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Hiking in The Golan Heights

The past four weekends, and a few evenings after work, I have been taking advantage of Israel’s many trails and nature parks. Last weekend I spent Shabbot camping on the Jordan River, making our way to the Golan where we planned to hike in The Meshushim Reserve after sundown on Saturday. So, after a night of camping underneath an olive tree in a nearby city, we woke up, made breakfast with coffee, bought some food to last us the day, and began a short highway hike to a rest area doubling as the beginning of a red trail.

The clearly and many marked trails in Israel are something I have not seen in America. The hikes I have taken along the Appalachian trail have markers that you usually ending up searching for, most of which are faded paint on tree trunks. I remember being accompanied by experienced hikers who had to reference the map frequently a necessity that resulted in a frustrating and less than enjoyable journey. However, the great effort put into keeping these trails available and easy to navigate really encourages it’s residents to immerse themselves in the beautiful natural phenomenons Israel has to offer. In contrast to Jerusalem, this kind of site seeing is absent of religion and politics, is quiet, and allows one to get back to the basics.

We began the trek along the red trail, a three hour hike that directed us with markers as to which section of the trail we were at with numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Near the third section, we came across two unbelievably deep pools of cold, crisp water surrounded by basalt hexagonal pillars. Without previous knowledge I would have sworn that these pools were man made, complete with fish, and a small but strong flowing stream from one to the other. I couldn’t resist climbing to the highest cliff to dive into the miniature oasis, finding myself deep within the mountain, underwater, swimming for what seemed like twenty seconds to reach the surface again.

After our water detour we continued the red trail, switched to the blue trail, ending up at a gorgeous waterfall which was feeding two pools of more cold deep water. The walls of these pools were made up of basalt hexagonal pillars as well as natural caves. Surprising greenery poked through the cracks of the rocks, decorated with pink flowers.

We exited the same way we entered, taking the blue trail up a ladder then followed the black trail, leading us along an old archaeological excavation site. Like the ruins we visited on the Galilee, these stone structures were composed of the pepper-colored volcanic rocks abundant in the region. I remember when the group visited the north near Galilee and recall the feeling of being in a different world after being surrounded by the beige stones making up Jerusalem. This time instead of just shock I also felt happy to be away from the white mono-colored city that constantly reminds you of the barren desert you reside in. Although the north has building restrictions for using anything besides the uniform volcanic stones on exteriors, like Jerusalem construction rules, the color reminds me of the surrounding water and is more welcoming to me.

Besides my personal realization that I could never live away from natural bodies of water, I made some connections to my work at the archaeological dig at the Givati Parking Lot- Any stones that we find to have black volcanic color and composition must have been imported from the north. This can tell us about how and when trade worked between Jerusalem, along with who was trading with who depending on which time period the stones are found in.

It’s amazing how small Israel seems when I’m in Jerusalem, but how huge it suddenly becomes when I’m in the wild. It’s hard to believe I’ve only visited a handful of the parks on the map after spending days and nights exploring so much land. Because of the inviting trails, and hikes covering this country, I am confident I will return with a plan to conquer all of the challenges it has to offer.

Next weekend-repelling down 30 meter cliffs to the Dead Sea.

Rebekah Renfro

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