Today started with a short hike in the Tel Dan Nature Preseve. The trail itself was lovely as it went through the trees and over rocks in the river. This river is one of three sources of the Jordan River and is the largest source to the river. While the hike itself was lovely the real draw of this area is the remains of a city from the Canaanite period. We came upon the site that archeologist have been uncovering and learning from since it was first discovered in 1966. Here they found a fossilized tablet with an inscription of Hazael, King of Damascus boasting of his victory over the king of Israel and the king of the house of David. This was the first time the words ‘house of David’ were used outside the bible. Archeologist believe that the center part of the site with the raised platform was where the people placed the golden calf as an idol which then brought destruction to the people. We reached the top of the hills where we had an overlook towards Lebanon. We back down the hill and followed the trail until we came to what is called ‘Abraham’s Gate’. This gate stands at 7 meters and has remained completely intact since it was built in the time of the Canaanites. This arch is one of the earliest complete arches found in the world and one of the only ones still standing. It was amazing to stand in front of the arch and think that Abraham could have stood in the same spot thousands of years ago.
Next we took another short hike through the Hermon Stream Nature Preserve where we found the Temple of Pan. This temple to the Greek God Pan was constructed at the foot of a cliff stretching 70 meters long and 40 meters high. What was at some point a the back wall of a cave collapsed creating rock terraces which the temple was constructed on. All along the terraces you can see the remains of decorative embellishments put there to place statues of Pan and other adornments to honor the god. This complex would continue to develop through the Roman Empire.
Our next stop was a look at a castle built by the Crusaders during the first wave of the Crusades at Nimrod Fortress National Park. This castle stands on the hilltop of Mount Hermon. Walking through the castle is an incredible experience and will bring to mind all the tales of the Medieval cause of reclaiming Christian sites from the Muslims throughout the Holy Land. While the stories have been romanticized far and beyond the reality of that time, there is no denying that the castle left behind is a stunning piece of architecture and craftsmanship.
We stopped for lunch for some delicious Falafel while we overlooked the beautiful valley next to us. Apparently this valley is home to the ski resort of Israel where early spring brings visitors to enjoy the limited time of snow.
After lunch we made our way to the Valley of Tears where in 1973 Syria attacked Israel on the holy holiday of Yom Kippur as Syria tried to take over the Golan Heights area of Israel. Israel was unprepared for the attack and their numbers were far fewer than those of the Syrian army. But because of some key strategic moves, Israel prevailed forcing the Syrian army to retreat. We started off with a movie talking about the war with interviews of some of the men who were there on the front lines as they faced off against the many tanks of the other army and the strategic moves that were used in claiming their victory. The video was powerful and having the actual people from then talk about it just made it so moving. We went over to the Valley of Tears where the memorial has been erected complete with tanks from both Israel and Syria and stands as a tribute to those incredible men who saved their country.
Today has been mix of the biblical constructions, the mystical God Pan, the crusaders and their influence, and the horrific parts of war. So much to discover in such a small area of the country but one that I am grateful to have been a part of.