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University Trip: Northern Golan

In Golan, Israel on June 24, 2018 at 7:26 AM

A week after my two-day trip to the Golan, Bet Shean Valley and Agamon Hefer I took yet another university trip to the Golan. With so many Golan posts coming out in relative succession, it can be slightly confusing as to which is which. This post is the counterpart to the Southern Golan post, a further look at the geology and topography of the Golan as a region. Our guide was Mr Moty Rubinstein, an octogenarian lecturer in my department, and together we set out in the morning from the Bar Ilan University campus.

Group photo

We took a brief stop along Road 6, where members of our party sampled from the fruits of a ficus tree, inspiring an Indian tourist to follow suit much to our amusement. As we progressed further north, we began to see interesting birds from the tour bus windows. The frequently-mentioned Adam was present, so I had who to bird-talk with as we pointed out white storks and kestrels. Climbing into the Golan, via Road 91 towards the old customs house, we noticed several buzzards sitting on the boulders that dot the grassy land.

Otniel Shamir Memorial

Pulling into the tourist area of Katzrin, the so-called capital of the Golan, we learned about the basalt formations in nearby Nachal Meshushim, where hexagonal pillars of rock line a nicely sized pool – a popular destination for hikers. From there we drove a few minutes away to a memorial site outside of Moshav Kidmat Tzvi, dedicated to the memory of Captain Otniel Shamir, a fighter pilot who was shot down by the Syrians during the Six Day War.

Grasshopper on a lupine pod

After spending some time at the memorial, and learning more about the story behind it, we moved on, passing the ruins of Nafakh, and pulled over on the side of the road near the access road to Quneitra, a border city in the UNDOF Zone between Israel and Syria. These interesting roads are familiar to me from when I was a Safaron driver in the army; those were very interesting times. We disembarked at the side of the golden grassland and examined our topographical surroundings.

Golan landscape

From there we drove down Road 98 for a few minutes just to look at the giant wind turbines atop Mount Bnei Rasan, the object of contention between green energy activists and those focusing on the countless avian deaths caused by the spinning blades. Our guide pointed out the small hills dotting the relatively flat landscape, with several large ones making quite the change in topography.

Golan Volcanic Park

Turning back around, we headed up north a wee bit and stopped off at the Golan Volcanic Park at the foot of Mount Avital. There, we immediately saw some European rollers, their bright blue and orange plumage making them unmistakeable as they flew back and forth in front of us. Within minutes we realised that they are nesting in tunnels carved out of the porous volcanic rock walls. As we toured the site, examining the different types of volcanic rock and learning more about volcanic activity and its role in shaping the land around us, I got slightly distracted with the birds. First, some kestrels lured me away from my group and then a very vocal common whitethroat, a type of warbler, entranced me with his melodious song as he flew from bush to bush. Then, satisfied with my whitethroat experience, I noticed a pair of woodchat shrikes perched on a nearby fence, chasing away anything that approached, including a surprised Eurasian jay which made quite a hasty escape.

Mount Avital

When we finished with the park we drove up to Mount Avital and parked at a spot where we could get out and see the volcanic crater caused when the extinct volcano erupted ages ago. The green slopes were dotted with small trees and shrubs and the basin was occupied by a vineyard, whose story was related to us by our knowledgeable guide. The distinct call of the corn bunting filled our ears and another roller passed by overhead, nearly allowing me to get a decent photo.

View of Mount Avital from Mount Bental

Getting back into the bus we drove over to the neighbouring mountain to the north, Mount Bental. Famous for its bunkers, observation points and uniquely-named cafe, the mountain draws a large amount of tourists, so much so that there are actually signs on the peak written in Chinese. We stood at a nice vantage point next to the parking lot, looking out at Mount Avital and a destroyed rusty tank down below. After briefly looking out over the western side we made out way to the summit, 1165 metres above sea level. I bypassed the famous Coffee Anan, named after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and made my way to the observation point where tourists were gathered looking out over Syria.

Within the military bunkers

Having seen this sight a number of times over the past few years, I moved onto into the underground bunker complex, hoping in the offchance that there was an interesting bat or two not scared off by the visitors. All I found was a fly, but I took its picture as if it was the coolest thing in the world. Reemerging into daylight I found myself looking at two blue-capped UN officers. Recalling my times in the army, I decided it’d be fun to strike up a conversation.

UN observation post

The two officers, one Irish and one Australian, told me all about their service and their origins, enriching my knowledge. Adam joined me, grilled the officers with some of his own questions, and then we moved on. Our group was heading back down the mountain to the next site: the Big Joba.

View of Syria

Located in the Odom Forest just several kilometres north of Mount Bental, the Big Joba is the largest of a series of local geological features in the form of a concave dome. Hard to capture photographically, unless photographed aerially, the pit is 250 metres across and sixty metres deep. We walked a short paved trail through the trees until we reached the joba.

Looking at the Big Joba

Again, I had hoped to find some wildlife, but birding in the woods in quite challenging with all the trees and leaves, so I was prepared to give up after seeing just one interesting lizard. But then, as we were sitting at the edge of the joba, Adam motioned to me to look at the treeline above the crater. Sure enough, a steppe buzzard was wheeling his way upwards into the thermals and we were fortunate to catch him before he disappeared.

Birkat Ram

Getting back into our tour bus, we drove further north until we arrived at the Druze village of Mas’ade (not to be confused with the ruins of Masada) and Birkat Ram, a crater lake fed by an underwater spring and rainwater. We stood in a parking lot overlooking the nice blue lake and then something special caught my eye. Among the barn swallows perched on the nearby power lines were a handful of house martins – my first time seeing them!

House martin (photo Adam Ota)

Ending the trip on that high, at the foot of Mount Hermon, we got back into our bus for the long drive back to the university tired but happy and looking forward to the next adventurous trip.

University Trip: Golan & Bet Shean Valley

In Galilee, Golan, Israel on June 10, 2018 at 8:50 AM

A month ago, shortly after my trip to Mount Arbel, I went on yet another two-day trip to the north of the country. Offered by my department at Bar Ilan University, this trip was led by Dr Moshe Natan and specialised in wildlife habitats. We departed from Givat Shmuel in the morning, headed north in our tour bus, eager to begin the exciting day. Indeed, excitement was forthcoming; at a rest stop near Bet Shean we saw a booted eagle being mobbed by two crows.

