Ascend the Golan Heights via Hamat Gader. After a panoramic view of Sea of Galilee ascend the Golan Heights via Hamat Gader. Stop at Shalom observation point and then visit both the Katzerin museum and the remains of the Talmudic village. On mount Bental, opposite Kuneitra, explore former Syrian fortifications. Overnight at Kibbutz guest-house.
Visit Caesarea Philippi (Banias), Kal’at Nimrod in the northern Golan and finally Safed, city of the Kabala.
Leaving Tel Aviv we pass Herzliya and Netanya, as we travel north along the scenic coastal plain and then turn eastwards through the plain of Armageddon (Rev 16:16), with a view of biblical Megiddo. Then crossing the Jordan Valley, the hidden river to the east serving as the border between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
At the southern of the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we ascend to the Golan Heights via Hamat Gader, site of the Roman spa. At the Shalom observatory we have a panoramic view of the Kinneret and realise how vulnerable Tiberias was while the Syrians controlled the Heights.
At ancient Katzerin we explore the excavated and partially restored remains of a typical large village of the Mishnah and Talmud period (first to fifth century), its synagogue, its homes and its olive press. The black basalt rock is testimony to extinct volcanoes on the heights.
In the nearby museum, in the modern city of Katzerin, finds from the ancient city are displayed alongside the finds from excavations carried out on the Golan Heights. These include the reconstruction of a stone-age dolmen, stone carvings from the many synagogues discovered and coins from Gamla, the Second Temple Jewish city razed by the Romans during the Jewish revolt (67-73 CE).
On Mount Bental we explore the former Syrian fortifications, bunkers and trenches taken by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. In the distance is the Syrian city Kuneitra and in the foreground the camp of the Canadian contingent to the UN forces supervising the cease-fire between Israel and Syria, brokered in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War and never broken. The Syrian capital Damascus is a mere fifty kilometers away hence Syria’s reticence to break the cease-fire. The route we travelled today is more than likely the one used by Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1ff). Overnight – kibbutz guest-house
After a short tour of the kibbutz we continue northwards to the source of the Hermon River, one of the tributaries of the Jordan River, at Caesarea Philippi also known as Banias. This Roman city, dedicated to the pagan god Pan, was given by the emperor Augustus to King Herod who built a palace in his honour. After his death his son Phillip made Panias capital of his kingdom renaming it and further beautifying it, preserving the many pagan shrines. This was the northernmost point visited by Jesus and his disciples and the only pagan city mentioned in the gospels. It is here, at the foot of Mt. Hermon, that Jesus gave the keys to his kingdom to Peter, formerly Simon. (Mat 16:13-19).
As Christianity gained ascendency and finally became the official religion of the Roman Empire the pagan shrines were replaced by a church. After the Arab conquest in the 7th Arabic alphabet.
century Panias became known as Banias as there is no ‘p’ in the On the way to Mt. Hermon is a striking fortress straddling the hill. Kal’at Nimrod is often mistakenly described as a Crusader fortress but the Crusader fortress was destroyed at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Strategically placed on the road to Damascus it was rebuilt by the Omayyad rulers of Damascus and completed by the Mameluke Sultan Beybers. We will explore the towers and buttresses and enjoy the view. With the complete demise of the Crusader Empire in Lebanon and Kal’at Nimrod lost its strategic importance and was abandoned. After enjoying lunch at a Druze restaurant we leave the Golan Heights and make our way to Safed (Z’fat).
Known as the city of the Kabbalah we will see the synagogues dedicated to Josef Caro and the Ari as we walk through the narrow alleys of the old city and explore the artists’ quarter before returning to Tel Aviv.