of our visit we were lucky enough to get a short tour around the winery and a tasting too, before stopping off for a quick visit to Ortal's mini zoo, Hai-Tal, below.
Our next stop of the day was at the Banias Nature Reserve, which we last visited back in 2015. We had come to see the roaring Banias waterfall, the biggest waterfall in Israel, which we could view at the end of a suspended trail - a walk through a narrow basalt canyon above the rushing Hermon Stream. Nothing quite prepares you for the loveliness of the walk to the waterfall. It was hot for some of the way but, once you get down to the suspended trail, it becomes more pleasant in the shade and the sight of the rushing waters is just magnificent. Crystal clear and cold, it was tempting to stick our feet in! However, access to the Hermon Stream has been strictly forbidden since the early 1990s in order to preserve the delicate ecology. The 10-metre Banias waterfall (mapal in Hebrew) at the end of the trail is a wonderful sight and even in summer with lower water flow, it was well worth a visit.
We then drove on to the second part of the Banias Nature Reserve, the Banias Springs. It is possible to walk between the two sites along a trail which runs along the Hermon Stream, but you need two cars to accomplish this hike, unless you want to walk two hours back to the parking lot where you started!
According to the Gospels, it was in Banias that the disciple Simon informed Jesus that people believed Jesus to be the messiah. In response, Jesus renamed Simon "Peter," which means "rock" in Greek - the rock upon which his church would be founded.
At the Banias Springs we were greeted by the impressive ruins of the Temple of Pan, a grotto, courtyards and niches for rituals dedicated to the worship of Pan, developed in several phases during the Roman period. Banias was originally named "Panias" after the Greek god Pan, god of the forests and shepherds. Since there is no "p" sound in Arabic and the region was long under Syrian rule, the village that grew up around the spring came to be called Banias.
The Banias Springs site has ruins from the Roman period, when the village was called Caesarea Philippi after King Herod’s son Philip who inherited the area and made it his capital. The Palace of Agrippa the Second, grandson of Herod, is among the relics. Caesarea Philippi remained important during the Christian Byzantine period. It was later conquered by the Muslims and then the Crusaders, then went back under Islamic rule and fell from its heyday.
We had time for just one of the four trails offered at the Banias Springs. Our chosen trail took us past a Roman bridge and the remains of a Crusader tower that controlled the sole entrance to the city of Banias and could block the entrance when necessary. A few metres along we found a water-powered flour mill which once served the residents of the Golan Heights villages of Massadeh and Ein Kinya. The trail then led on to the Palace of Agrippa the Second, a public building constructed at the beginning on the first century CE. The site extends over more than 2000 square metres. During the Byzantine period many stones were taken from this building to build other structures, and part of the palace became a bathhouse. A structure apparently used as a synagogue and dating from the eleventh century CE was also discovered here.
Continuing on we passed the remains of the Cardo, below, the colonnaded street that crossed the city from north to south, which was constructed during the period of Philip and Agrippa the Second. Additional streets were constructed during the Byzantine period.
This was the end of the particular trail we had followed but the corner tower, also below, situated at the end of the trail, is worth noting. The lower walls of the tower were built in the late Roman and Byzantine periods. Above them is a part of a Crusader wall and above the wall are the remnants of an Ayyubid corner tower. Above the tower remnants are Ottoman structures built of small brown stones, and at the top are modern Syrian constructions. Amazing!
Our next stop was at Mitspe Golani, also known Tel Facher, below. I hadn't planned on stopping here on this visit but it is near to the Banias and I realised that it was the kind of place my dad gets a lot from.
Prior to the Six Day War of 1967, Tel Facher was the strongest and most important Syrian base in the northern Golan Heights. For several decades, Syrian guns on Tel Facher dominated and terrorized the entire region. During the Six Day War, however, Israeli troops fought one of the fiercest battles in Israel’s military history, determined to retake the base and thus end the Syrian stranglehold over Israeli citizens. Over the course of a five hour battle, every single Israeli soldier but one was either killed or wounded, but by the end of the day, the base was in Israeli hands.
Today, the site is known as Mitspe Golani or Golani Lookout, renamed for the Israeli Defence Force’s infantry brigade whose soldiers fought and died for this base. An impressive memorial has been built to honour the memories of the Golani soldiers who fell here. A low memorial wall lists the names of the fallen soldiers.
We were able to wander around the well-marked Syrian trench system and walk through the narrow, well-fortified bunkers. With the exception of adding the memorial, the military features of the site have not been reconstructed since the moment of capture in 1967. Since the base is located so high in the Golan, we also enjoyed magnificent views of the region and of the Hula Valley below.
Our final stop of the day was at the Sa’ar waterfalls located about 4 kilometres below the Nimrod Fortress, on the horizon above, another incredible place we have been to in the past. Located just a few steps from the road this is allegedly a gorgeous waterfall, with powerfully rushing streams and well-placed observation points to take it all in. However, the waterfalls are best visited in the winter or spring when the water and snow from Mount Hermon are still making their descent to the Sea of Galilee. In the summer and autumn there was simply nothing to see! We hadn't timed our visit to the waterfall well at all.
It was time to call it a day and return to Kibbutz Ortal. I had more planned for the following day...

Fifi and Hop

37 comments:

VeggieMummy said...

Goodness, I bet your Dad could have done with a sit down after all that! Sounds like a great place to visit - and wine tasting too! xx

krishna said...

So much history! Love it..

Kate and Kris said...

I love this kind of scenery. It definitely invites a glass of wine and some olives, right?

Joyful said...