Nesting colony outside Kibbutz Degania

Our first real stop of the day was the expansive nesting grounds on the banks of the Kinneret (or, Sea of Galilee) just outside of Kibbutz Degania. There, species such as night herons, cattle egrets, little egrets, glossy ibises and pygmy cormorants share the thickly-foliaged trees in a joint effort to hatch and raise the next generation. We found a nice spot in the grass that overlooked a handful of the colony’s nests and began to watch. Each species has a different approach in rearing their young, and it was interesting to compare the relatively calm feeding habits of the glossy ibis with those of the violent cattle egret.

Night heron nest

While we watched, a juvenile marsh harrier ventured into the scene, scaring some of the colony’s inhabitants as it soared by. On the banks of the Kinneret down below I was able to make out, with the aid of 7×50 binoculars, a pair of purple herons – my very first time seeing them. An hour or so later we bid farewell to the hundreds of breeding birds and got back into our bus.

View from the Beit Saida Lookout

We were headed for the Golan, with a few stops planned out, the first being the Beit Saida Lookout. In addition to the sweeping view of the Kinneret area, two species of animals brought us to the piles of basalt stones at the lookout: the Levante fan-fingered gecko and the rock hyrax.

Levante fan-fingered gecko

Venturing onwards after some bonding with the lizards, we found ourselves disembarking in a small parking lot at the edge of Daliyot Woods. There, we followed a trail towards the peaks and valleys that neighbour the iconic Gamla ridge, where I had visited just one month prior. Enjoying the lovely weather with its sprinkling of raindrops, we crossed a tiny stream and rounded a mountain ridge, treated to a great view. A short-toed eagle passed by us, giving us a few moments of excitement. It was nearly noon when we reached a certain point on the trail that made our guide stop and scan the cliffside with the spotting scope.

Walking in the Nachal Daliyot nature reserve

When Dr Natan found what he was looking for he shared it with the rest of us: an Egyptian vulture nest with one of the parents roosting. Nearly impossible to detect to the non-discerning eye, the nest and bird were nearly perfectly camouflaged. We watched the nest while we learned more about Egyptian vultures, the sharp barks of the rock hyraxes interrupting from time to time. When we were finished with the vulture we headed back, via the same slope trail that we had taken earlier.

Spying on the Egyptian vulture nest

Back in the bus, we then drove over to Nov, a moshav in southern Golan, to look at the nests of white storks. We pulled up alongside one, where one of the parents was sitting, and gazed upon the huge stack of sticks in wonder. Although white storks are plentiful during a fair part of the year, only a handful of them breed in Israel, and the nests are therefore well-known amongst naturalists. Before long the roosting stork’s partner came by to take over the shift, and we watched the first stork fly off to the nearby field to hunt. While we were obsessing over the stork I noticed a black kite and a short-toed eagle in the thermals, mere specks in the blue skies. Before we left we took a quick look at another nearby stork nest, and then headed our way to the Bet Shean Valley.

White stork landing on the nest

We were to be spending the night at Kibbutz Kfar Rupin, at the “Stork’s Bill” Bird Watching Centre’s country dwelling accommodations. Disembarking, we received keys to our rooms and were updated with the evening plans, of which there were many. First, after some rest, I joined Dr Natan and a few others in setting out traps for rodents in a nearby field. Then, joining the rest of our group, we heard a short talk about the centre and birds in the region.

Our country dwelling in Kfar Rupin

Following that, Dr Natan gave us a class on bats and echolocation, promising to show us Kuhl’s pipistrelles on our forthcoming night tour. Armed with all sorts of gadgetry, including devices that read, record and amplify bat calls, we set out for the tour. Almost immediately we could hear the distinct calls of the scops owl, the smallest owl in Israel. Choosing to remain focused on the bats, we were then treated to a fascinating display from the pipistrelles, illuminated in flight by the powerful flashlights and headlamps we were using.

Night touring

Leaving the residential area of the kibbutz, we moved on over to the cowsheds, constantly scanning the ground and skies for interesting nocturnal wildlife. Our walk took us out of the kibbutz and into the collection of fish ponds, where the insects are more than plentiful. Shining the powerful flashlight cemented in the fact that we were most definitely surrounded by millions if not billions of flying insects, mostly mosquitoes I presume.

Beam of light illuminating the horror of insects

We saw a hedgehog at the water’s edge, fish leaping out of the water sporadically, and the occasional Kuhl’s pipistrelle flying by and activating the electronic sensors. We continued through the insect swarm, avoiding opening our mouths for fear for ingesting winged creatures. The lights of neighbouring Jordan provided a sense of direction for us as we walked the gravel paths between the ponds, constantly seeking out interesting lifeforms. Even looking directly down at the insect and spider-covered ground was a hearty adventure.

Walking along the fish ponds

Our attention soon turned towards the frogs and toads that we could hear calling from the water’s edge. Before long we had captured several fine specimens of both the green toad and the Middle East tree frog. When I was taking the photo of this male tree frog, I hadn’t noticed the mosquito sitting on its head enjoying some sips of amphibian blood.

Middle East tree frog with a mosquito on his head

Making a full loop of the ponds, we eventually reached the cowsheds that we had initially passed on our way out. Taking a slightly different route, we followed the kibbutz’s fence towards our dwelling complex. On the way I played scops owl calls from my Collins Bird Guide phone application, hoping to attract a scops owl. Then, when I was standing in front of a tree, my headlamp illuminating a fair portion of the foliage, I saw a small fluttering shape land on a branch.

Scops owl hiding in the tree

It took my mind a moment to register that it was a scops owl, and I frantically called for my peers to come see the owl once I had established its identity. With the aid of others, I was able to take its picture (mostly, at least) hiding in tree’s foliage. Being that I’ve been wanting to see a scops owl for years, this moment was most rewarding, and I was able to retire to bed feeling quite satisfied. Little did I know that the very next day I’d be seeing another long-awaited bird species just a few kilometres away…

Gamla II

In Golan, Israel on May 6, 2018 at 9:03 AM

Leaving Nachal Metzar and Ein Pik, my friend Adam and I drove along Roads 98 and 808 until we reached the access road to the next stop on our list: Gamla. As we approached we noticed several large birds of prey in the skies above us, and tried our best to identify them with maintaining the necessary safety to survive the experience mid-drive. At last, after identifying at least one short-toed eagle we pulled into Gamla National Park and parked the car. To my surprise, just in front of the car, perched on a rock, was my very first ortolan bunting just waiting for us to take its picture.

