February 26, 2009

Hiking the Golan and the Talmudic Town of Devorah

Even though this was written during Pesach, 2007, the trails are still there, beckoning hikers.

Chol HaMoed Pesach is a special time for all Israelis. The children are off school and most parents take time off work to be with their families and to tour this magnificent country.

We headed to the Golan. After a rather late start, we drove north, eventually arriving at Gan Hashlosha, also known as Sachne. Set in the Beit Shean Valley, these natural pools and waterfalls look like a tropical oasis. And the water was surprisingly warm. Apparently, it stays at 28 degrees C year-round. Needless to say, every one of our kids had a totally amazing time. When the swimming became boring, they decided to jump off a cliff into the crystal-clear water. And yes, Shaya had to take the plunge after he saw Ariel and Aviva do it. Amir was encouraging while I held my breath and bit my knuckles, wondering how Shaya could be so brave at such a young age. Then they swam to the next pool and submerging under a waterfall – it was sheer fun.

Next we headed to the Golan, arriving at the base of Highway 98. We ascended the Golan Heights, going up and around hairpin turns, and feeling dizzier by the minute. We passed cyclists who seemed exhilarated by this challenging climb. Appreciating their agony, although we don’t think we could ever do such a thing ourselves, Amir gave them a thumbs up as he passed them. We finally made it to the top and the road flattened out smooth as a table top. There we passed deep green fields, ripe with produce. And where the land was not farmed, the fields were filled with wild flowers – a natural paradise.

We found the community of Chispin and our hotel. We had no idea that we had come across a hiker’s paradise until Amir spied a desk in the lobby. Here experts sat, armed with information on trails, flowers, waterfalls and archeological sites. They suggested we hike through Gilaboun and the Devorah Waterfall.

Fully aware that every time we say the word ‘hike’ to our kids, they grunt and roll their eyes, we decided to do it alone. This meant a 5 am wake up so we could be back in time for breakfast with our children.

We were up to it. Amir and I have trekked though India, Nepal, Sulawesi and Guatemala and were itching for some adventure. With four kids, we figured that this was the best we could do.

Up and out by 5 am, I was astounded by how freezing cold it was. The car registered 8 degrees C outside - and I couldn’t even have a hot coffee! We drove in the dark past Katzrin, down a dusty dirt road. On the sides of the road were fences with the words “Danger. Do not enter – land mines.”

We found a parking lot. Amir got out to daven as the sun was just coming up. I was frozen and refused to budge from the car, hoping for the sun would soon thaw me out with its warmth. Ahead, I could see snowy Mount Hermon looming. All around us were abandoned buildings with pock-marked walls. They was once a Syrian army base. I could not figure out why it had not been torn down. The place was eerie but it was a chilling reminder that not so long ago, this was not a very friendly place to be – certainly not a nature reserve.

Amir packed up his tallis and we left our car to look for the trail blazes. The blazes were right there, beckoning for us to follow. We scampered over boulders and back and forth across a river. Rocks and tree branches helped us over the cold water. We climbed until we could get a view of the Devorah Waterfall plunging down a cliff. We then walked up to a plateau filled with ancient stone buildings. This must have been from the times of the Romans. There had been no excavations done here and it was amazing how these houses had stayed in such good form for close to 2,000 years.

Devorah was once a substantial town from the days of the Talmud. We touch the tough walls of the homes, feeling the warmth of the morning sun on our hands. We wander inside a few houses and think about what life must have been like for the Jews here a few thousand years ago, living atop this beautiful plain with views of Hermon and the Galil. Today, it appears to be forgotten. Overgrown. Inhabited by lone cats.

But we are back. We have returned from a long absence and are once again living in and thriving in this special land. We are so fortunate to be here, walking in the very steps of our ancestors.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are always welcome.