There is so much history in your short tour. It's hard for a foreigner like me who has never travelled yet to Israel to retain it. I hope some day I will be able to go and see for myself. I'm sure your dad really appreciated your touring suggestions, especially the touching story of the Six Days War, the history and the memorial that is maintained there.

Tanza Erlambang - Every Day Issues said...

beautiful sceneries, and thank you for your descriptions of Golan.
have a great day

Nonnie said...

We have visited Israel twice and I have a pic of me somewhere at the Banias Falls. Great pics. We visited in the 90's and the pics I took were not as good as yours. Thanks for all this wonderful history.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I always love accompanying you on a trip. Great historical narrative and beautiful waterfall.

Miss Val's Creations said...

What stunning places to visit with loved ones. The landscape around the waterfall must be so different from much of Israel. It is so interesting to see.

Anisa said...

The scenery there is gorgeous! I love that waterfall shot. The ruins look impressive too. Definitely a good area for at least a day trip. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

An Aussie in San Francisco said...

What an awesome trip! The Kibbutz mini-zoo was cool enough, but to then go to Banias Nature Reserve and see the waterfall that is integral to the Bible.

Mackintosh Travels said...

Israel is so beautiful! I never knew there were waterfalls there. Maybe one day I'll be able to visit. Thank you for sharing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

Travel Notes and Beyond said...

I kind of envy you for this trip Israel has been on my list for so long, but I still didn't make it there. Golan goes back a long time in history and it has such an interesting history. I'm hoping to make it there someday. #TheWeeklyPostcard

Kimberly said...

I so enjoy hiking to water falls. Hiking in general, is a great way to sightsee, while traveling. However, having a destination, such as a beautiful water fall, like Banais, makes it more rewarding. I also love the ancient ruins and the history that they hold. What an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

Aritha said...

Love to see YOUR waterfall. So nice to see an natural one.

Obligatory Traveler said...

That nature reserve looks amazing! What beautiful scenery. Staying and being able to tour a winery sounds super fun. #WeekendWanderlust

FeetDoTravel said...

I'm out of breath just thinking of this short tour, you certainly covered a lot. So much history, so much to take in, and that waterfall! It's always worth trekking to a waterfall, whether it be 5 minutes or a few hours, listening to the roar of the water and seeing its power is worth it. #feetdotravel

Anne said...

It sounds like an amazing trip and you have fitted so much in. The first waterfall looks stunning, it's a shame you didn't get to see a second.

Rhonda Albom said...

I've always wondered about the Golan Heights and what happened there. Thanks for a bit of history and a look into a place I hope to see with my own eyes one day.

Deborah Regen said...

I have enjoyed visiting the Golan Heights in the past and especially learning about the local vineyards and wine making process. It is a shame that so many visitors to Israel only have time for Jerusalem and never get to see such beautiful places in northern Israel. They might not fully realize what they are missing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

Jessica Norah said...

Looks like a great place to visit and stay in Israel. You have ruins, views, waterfalls, and a winery - lots to see and do!! I've never been to Israel but it is a country I would love to visit some day.

beatravelling said...

I not made it to Israel yet, but hoping too, some day :) #theweeklypostcard

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I can tell you had a satisfying adventure. The history of each location is mind-blowing.

doodles n daydreams said...

Some wonderful photos here. Thank you
Diana

italiafinlandia said...

Interesting journey... I like the nature reserve and the waterfalls!

Kim Carberry said...

Wow! What a trip you had. It looks a wonderful place to explore. #MMBC

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

Curious! Do you have to be Jewish to stay at a kibutz?

EricaSta said...

Interesting to read! Wish you a good week.

Sharon Wagner said...

I know so little about that part of the world. Other than bible stories, which you included too. I bet the waterfall really is an oasis. Cute hawk or falcon.

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

Thanks for answering my question. We have no plans to come to Isreal at the moment, but my husband travels a lot for work, so it is always a possibility. I have a few other places I want to go first before we return to Isreal. I was just asking as it seems like it would be a fun way to really experience the culture. As a child, a friend of my mothers invited me to stay at one with her and her family, but this was the 70's and my mom was too scared to let me go.

Klara said...

Israel is so on my bucket list! love your attitude ("no one gets any rest on one of my trips!"):-). lovely photos.

Jayne SMABL said...

I always enjoy reading about your travels. Such a beautiful place to visit and what a stunning waterfall.

Thanks so much for sharing with #MMBC. x

junieper said...

Beautiful nature area and lovely waterfall! It sounds from your account Banias is a beautiful and historic place. Yeah, I never forget the miracle of the 6-day war! It has been a long time since I saw a bunker!
Thank you for sharing the significant and nature details with All Seasons!
PS a smart move to get people to a kibbutz to get used to community life, before becoming a soldier:) And yay you were first 2 weeks in a row!

Corey | Fifi + Hop said...

So much beautiful nature, scenery and history! Even though you didn't get to see the waterfalls, it still looks like you were able to experience and see so much. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

Sharon said...

The waterfall looks so refreshing in the desert. I love how you said no one gets to rest on your trips. That's exactly how I travel. We can sleep in later -- let's get out and explore!

Jibber JabberUK said...

What scenery and what history! I always think it is amazing to stand on the same earth where events happened thousands of years ago.

Peabea Scribbles said...

How great to live in such a historical place. I always do enjoy your sharings. Thanks for sharing your photography of your outing. Best wishes to your son as he prepares for service life. Safe travels for your dad.

Stephanie Robinson said...

What a wonderful trip - and oh, those springs! Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

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