Ortolan bunting (photo Adam Ota)

Already filled with excitement, we headed straight for the Vulture Lookout where we knew there’d be interesting sightings. Perched at the eastern side of the deep ravine accentuated by Nachal Gamla, the cliff sides have been the nesting sites for many species for years. When I had visited last, on a trip with my father to both Gilgal Refa’im and Gamla, we had spent a few minutes at the lookout and then headed towards the dolmen and the Gamla Waterfall.

View from the Vulture Lookout

This time Adam and I were dedicated to the birding potential and so we decided to dedicate as much time as possible to spot as many interesting species as possible. With that mindset we planted ourselves at the lookout’s edge and began to watch. Nearly immediately, a few of the park’s iconic Griffon vultures soared out from the sanctuary of the cliff edges, provided us with satisfaction.

Griffon vulture patrolling the slopes (photo Adam Ota)

But there wasn’t just the immense Griffon vultures to be seen, more short-toed eagles and a lesser spotted eagle soared over from the west. We stood there patiently, watching as the large birds of prey passed by, entranced by the richness of the region. Next up, a Bonelli’s eagle emerged from the cliffs, its rounded wings and pale abdomen giving away its identity. I was excited to see my first-ever Bonelli’s eagle, but there was no time to waste because more birds were emerging.

Bonelli’s eagle (photo Adam Ota)

Overhead, we managed to spot a large number of specks in the sky and, with the aid of our zoom lenses, we identified them as a flock of white storks. Mixed in with the storks, but at a slightly different altitude, we spotted a dozen or so black kites. Returning to the cliffs, an Egyptian vulture made an appearance, followed by another Griffon vulture. Together they soared, patrolling the cliff-sides as we watched and took pictures.

Mount Hermon in the distance (photo Adam Ota)

We couldn’t tire of watching these large birds of prey from such a short distance, but there were other birds also capturing our attention. Tons of little swifts zipped by overhead, eating airborne insects, and male blue rock thrushes in their brilliant summer plumage called noisily from the rocks, trying to attract mates.

Blue rock thrush (photo Adam Ota)

We enjoyed lunch while we birdwatched, and exchanged words with the other visitors to the lookout, but eventually it was time to move on. We headed over to the Gamla Lookout, passing by some of the basalt ruins of Deir Qeruh, and took a moment to enjoy the view of the ruined city below.

Ruins of Deir Qeruh

Ancient Gamla was built on a triangular rock wedge that juts out between two streams far below, and is thereby a greatly strategic location for an ancient walled city. First occupied in the Early Bronze Age, the site became most famous for its time as a Jewish city under Roman siege. As described by Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, the city was attacked by Roman forces first under Agrippa II and then under Vespasian, the latter succeeding in conquering the city despite heavy losses.

Gamla (photo Adam Ota)

We made our way down the winding path towards the entrance of the city, walking gingerly over the stone steps as we continued our search for new and interesting birds. Towards the bottom we spotted a sparrowhawk passing quickly overhead, always a nice addition to a day’s birding.

Ancient city of Gamla

Outside the entrance of the city we found a reconstructed Roman weapons of siege, and then we passed through the breach in the wall where we found the ruins of residential structures and a synagogue. Because Gamla was never rebuilt after the destruction, the remains have largely been left as is, other than disturbances by natural causes.

Gamla’s ancient synagogue

We decided to take the long trail, even though the sun was relentlessly beating down on us, and continued along the slope towards the peak, reaching the oil press and flour mill at the end of the trail. Along the way we spotted a couple of interesting birds, including chukars and a common nightingale. In addition, Adam spotted and caught a bright yellow jewel beetle of the Julodis rothi species.

Julodis rothi jewel beetle

We climbed up from the western quarter, as it is called, and made our way to the peak. Just below the massive rock piling, we sat in the shade of a small tree and surveyed our surroundings. Adam scanned the neighbouring slope with his monocular and I became distracted by the calls of a male common cuckoo, so very distinct that even a clock was designed and named after it.

Atop the peak

I made my way over to the northern slope, pulled up a video of cuckoo calls on YouTube and tried to lure it into my point of view. However, this cuckoo was a wily one; every time I’d appear anywhere near where he’d be, he’d hush up and I would have to slink away to try again. No matter how sneaky I tried to be, he’d always see me coming and I was left disappointed, failing in catching a glimpse of this amazing bird.

Within the Round Tower

After a good while on the peak, we at last picked ourselves up and made our way back through the ancient ruined city, this time from the ridge trail. At the end, we found the Round Tower and stood in it looking out over the surrounding land as one of the defending soldiers would have done some two thousand years ago.

Egyptian vulture passing by

As we were in the tower we were following one of the Egyptian vultures who, curiously enough, landed on the access road where we crossed into the city ruins. When it took flight, Adam snapped a few pictures of it and we saw that it had food in its mouth, which it seemed to have taken back to its nest.

Only the head visible…

That filled us with curiosity so we made our way out of the city and watched as it returned, landing in the same place just out of sight. Seeing us, the vulture took off and we were able to see that there was a dead chicken carcass on the road. Hoping to see some feeding, we settled under a nearby tree, where we’d have an okay vantage point, and waited.

Swarm of white storks in the thermals (photo Adam Ota)

The vulture circled again and again, yet refused to land. Blue rock thrushes, chukars and rock hyraxes provided entertainment in the interim, each engaged in their own pursuit of happiness. Birds of prey overhead also brought us joy, especially a lesser spotted eagle and a juvenile short-toed eagle. But the vulture refused to land.

Short-toed eagle

As always with nature, unexpected surprises are just waiting to happen. We were lounging under the tree when suddenly the vulture landed on a boulder some 15-20 metres from us, and began to drink from a hidden puddle. We watched, nearly slack-jawed, as it drank calmly, allowing Adam to film it.

With that we surmised that it was time that we head on, as the park was closing shortly and we were the last visitors in the area. We climbed back up to the lookout and made our way to the park exit, bringing an end to a truly amazing day trip.

Woodchat shrike (photo Adam Ota)

By the time we returned to my house we were already scheming of more trips to take, because one can never take enough trips in this beautiful land of topographical variety. As to be expected, I took two interesting trips to the Judean Lowlands and Negev the very next week.

