The Golden Calf & Abraham’s Gate- Tel Dan Nature Preserve
Today started with a short hike in the Tel Dan Nature Preserve. 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. The bones of animals were found nearby in what seemed to be a sacrificial site so it is believed that after the downfall of the people after the idol, that they were trying to appease the higher powers with sacrifices of the animals.
We reached the top of the hills where we looked out towards Lebanon. There is a fence that marks the separation but we were too far up to be able to see it.
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.
Temple of Pan- Hermon Stream Nature Preserve
Next we took another short hike through the Hermon Stream Nature Preserve. This is a small area so the walk through the preserve was only a few minutes.
Just a little ways into the preserve 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 included a tomb temple of the sacred goats since Pan was part man and part goat. This complex would continue to develop through the Roman Empire.
Crusaders Castle-Nimrod Fortress National Park
Our next stop was to Nimrod Fortress National Park. This park holds the well preserved castle that was built by the crusaders during the first wave of the Crusades when knights were sent to reclaim the holy sites of Christianity from around the area. This castle stands on the hilltop of Mount Hermon and was used as a crusaders fortress for the years that they spent here.
Walking through the castle is an incredible experience and will bring to mind all the tales of the Medieval times and crusaders. 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.
The Valley of Tears Memorial
After lunch we made our way to the Valley of Tears where in 1973 Syria attacked Israel on the holy holiday of Yom Kippur. Syria was trying to take over the area of the Golan Heights in the northern part of Israel. Israel was unprepared for the attack and their numbers were drastically 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 as a tribute to the men who fought there protecting their country. Tanks from both sides remain where they were giving visitors an idea of how close they were to the opposing side.
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.