Tour Is­rael

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • MEITAL SHARABI Pho­tos: HADAR YAHAV Trans­lated by Han­nah Hochner.

Ev­ery week­end it’s the same thing. We need to de­cide if we’re go­ing to spend the day loung­ing on the couch watch­ing Net­flix or if we’re go­ing to pick our­selves up and go out­side for a na­ture walk. Of course, the cor­rect mode of ac­tion should be to gather the kids, hastily put to­gether a pic­nic and go for a hike. Usu­ally when we con­jure images of north­ern Is­rael, we think of hik­ing un­der the hot sun. But in the win­ter, es­pe­cially in years like this one in which there has been lots of rain, the streams of the Galilee and Golan Heights are over­flow­ing with wa­ter and the wa­ter­falls are gush­ing with greater force than ever.

So if your idea of get­ting out into na­ture does not in­clude wait­ing for hours in a crowded line to en­joy a few min­utes of play­ing in the snow at the Her­mon site, then I have a few ideas of great ways to spend your week­end in the south­ern Golan Heights. One of the most pop­u­lar hik­ing ar­eas among Is­raelis is Na­hal El Al, where you’ll come across the Black Water­fall and the White Water­fall, which make deaf­en­ing noise as they crash down out of the basalt stone.

Na­hal El Al is a peren­nial stream lo­cated within the Na­hal El Al Na­ture Re­serve, which spreads out over 500 acres ad­ja­cent to Moshav Eliad and Moshav Avnei Ei­tan. The stream es­sen­tially serves as a nat­u­ral bor­der be­tween the chalky stone and black basalt rock ar­eas. Be­cause of the two dif­fer­ent col­ored rocky ar­eas, the two wa­ter­falls have com­pletely dif­fer­ent col­ors. In ad­di­tion, you’ll be happy to know that swim­ming is per­mis­si­ble in the pools that have formed below the wa­ter­falls.

Be­fore I be­gin de­scrib­ing the wa­ter­falls or the trails lead­ing to them, I’d like to first fo­cus on the gor­geous sur­round­ings you’ll pass through on your drive up to the Golan Heights. Once you reach the south­ern tip of the Kin­neret and turn onto the wind­ing Road 98, you’ll prob­a­bly want to stop at a look­out spot along the way, so you can have time to re­ally en­joy the views of the Golan Heights.

Once you’ve ar­rived at the start­ing point of the trail, you’ll need to de­cide which water­fall you want to hike to first, or if you want to walk to just one of them. If you’ve come with two cars, you can leave one in the Eliad park­ing area and the sec­ond one in Moshav Avnei Ei­tan. If you’ve come with just one car, you can park at Avnei Ei­tan and walk along the cir­cu­lar trail that passes by both wa­ter­falls.

My pref­er­ence is to be­gin the hike at Moshav Avnei Ei­tan since it’s close to the Black Water­fall and that way you don’t need to walk very long be­fore get­ting to en­joy one of the wa­ter­falls. But be aware that Avnei Ei­tan is a re­li­gious moshav, so the en­trance gate is locked on Shab­bat. In this case, you’ll need to park out­side the moshav and walk in by foot to reach the be­gin­ning of the trail (it’s not far and this way you have the op­por­tu­nity to take a look around the quiet moshav as you pass through).

An­other way to reach the water­fall is by driv­ing

along a dirt road that by­passes Moshav Avnei Ei­tan. To get there, turn left about 100 me­ters be­fore the en­trance to the moshav. You will see a sign for the trail. When you reach the head of the trail, fol­low the red trail mark­ers all the way down to the riverbed. Take ex­tra cau­tion dur­ing your de­scent if it has rained re­cently, since the trail can be slip­pery at times.

When you reach the river, cross over to the other side. If you’re wear­ing wa­ter shoes, you can walk right in­side the shal­low wa­ter. If you pre­fer not to get your shoes wet, there are step­ping stones you can jump on to cross while try­ing not to get too wet. When you reach the other side, turn left and con­tinue along the trail. From here on, the path is rel­a­tively flat and cov­ered with lots of trees and shrubs. As you walk along, you might come upon cows graz­ing in nearby pas­tures and but­ter­flies flit­ting around the trees. In gen­eral, this is a great time to en­joy the quiet as you walk along the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side. Af­ter about 15 min­utes, you’ll reach the Black Water­fall, which tow­ers at eight me­ters high.

To reach the water­fall, fol­low the steep path down to the small pool of wa­ter, where you’ll find peo­ple swim­ming pretty much all year long re­gard­less of the tem­per­a­ture out­side. This is also a fan­tas­tic place to stop for a pic­nic, es­pe­cially in the shade of the plane trees sur­round­ing the pool. If your plan was to visit only the Black Water­fall, when you’ve fin­ished re­lax­ing here, you can re­trace your foot­steps back at the park­ing area.

If you’d like to con­tinue on the trail to see the White Water­fall, con­tinue walk­ing along the north (right) side of the stream. While you’re walk­ing along this two-kilo­me­ter scenic trail, you can stop for a rest or pic­nic at any of the lit­tle nat­u­ral pools that have formed next to the river, but keep in mind that the longer it takes you to com­plete this sec­tion, the less time you’ll have to spend when you reach your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion: the im­pres­sive White Water­fall, which tow­ers at 14 me­ters high and crashes down nois­ily onto the pool.

When you’ve fin­ished en­joy­ing the view from up above, climb down to the pool below, which is very sim­ple to reach: when you reach the fork in the road, take the path that de­scends down­wards. Af­ter you’ve spent some time gaz­ing up at the water­fall from down below, (and tak­ing a dip in the cold wa­ter if you’re au­da­cious enough), it’s time to start the mod­er­ate as­cent back up along the trail with the red trail mark­ers, which will take you back to your car. If you came with two cars and left one of them in Eliad, then this is the end of your hike. If you left your car in Avnei Ei­tan, then con­tinue in a southerly di­rec­tion to­wards the main road. Af­ter 200 me­ters, you’ll see a dirt path that will lead you back to the park­ing area.

Level of dif­fi­culty: Medium-hard. Best not to hike on this trail right af­ter a rain.

Direc­tions: From Kursi In­ter­sec­tion, drive up to­wards the Golan Heights and turn left at Afik In­ter­sec­tion onto Road 98. Make an­other left at the en­trance to Moshav Avnei Ei­tan.

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