Nachal Metzar

In Golan, Israel on April 29, 2018 at 9:11 AM

When the first day of Pesach (Passover) ended it was time to take advantage of the vacation days and to go somewhere exciting. I had access to a car and was accompanied by frequent guest star Adam, so we decided on a day trip to the Golan. We had just been to the Golan on a university field trip so our appetites were properly whetted, allowing us to leave at an early 4:45am with much excitement. Our trip was geared towards birding and exploring, and, with so much content, will thereby be divided into two posts.

Early morning’s light over the Golan

We drove eastward from Ma’alot and began to see the day’s first light as we reached the valley area between the Galilee and the Golan. Entering the Golan on Road 87, we headed for the first intended site of the day: the mountaintop ruins of Susita. Unfortunately we found that the access road seen on the map is not actually accessible for vehicular traffic and therefore ditched Susita in favour for the next intended destination: Nachal Metzar.

Nachal Metzar

We drove through the very picturesque area of Road 789 – on which I have never been – as the sun began to shine light onto the gentle mountains, and spotted a golden jackal dashing across the road which started our sightings off great. We pulled over at a lookout stop on Road 98, and noticed how unexpectedly cold it was, before making our way to the Nachal Metzar trailhead.

Corn bunting (photo Adam Ota)

There wasn’t any intended hiking plan, we were just going to get out, walk around and see what there was to see. Armed with our cameras, monocular and a bird guide, we stepped into the nature wonderland ready to be impressed.

Black-eared wheatear

From the very beginning, there were white storks crossing the small valleys and corn buntings perched out in the open, singing loudly. We took pictures willy-nilly, not wanting to miss an birding identification or a great photographic opportunity. Progress along the blue-marked trail was very slow, as we turned in circles capturing the scene around us. The tall grasses, thistles and occasional bush provided cover for dozens of species of birds and insects and we wanted to see it all.

White stork passing by at the right moment

If the wildlife wasn’t enough, the view of the green slopes in morning’s light was absolutely stunning. And, as usual with the spring, the wildflowers made for great optical enjoyment. But it was the birds that captured our attention the most. We switched between keeping an eye on the songbirds to scanning the skies for soaring birds of prey. The first was a short-toed eagle, followed forty minutes later by a lesser spotted eagle who circled above us repeatedly.

Lesser spotted eagle

We made our way downhill towards the streambed, keeping an eye out for unsuspecting white storks on the ground. Another short-toed eagle made an appearance overhead, as well as a bunch of red-rumped swallows, and we reached the wooded streambed. Almost immediately we spotted a small warbler that looked a little different than the usual ones we see, and upon verification, was identified as our very first eastern Bonelli’s warbler.

Adam vs. the eastern Bonelli’s warbler

Ten minutes was all we needed along the dry streambed, as we didn’t see anything else of interest and there was still more places to visit. We made our way back up, passing a procession of caterpillars and an entertaining little squabble between a yellow-vented bulbul and a woodchat shrike (with the smaller shrike emerging as the victor). The white storks continued to accompany us, however some of them now on the ground, hunting for small living things to eat.

White storks (photo Adam Ota)

Casting our eyes to the skies, we spotted a lone black kite making its way northwest, and shortly thereafter, another short-toed eagle and then a booted eagle. We made it back up to the entrance and got into the car after some morning praying and food. Our next stop was Ein Pik, just a minute away to the northeast.

Hoopoe (photo Adam Ota)

Pik was originally the site of a Jewish village during the Roman times some 1,800 years ago, which possibly traces its name to the biblical site of Afek where the kingdoms of Aram and Israel fought a decisive battle to stem the Aramean invasion. Today, the ruins that can be seen, are remains of the Syrian village Pik which preserved the ancient name. Archaeological findings from the ancient Jewish village have been since carted off to sit in museum, such as the Golan Archaeological Museum that I had visited towards the end of my army service in 2015.

View from Ein Pik (photo Adam Ota)

We examined the small basalt ruins, and enjoyed the lookout over the valley below, with the famous site of Susita (Hippos) dead centre, backdropped by the Kinneret. Seeking the spring that contributes the “ein” to the name, we made our way down the slope below us where we found a concrete trough filled with spring water.

Ein Pik

Typical of mountain springs, a hardy fig tree was growing on-site and small, unripe figs had met their end landing in the water. Quite unexpectedly, I noticed that there were tadpoles of different sizes feasting on the bobbing figs. A full-grown frog watched us from the end of the trough, kept company by a large river crab.

Tadpoles feasting on an unripe fig

Several steps away we found the main source of the spring, captured in modernity by a large concrete tub which entices hot, sweaty hikers. We stood for a few minutes in the shade, the trickling water sounds mixing with the chirping of the great tits and sparrows.

Silene oxyodonta flower

When we left, climbing back up to the ruins, we were surprised by a black kite that flew right over our heads. With that excitement we got back into the car to drive over to the next location on our list, Gamla, which will be covered in the next blog post.

University Trip: Southern Golan

In Golan, Israel on April 15, 2018 at 10:17 AM

Returning to the academic field trips offered by Bar Ilan University’s Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology department, I signed up for a fun trip focusing on geography to the southern half of the Golan. I was joined by my friend Adam Ota, a member of the class, and together we joined the other tour members and the guide, Mr Moty Rubinstein, at the entrance of the campus. Our minibus set off on its course, taking us along the long ride to our first stop, which happened to be in the Galilee.

Hod Lookout

We disembarked at the Hod Lookout, a site that I had visited during the department’s two-day trip around the Kinneret two years ago. There we looked out over the Kinneret (or Sea of Galilee) and the rise of the Golan’s plateau. From a geographical standpoint, it’s easy to understand the rift in tectonic plates between the Galilee and the Golan. But we weren’t just enthralled by slowly shifting land masses, a short-toed eagle soared right overhead, impressing us all with its size.

Lookout over the bridge

From there we made our way down to the Golan, taking the scenic route through the old settlements which I had seen on a previous field trip (HERE). We crossed over the Jordan River and made our way through the picturesque green and yellow slopes towards the Yarmouk River, the border between Israel and Jordan. Our destination was the El Hama Bridge Lookout with its view of the broken El Hama Bridge over the Yarmouk. The bridge was destroyed, along with nine others, in a nighttime sabotage operation by the Palmach in 1946.

The broken El Hama Bridge

The view from the lookout was incredible overall, with the old military trenches, nice birding (including my first woodchat shrike for the season) and impressive wildflowers. We could have spent the entire day there, but there was more to see so we climbed back into our minibus and continued along Road 98 until we reached the next destination, HaShalom Lookout.

