Tel Dan A lit­tle piece of par­adise

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - TOUR ISRAEL - • MEITAL SHARABI Pho­tos: HADAR YAHAV and MANU GREENSPAN

You don’t need to fly over­seas to find treks and na­ture trails to en­joy. There are plenty of mar­velous na­ture re­serves to visit in Is­rael, and this is one of the best times of year to get out into na­ture since the coun­try’s streams and rivers are gush­ing with wa­ter and the fields are blan­keted with blos­som­ing flow­ers.

One of my fa­vorite ar­eas in the coun­try is the Golan Heights. I’d like to de­scribe to you three beau­ti­ful trails in Tel Dan that will lead you past grace­ful streams and gor­geous scenery.

Not ev­ery­one is a morn­ing per­son, so if wak­ing up at the crack of dawn is not your fa­vorite way to start the day, all three of th­ese op­tions can be great for you, even if you only reach them in the af­ter­noon. If you’re al­ready trav­el­ing far from home, this is a great op­por­tu­nity to stay overnight at a cozy bed and break­fast in­stead of driv­ing all the way home late at night.

The trails at Tel Dan will lead you to streams with lots of cold flow­ing wa­ter, look­out spots, flour mills, his­tor­i­cal sites and de­light­ful wad­ing pools – in short, a lit­tle piece of par­adise. At Tel Dan, there seems to be wa­ter flow­ing ev­ery­where you look. The tall trees (which keep you cool in the hot sum­mer months) tower over Na­hal Dan, which is the largest source of the Jor­dan River and joins the Her­mon and Snir Rivers far­ther south. Tak­ing a walk along­side Na­hal Dan makes you want to fill your lungs with the clean, crisp air and clear your mind of all your day-to-day wor­ries. Na­hal Dan is a snow-fed river filled by melted wa­ter com­ing down from Mount Her­mon. The wa­ter seeps down into the ground and then erupts in hun­dreds of springs at the foot of the moun­tain, form­ing one of the most co­pi­ous karst springs in the en­tire Mid­dle East (about 240 cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter per year). It’s a de­light­ful sight by all ac­counts. Although the Tel Dan Na­ture Re­serve is ge­o­graph­i­cally small, it con­tains a large num­ber of hik­ing trails, streams and unique trees, flow­ers and plants – some of which reach 20 me­ters high. A num­ber of trails in the na­ture re­serve have been made ac­ces­si­ble for dis­abled in­di­vid­u­als, as well. In just one af­ter­noon, you can man­age to visit the an­cient flour mill, the mas­sive fourhorned al­tar built by King Jer­oboam and a clay­brick arched gate dat­ing back to the 18th cen­tury BCE. If you have time, you can con­tinue on to the re­mains of the an­cient Canaan­ite city of Laish, which was con­quered by the Tribe of Dan. While you walk along the path, keep your eyes peeled for the spot­ted sala­man­ders, which are an en­dan­gered species and are ac­tive mostly near wa­ter sources when it’s not too hot out­side.

The three dif­fer­ent hik­ing trails are of dif­fer­ent lengths and all have clear trail mark­ers. You should wear wa­ter shoes on all three, and bathing suits and tow­els are also rec­om­mended. I’m sure you’ll be happy

to know that there are plenty of spots along all three trails to stop for ro­man­tic pic­nics.

The first trail, which is the short­est, takes about an hour to com­plete. It passes over the stream, con­tin­ues by lots of lovely trees and fi­nally ends at the springs. It’s an easy, re­lax­ing hike that is per­fect for peo­ple who want to take a quick out­ing into na­ture.

The sec­ond trail, which takes about 90 min­utes, reaches all the way to the Ha’ela Out­look. It passes by the Pooh Bear Tree, a large hol­low tree that is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar among chil­dren and adults alike, and if you haven’t al­ready guessed, is also a pop­u­lar spot for fam­ily por­traits. The trail con­tin­ues through the Springs of Par­adise, called such since it is full of stun­ning streams, springs and dense fo­liage.

Con­tinue along the trail un­til you reach a fork in the road. One di­rec­tion leads to one of the flour mills lo­cated in­side the na­ture re­serve and an aqueduct. The other op­tion is to con­tinue on to a shal­low wad­ing pool that is a fa­vorite among chil­dren, even when it’s pretty cool out­side. Ac­tu­ally, it’s the only place where bathing is per­mit­ted within the Na­hal Dan Na­ture Re­serve and there are lots of benches around where you can re­lax or en­joy a pic­nic.

The third trail, which takes about 2.5 hours to com­plete, will take you past all of the points of in­ter­est lo­cated in the na­ture re­serve. You’ll see re­mains from ex­ca­va­tions that were car­ried out at Tel Dan, as well as ob­jects that were left be­hind by sol­diers who fought at the site in Is­rael’s War of In­de­pen­dence.

One of the high­lights of the third and long­est trail is the clay-brick arched gate dat­ing back to the 18th cen­tury BCE, which is at­trib­uted to the Canaan­ites and at­tests to the fact that a thriv­ing city func­tioned on that spot. Ap­par­ently, the struc­ture was used as a place of wor­ship, as well as for tri­als and meet­ings.

When you’re done hik­ing around the na­ture re­serve, I rec­om­mend spend­ing some time at SPNI’s Beit Us­sishkin Na­ture Mu­seum lo­cated in Kib­butz Dan. The mu­seum, which is housed in­side an im­pres­sive stone build­ing that was con­structed in the 1950s, dis­plays in­ter­est­ing plant and an­i­mal spec­i­mens from the Hula Val­ley and sur­round­ing area that dis­ap­peared as a re­sult of the drain­ing of the swamps.

In ad­di­tion, there’s an ex­hi­bi­tion in the mu­seum that dis­plays how peo­ple lived in the re­gion dur­ing bi­b­li­cal times and is based on ar­ti­facts un­cov­ered in ex­ca­va­tions car­ried out in Tel Dan. The mu­seum also of­fers ac­tiv­i­ties for kids and has a short film vis­i­tors can watch.

De­tails: Vis­its to the mu­seum should be co­or­di­nated in ad­vance at (04) 694-1704.

Direc­tions: Drive north on Route 90, turn right at Hamet­su­dot Junc­tion onto Route 99 and con­tinue 11 kilo­me­ters un­til you reach Kib­butz Dan.

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