Just a house sparrow…

With its view to the west, this lookout provided a different scene than the two previous ones, and at last we were seeing the high concentrations of volcanic basalt rock that the Golan is famous for. We looked out over the Kinneret and enjoyed the view, whilst keeping an eye on possible birds of prey soaring below. Adam’s sharp eyes picked up on a small flock of black storks spiraling in the heat thermals, joined by two buzzards.

View from HaShalom Lookout (photo Adam Ota)

We joined others in going down to the nearby spring, a ten minute hike downhill, seeing a few songbirds on the way. There were an abundance of wildflowers as well, such as mallow, wild mustard and the interestingly named musk deadnettle. The spring that we found was a rectangular concrete pool with a small amount of fresh mountain water trickling in.

Lupine blossom

Back up at the lookout we had lunch and prayed mincha (the afternoon prayer) with a group of Hasidic lads who were also enjoying the beauty of the Golan. Getting back into our bus, we took a short detour to a field where a sign declared it to be the Nov Grant-Duff’s Iris Nature Reserve. We didn’t find any irises, as we had hoped, but we did see some distinct-looking yellow asphodels as well as a handful of corn buntings singing their hearts out.

Mr Moty Rubenstein at the volcanic crater

Continuing on Road 98, we made our way eastward towards the Israel-Syria border. We were to see the natural volcanic crater of Mount Peres (or Tel Fares), one of the most southern extinct volcanoes in a line of sixteen that dot the eastern Golan. We passed the basalt khan (caravanserai) of Juchader, which I had visited at the end of my army service several years ago, and turned right onto the access road to the small mountain.

Volcanic rock

It was slightly surprising to see that part of the mountain was cut away, which we learned was actually the “harvesting” of tuff and scoria, types of volcanic ash rock used in construction, landscaping and more. Atop the mountain, we pulled over at the side of the road and got out to admire the grassy crater. Just across us was an IDF outpost, and together we enjoyed the view and the spring blossoms.

Golan iris

With that we were nearly done with the trip, there was just one more stop, and it was strictly for pleasure. We were going to see the Golan irises blooming at a random junction along Road 87, and this time we were not disappointed. The irises were in bloom and it made a lovely last stop in the beautiful Golan. Getting back into our minibus, we then began the long drive back to Givat Shmuel, bringing the end to yet another amazing field trip.

A video of this trip, which I made for the department’s YouTube channel, can be found HERE.

Nachal Hermon & Ein Tina

In Galilee, Golan, Israel on June 28, 2017 at 8:37 AM

We woke up the morning after our hike through Nachal El Al in our country lodging room in Moshav Keshet. I was joined by fellow school instructors, and the lads were camping outside. We had a leisurely morning routine, packing sandwiches for lunch later that day. A heat wave had hit the Golan and so our plans were altered to accommodate. It was decided that we’d hike a portion of Nachal Hermon, also known as Banias – but not the famous part with the picturesque falls and the Greek temple complex. It was a bit of a drive from Keshet to our hike and along the way I saw some fine looking white storks perched on rock cairns/walls in the rocky fields.

Hiking at Nachal Hermon

We began at the trail-head outside of Kibbutz Snir, our tour guide explaining how the Jordan River is fed by the waters of three streams: Dan, Snir and Hermon. Descending into the ravine, we had a very short walk before we encountered water – where the youth decided to go swimming. Due to the heat the birding was poor and I found myself perched on a rock with another instructor as we watched the rushing water, when I noticed something peculiar. Nearly fully obscured by a mass of teenage bodies, there was an overturned Syrian tank laying at the water’s edge, remnants of past wars. I waited for everyone to clear the area then took a few photos before bringing up the rear on the continuation of the hike.

Overturned Syrian tank

Having climbed back out of the ravine, we walked exposed to the roasting sun, admiring the likable Golan landscape. We switched between the red and black trails as we alternated between hillside and streambed hiking – the lads pausing to splash about in the cold mountain water at every given moment.

Nachal Hermon

Along the way I spotted a relatively common bird species, but perhaps my first of the year, the collared dove. Shortly thereafter, while taking a brief break under the welcome shade of a tree, I saw a macabre sight of ants dismantling a flesh-pink katydid. Next, after passing a citrus grove we took another long break at the banks of the Hermon. A can of peanuts was produced, reminding me of my time in the army, and then a tour guide came over to offer us some freshly made kolo, a traditional Ethiopian snack made of toasted grain.

Beware of mines

From this final water break it was just a short walk to the end where the buses were to meet us, and we rested at shaded picnic tables until we were ready to leave for the next destination of the day. Located at the foot of the Golan, beside the Hula Valley, is the mountainside spring of Ein Tina with its continual discharge of cold mountain water. From the very start of the short trail there was water to bypass, unless one was walking with water-friendly footwear. To the left, at the base of the mountains, great swathes of dead milk thistle covered the land, a sanctuary for songbirds. To the right, dodder – a parasitic plant that looks like spaghetti – covering both fence and vegetation in its messy tangles.

Greenfinch in a sea of dead milk thistle

We reached the first pool of water and Chanan, a fellow instructor, asked me if I’d like to climb up to the top of the stream. Not one to turn down adventurous opportunities, I said yes and gestured for him to lead the way. We walked uphill, atop a bed of sun-baked grey stones that covered the flow of spring water.

Ein Tina

Shortly we broke through to the tree line and climbed among reeds and trees, stepping gingerly to avoid the flowing water. At last we reached the top, where the water burst from a cement wall via two open pipes (I’m not sure why the water source has been manipulated by man, perhaps it was used for something or perhaps to regulate flow). I sat beneath a fig tree and enjoyed the view, letting the cold droplets splash me from time to time.

View from Ein Tina

A perfect vantage point, nearly invisible to those below, I was prepared to spend hours there. However, all good things must come to an end and we had yet a full evening schedule. And so we hiked back down the hill, passed the pool and down the path – where I found this little crab hiding in a small pool in the stream.


We boarded the buses and were driven down alongside the Kinneret towards the site of our night accommodations, Tzemach Beach at the southern tip of the sea/lake. Along the way, when I was distracted with text-messaging a friend, our bus hit a medium-sized bird on the long country – the driver claiming it to be a chukar. We reached the beach where we had dinner and found sleeping arrangements under a canopy of stars, fruit bats and mosquitoes. But before we retired, some of us instructors stole away to the beachfront where the schoolchildren were not allowed. There we had a leisurely night swim in the placid lake, only cutting our poor feet once or twice on sharp rocks hidden in the depths. The night passed and we awoke the next morning for yet more adventure!

Nachal El Al

In Golan, Israel on June 25, 2017 at 10:37 AM

This is the first of three posts that took place on three consecutive days in early June when I was fulfilling my capacity of instructor at a school where I work. A few other instructors and I were accompanying the 9th graders on their multi-day tiyul shnati (an annual trip), this time to the Golan and Upper Galilee. The first day started off with a long bus ride from Givat Shmuel, near Tel Aviv, to the first hike of the trip, Nachal El Al in the lower Golan. The buses took us to a staging ground behind the moshav of Avnei Eitan and we promptly began our hike along the red-marked trail, descending into the ravine.

Descending into Nachal El Al

From the very beginning both flora and fauna showed promise, as I photographed a crested lark, a red and black leaf beetle, globethistle, bugloss and oleander which grows plentifully along the streambed. It wasn’t long before we reached the first of the two waterfalls that this hike is famous for, the Black Waterfall. Named such because of the black basalt stones that are so typical of the Golan’s geology, the second fall is called the White Waterfall due to its white chalk setting.

The Black Waterfall

As I was looking over the edge of the cliff beside the pool drama hit. First there was the sound of rumbling and something falling, then confused shouts and through the gaps between the leaves I was witness to a terrible accident. A young schoolgirl from another group, also on her annual trip, was victim to a fallen rock which smashed her thigh, breaking the bone badly, and as she fell, her head hit rock. Their accompanying paramedics, as well as ours, rushed to her aid and the atmosphere was grim. She had lost consciousness and her thigh was bent unnaturally, swollen and discoloured. Climbing back up to regain cellular service, emergency calls were made and it was decided that they were going to wait for Unit 669, an elite IDF commando unit, to rescue her via helicopter.

Unit 669 helicopter to the rescue

We stayed for some time at the Black Waterfall, some of the students frolicking in the pool, and I spotted a Levant green frog escaping human presence. When we left the Black Waterfall the poor girl was still awaiting extraction and so we paused further ahead along the trail and prayed together for her health and well-being. As we continued southwest we heard the distinct noise of a chopper incoming, and we got to spectate the rescue until the adjacent hilltop obscured our view (she was since rescued successfully and taken to Rambam Hospital in Haifa).

Closer look at the helicopter

Hiking along, we passed a neat wildflower named annual pink as well as a handful of goldfinches flying amongst the waving reeds, with alpine swifts and a lone short-toed eagle patrolling the skies above us. I took care to photograph as many craggy cliff holes as I could, hoping that maybe I’d catch a little or eagle owl on my display screen – both of which have eluded me thus far – but with no success.

The kiss of goldfinches

We had passed a neat pool down below, with metal handles affixed in the rock wall to facilitate access to the continuation of the trail which was lined with thick reeds. Next we came upon an area where the water flow slowed down as it caressed the smooth white rock, reminding me of the natural waterworks at Nachal Kziv. This calm water would presently spill over the side of a cliff to form the White Waterfall, a 14-metre drop of cold mountain water. I waited for a while at the spillover spot, letting the sun progress over the adjacent mountain to give me more favourable lighting for photography.

The White Waterfall

It’s on the crest of that mountain to the west that ancient ruins can be found. Marked on the map as Qasr Bardwil, which, according to what I have found online, can either be an Arabic name giving tribute to Crusader king Baldwin who conquered the Golan area, or “bardwil” which may be Arabic for cattails. Either way, the site dates to the early Bronze Era and is composed of great walls of small stones at the edge of the cliff overlooking the stream. When the children were goaded out of the waterfall pool I made my pilgrimage down to properly document the falls, and then I continued on the trails.

Late afternoon over the Golan

From this point onward it was all dry, the trail running along the side of the eastern slope with only lone trees here and there to shield us from the scorching sun. But I found distraction in spotting a noisy katydid in the dead vegetation, a fan-fingered gecko and my very first woodchat shrike, also called a butcher bird for their barbaric feeding methodology.

Noisy katydid

At last, I reached the end of the trail and spotted a mother rock hyrax with two of her young on a nearby rock. Over the next half hour or so the entire class made their way to the end where the buses waited, and during this wait we watched the entertaining aeronautics of a kestrel avoiding a mobbing hooded crow. When the buses were loaded with our sweaty and tired bodies we were taken to Moshav Keshet where we, the staff, were introduced to our rooms and then had dinner in the dining room. The day had come to an end, but the trip was only one third of the way done…

University Trip: Kinneret I

In Galilee, Golan, Israel on April 3, 2016 at 7:13 AM

The week before last I attended my very first university trip, having just started studying Archaeology in Bar Ilan University. This trip was to be a two-day adventure around the Kinneret area, hopping from site to site to explore and to hear brief lectures from the various resident academics as well as special guests. We left the Bar Ilan campus in the morning, our buses taking Road 6 and then passing Megiddo, Afula and Kfar Tavor before entering the beautiful green valley of Yavne’el. Our first stop was just minutes later, at the Hod Lookout beside a monument dedicated to the early androcentric settlement of Beitanya.

Sea level at the Hod Lookout near Beitanya

Sea level at the Hod Lookout near Beitanya

Next we drove to a site that I’ve read much about, yet never really seen – Karnei Hittim (or, the Horns of Hattin). Known for the famous battle between the Crusaders and the Ayyubids under the leadership of Saladin, this extinct volcano was the battlegrounds that held testament to the Christians’ first major defeat back in 1187. Following the lead of Dr Rafi Lewis we skirted the east side of the gentle slope and made our way through a brief rainshower to the obscure ruins of Kankuzah.

Karnei Hittim as seen from the ruins of Kankuzah

Karnei Hittim as seen from the ruins of Kankuzah

Rafi, an archaeologist specialising in battlefields, proceeded to tell us all about the deciding battle that was fought to the west of us, and how he conducted numerous light digs of the general area finding all sorts of military artefacts. At one point he held up a printed version of the picture embedded below, a photograph from the 1890s listed in the Library of Congress as the Mount of Beatitudes (Capernaum) which has since been “historically relocated” to the area where the Jordan River spills into the Kinneret.

Karnei Hittim from the 1890s (photo Library of Congress)

Karnei Hittim from the 1890s (photo Library of Congress)

Leaving behind the beautiful view of the Arbel Valley, we walked back to the buses passing large green fields of wheat. Next we drove back down to the Beitanya area, headed for our next destination: the Roman bathhouses of Hamat Gader.

The Roman bathhouses of Hamat Gader

The Roman bathhouses of Hamat Gader

I had the opportunity of visiting Hamat Gader back in 2012, but then I was only able to marvel at the archaeological ruins from the plebian side of the fence. Being a university trip, even key points of interest along the way to Hamat Gader were pointed out, including the famous ruined bridge and sites along the Yarmouk River, bordering the country of Jordan. Once inside the resort, famous for its hot springs and crocodile farm, we were ushered directly to the Roman ruins. Across the Yarmouk, under Jordanian sovereignty, is the mountainside ruins of Gadara – a once important city that had close ties with the population living beside the hot springs.

Inside the Roman bathhouse

Inside the Roman bathhouse

In class the other day I learned about the Roman plumbing technology used in these bathhouses, and the small stone cubes lining the pool behind me in the photo are actually small fountains all connected by a pipe under the stonework. Iconoclasm lent to the destruction of the faces on the stone cubes, the mouths of which would spout water. Ever under the watchful eye of the head of security, our group walked carefully from room to room, taking in the classic beauty. At last we settled down in the stately Hall of the Pillars for a few brief lectures.

Lecture in the Hall of the Pillars

Lecture in the Hall of the Pillars

Wrapping up at Hamat Gader we drove up the Golan side of the Kinneret to our next point of interest, Ein Gev. One of the first kibbutzim to be established in Golan under Syrian authority, the success of Ein Gev was a powerful message to all parties involved. Leaving the buses, we walked to the grassy lakefront and sat beneath the gently swaying palm trees settling in for another lecture.

Lakefront lecture at Ein Gev

Lakefront lecture at Ein Gev

With still so much to see, we were hustled back onto the buses and driven to an ancient site on the banks of the Jordan at the southern end of the Kinneret, a site known as Tel Bet Yerach. I had tried visiting Tel Bet Yerach on my trip to Belvoir, yet couldn’t seem to find the archaeological discoveries. And so, as we crossed the Jordan after Degania I recognised exactly where we were headed yet didn’t know until that moment that the whole elevation was considered the tel of Bet Yerach. The archaeological site is quite in depth and we were given photo-copied maps of the dig to properly understand the layout.

Tel Bet Yerach

Tel Bet Yerach

Tel Bet Yerach’s name is thought to originate from the inhabitants’ worshipping of the moon, or perhaps of the pagan moon god Sin (which may be connected with the huge moon-shaped megalith Jethro’s Cairn some 30 kilometres away). With the Jordan and the Kinneret flanking the massive stone fortifications, Bet Yerach became an important and highly protected regional city. Flourishing during the Canaanite and Egyptian periods, the city was then destroyed and then rebuilt way later during the Persian era with the Greeks and Romans augmenting and improving the city in their times.

Distinct Tel Bet Yerach pottery

Distinct Tel Bet Yerach pottery

One of the lecture topics that interested me most was the unique pottery belonging to Tel Bet Yerach, a distinct black and red that is only found elsewhere in the Caucasus region. As Professor Aren Maeir spoke I scoured the ground looking for potsherds that matched the description given – the piece I found and rubbed clean was declared to be from the Early Bronze Age III (some 4,000 years old or so). With daylight waning we had one last lecture, given by Professor Ehud Weiss, on the Ohalo II site which made headlines providing rare evidence of food sources as well as early dwelling structures. Unfortunately darkness was upon us before we were able to get a good look at where the ancient site is located on the banks of the Kinneret, but the information given over was very eye-opening. Boarding the buses one more time we were driven to Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov where we were set up in quaint country lodgings for a night of trivia, academia and, of course, much needed sleep to prepare us for the next day.

Chastellet (Jacob’s Ford)

In Galilee, Golan, Israel on April 26, 2015 at 5:16 AM

This past week I was released from the IDF after serving two and a half interesting years – but this post is not about that. Nearly a year ago I had the day off from my army duties, and to take advantage, my parents and I took a little drive over to the Jordan River, just a few minutes east of Tzfat and Rosh Pina. We pulled over just before the B’not Ya’akov (Daughters of Jacob) Bridge, a historically strategic crossing point between the Galilee and the Golan. Just a few feet before the sign welcoming drivers to the Golan, we turned onto a dirt road and parked just outside our destination: the Crusader fortress of Chastellet.

Chastellet's northwestern wall

Chastellet’s northwestern wall

At the crossing point, also known as Jacob’s Ford (Vadum Iacob in Latin), a fortress was built in 1179 by the Crusaders under King Baldwin IV, the “Leper King”, to assert power over the region – preventing a Muslim invasion and putting pressure on the Ayyubid stronghold of Damascus. With such strategic importance attached to the project, the king moved his seat of government to the building site, his men working alongside the Templars.

Chastellet from the sky (photo: Wikipedia)

Chastellet from the sky (photo: Wikipedia)

Frantic at this regional game-changer, the Muslim sultan Saladin offered a bribe of 100,000 dinars for the Christians to abandon their efforts. When his bribe was refused, and the castle was already considered complete and in the hands of the Templars, Saladin gathered up a small army and began a siege of the newly-built Chastellet. The castle’s battle-hardened garrison fiercely defended their vantage point and the siege was called off when a knight named Rénier de Maron killed one of Saladin’s leading emirs with a well-aimed arrow.



Several months later, having defeated the Crusaders at Marjaayoun Valley in Lebanon (just north of Nachal Iyun), Saladin once again attacked Chastellet. Knowing that King Baldwin was camped not far away in Tiberias, Saladin decided to rush the castle, hoping to overrun it with his force superior in number. A vicious battle ensued and the Christians, numbering over 1,000, were ultimately defeated.

My mother posing at the castle's western wall

My mother posing at the castle’s western wall

While researching this castle online I came upon this reenactment of the bloody battle on the National Geographic channel: “Epic Battle”. After the victory, Saladin ordered that the walls be torn down and, to this day, the site was utterly abandoned and thereby well-preserved. Only earthquakes in 1202, 1759 and 1837 resulted in the meagre walls to be shifted in their places.

Earthquake-cracked walls

Earthquake-cracked walls

Archaeologists have uncovered full skeletons of fallen Crusaders and the castle’s water cistern is said to hold hundreds of dead Crusader corpses. When we visited we saw no skeletal hands reaching up through the dry dirt, but perhaps if we were to start digging, we would. Starting from the northwest corner we walked the rim of the castle ruins, pausing here and there to admire and photograph. When we finished looking at the castle, we headed down and had a brief staring contest with a particularly aggressive-looking cow and then walked down to the riverbank.

The Jordan River gently flowing by

The Jordan River gently flowing by

We found a nice shaded spot to sit in the river, under Chastellet, and relaxed in the Jordan’s cold, watery embrace. As I saw in the Golan Archaeological Museum in Qatsrin, part of an elephant’s remains was unearthed not far from where we were – closer to the bridge and on the Golan side of the river. With that we dried off in the hot June sun and got back into the car for the drive back home.

Ein Nashut & the Golan Archaeological Museum

In Golan, Israel on April 12, 2015 at 3:24 AM

Once again continuing with my adventures in the Golan, where I seized every opportunity to explore the historical and natural riches that the grassy plateau has to offer. This time I was temporarily staying at a base across from Kidmat Tzvi, just minutes from Qatsrin, the “capital of the Golan”. I had noticed a sign on the side of the road telling of a place of antiquities called “Ein Nashut Synagogue”. So, one afternoon I took my essentials and struck a path for this place, mapping out that it was roughly a kilometre and a half away (or, a mile) if I were to directly walk there through the fields.

Bumblebee in the wildflowers

Bumblebee in the wildflowers

Leaving the base’s rear gate, my walk was going rather pleasantly until suddenly a creature leaped out of the grass beside me. I was nearly paralyzed with excitement as the beautiful mountain gazelle daintily bounced up a man-made hill and disappeared from site. I wish my camera would have been on-hand to capture the moment, but it was snug in my pocket, doing nothing constructive. Hoping to spot the gazelle on the far side of the hill, I carried on around the hill, enjoying the walk. When I reached the other side, I didn’t see the gazelle but then, I spotted approximately ten gazelles racing across the land, crossing the dirt road I had walked on earlier. Refocusing on my destination, I climbed the final hill and looked out at the rolling landscape, hoping to pinpoint the ancient synagogue ruins. I was unable, however, I was standing beside some old graves which, if they are all like the one with a discernible inscription, belong to Arabs.

Old Arab grave

Old Arab grave

Crossing a seasonal stream, reduced to oozy mud deceptively covered in grass, I shortly came upon a barbed wire fence. Undeterred, I overcame the fence and continued, now approaching huge swathes of wildflowers which painted the immediate landscape in yellow, white and purple. Here the walking got tougher, swishing through the flora which alternated between knee- and waist-deep.

Chrysanthemums underfoot

Calendulas underfoot

Pausing here and there to take pictures, the ruins then came to view. Built in the Talmudic Era sometime between 400 and 600CE, the Ein Nashut Synagogue is smaller but more beautiful from an architectural aspect than the other ancient synagogues of that time elsewhere in the Golan. The site was excavated in the 1980’s and an olive press was uncovered as well – the production of olive oil being the main industry for the Jewish villagers at the time. Although a fair amount of carved stones and pillars were left in their natural state in the ruins, the most ornate sections were transferred to the Golan Archaeological Museum which I would eventually go visit several days later.

Looking down at Ein Nashut Synagogue

Looking down at Ein Nashut Synagogue

After spending a few minutes in the ruins, I decided to go a little further, not wanting to miss anything. What I found was several tumuli or cairns of small stones piled up in a surprisingly stable manner. Perhaps over time the stones settle into one another. While walking from tumulus to tumulus I gazed at the soft green landscape across Nachal Meshushim towards the town of Qatsrin. At a small circle of rough rocks, I found a tortoise rustling through the undergrowth. Swinging back, I walked along the same small seasonal stream, heading for the barbed wire fence. Just as I reached the base, having been escorted by the chirping of birds, two chukars rose into the air with a heavy fluttering of wings. My adventure at Ein Nashut was over, but the upcoming Sunday led me to another site, the Golan Archaeological Museum in Qatsrin.

A ladybug larva on a garland chrysanthemum

A ladybug larva on a calendula flower

I was heading home and the driver who relieved me dropped me off at the centre of Qatsrin for me to catch the bus. However, I noticed the sign for the museum and figured I might as well visit the museum while I’m already in Qatsrin. And so I trudged over to the museum, bearing a heavy burden on my back – my 95L backpack. Inside, I received the excellent soldier discount and began to browse the displays of artefacts, items found all over the Golan. I was pleased to see quite a few remains brought over from the nearby Ein Nashut Synagogue – including arch stones, a part of the aron (or synagogue ark) and even a sarcophagus lid inscribed: “Shimon son of Abun 26 years old”.

Archstone from Ein Nashut Synagogue

Arch-stone from Ein Nashut Synagogue

One thing that really intrigued me was the skull, tusks and molars of an elephant found on the banks of the Jordan River at the B’not Ya’akov Bridge, a historically significant crossing site. Looking at the other animal remains, it would be interesting to see the Golan filled with lions, cheetahs, hippos and bears – some of which have only recently gone extinct in the area.

26 Tyrian shekels

26 Tyrian shekels

Browsing the rest of the displayed archaeological finds of the Golan, from ancient to more modern times, I headed into the museum’s little theatre to watch a video about the rise and fall of Gamla during the Roman era, a sad tale of valour and pride. Essentially the “Masada of the Golan”, Gamla was a heavily fortified Jewish town located on a strategic horn jutting out between two streams. During the Jewish revolts against the Roman tyranny, Gamla became a stronghold and was the subject of three Roman sieges led by Agrippa II, Vespasian and Titus. At last, with a act of Roman sabotage on a guard tower, the town slowly fell to the Roman forces. With the battle lost, some two-thousand Jewish men, women and children were slain in the ensuing carnage and some three-thousand plunged to their deaths in the surrounding ravines. With Gamla in ruins, the Romans then turned towards Jerusalem and then the final Jewish stronghold, Masada. Interestingly enough, Gamla fell in the year 67CE and was only recaptured by Jews in 1967, with the successes of the Six Day War. Just as the film ended, a tour group from Colorado filed in and I exited the building to see the gardens exhibitions, with many stone lintels, columns and other ornate building sections on display – several from Ein Nashut Synagogue.

Golan Archaeological Museum's garden exhibit

Golan Archaeological Museum’s garden exhibit

Finished with the museum, I stopped for a quick lunch before beginning the long journey back home.