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Traveling With Wheelchairs and Strollers in Israel’s North
Long ago, or so they say, an angel appeared to one of a gang of thieves who robbed travelers alive in the Upper Galilee. “Turn over a new leaf,” warned the angel, “or bad things will happen.” In the morning, the thief requested his companions to change the route. Angered, the group hatches a plan to rescue their newly reformed friend. They asked him to help with one more heist before going straight. Placing him as a scout atop a vast cavern, they waited for an opportunity to drop him down into the abyss. Suddenly the cave collapsed – except for the narrow strip on which the “good” thief stood. Only he survived. . . Keshet (arch) stands on the ruins of the cave.
Until just a few years ago, Israel’s most enjoyable natural phenomena and unique historical sites were accessible to parents with small children in strollers, people with canes and people who could only get around in wheelchairs. This meant that the whole family was stuck at home staring at the wall, while the rest of the country enjoyed riverside trails, waterfalls, unique monuments and fantastic views – and picnics in the woods.
Not anymore, though – at least not in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights! Here are 10 great sites that are perfect for just about anyone!
1) Spectacular Me’arat Keshet (Keshet Cave): Closed Route 8993 Once accessible only to good hikers, Keshet Cave is located within the Jewish National Fund’s beautiful Untamed Park. Get there by following Route 899 east from Rosh Hanikra and heading north at the sign for Kibbutz Adamit (Route 8993). To reach the cave itself, go down to the parking lot and take the paved path marked with green trail markers. After you visit the cave, you can have a picnic near the parking lot.
2) Montfort observation point: Located on the hillside east of Kibbutz Aylon, off Route 899, and surrounded by year-round greenery, the Montfort Fort is a spectacular sight. It is especially amazing in the late afternoon when the sun illuminates part of the fort. Montfort was originally built during Roman times. A small fort was built on the same site during the early Crusader period, apparently to protect the estate of a French king. Decades later, the German Teutonic Order decided to establish its own headquarters. They acquired Montfort (“Strong Mountain”)%u2011 in 1228, then expanded and embellished the citadel to become the most beautiful tower in the entire Crusader Kingdom. Your best view of Montfort is from JNF’s Goren Park, in the middle of the country’s largest natural forest and along the longest river in Galilee %u2011 Nahal Kaziv. Drive through the forest to see the vivid blooms of anemones and cyclamen in winter and orchids and Mediterranean roses in spring. When the scenic drive splits, take the (high) road to the left. Pass the campground and meadow, park in the lot, and follow the paved path to Montfort Observation Point for a breathtaking view of the fort and the lush, green riverbed. You exit the park on Road 899 near Kibbutz Granot. This is the back entrance to Goren Park, so you can start your journey from this end if you wish.
3) Tel Dan Nature Reserve: Highway 99 closed east of Kiryat Shmona According to legend, long ago all the three rivers went their separate ways. For millions of years they have bragged and boasted, all three claiming to be the largest and most beautiful bodies of water. Finally, they asked God to come down from above and decide between them. When Prabhu could not make up his mind, the story goes, he suggested that all three come together. The ancient sages of Israel say that Dan actually won, because the word Jordan means “came out of Dan.” Few sights are more refreshing than a merrily flowing river – like the bright Dan. At Tell Dan Nature Reserve, an excellent wheelchair-accessible path takes you very close to the river, with its melodious flowing waters. The circular route takes about 45 minutes, during which you can enjoy the trees on both sides of the bridges built over the Dan’s stream. On one side, you can see the exceptionally tall Syrian ash trees native to Turkey and not accustomed to freezing. And a few meters away from the Syrian ash, stand laurel (bay) trees, the leaves of which are used for cooking. Laurel trees need a Mediterranean climate, and they are also found in the reserve! Excavations at Tel Dan have uncovered unique and fascinating remains, some of which have been restored. These are not wheelchair accessible, so instead, follow up your trip with a visit to nearby Beit Usishkin. A natural history museum offering a fascinating overview of the region’s natural phenomena, it is the only place in the world where the entire development of the biblical city of Dan is on display. Here you will find artifacts from four biblical periods: the time of Abraham, the time of the judges, the Israelite conquest, and the divided kingdom.
4) Sa’ar waterfall: Highway 99 closed at the intersection of Route 989. Few sights in Israel are as impressive as the extraordinary multi-tiered Sa’ar Falls. The waterfall originates from the Nahal Sa’ar, a river that serves as a natural boundary between the limestone-clad Hermon range and the basalt rocks of the Golan Heights. The Nahl Sa’ar flows from Hermon towards the Banias River, dropping 500 meters in just seven kilometers. The upper layer of the waterfall is 20 meters high; An additional seven at the bottom. A brand new wheelchair accessible path takes you to a great observation point next to the falls. Now everyone can enjoy this glorious sight – but only if it comes in the first few weeks of spring when the waterfall flows (late February, early March).
5) ancient Katzrin village – Near modern Katzrin, on route 9088. When you visit an archaeological site, your imagination has to work hard to fill in the holes. The restorations at Ancient Katzrin, however, offer a unique and accessible peek into the past. Located about one kilometer east of modern Katzrin, the village has been reconstructed by archaeologists and experts in Jewish law and provides a realistic depiction of Jewish life in the 4th and 7th centuries. A new, paved path leads you right to the restored ancient-construction-under-house, the fully restored house, and the famous Katzrin Synagogue. Recently introduced, a golf cart is also available to take visitors along the course! It’s not necessary to reserve but it’s a good idea in season. Phone: 04-6962412 Finish your tour with a stop at the Golan Archaeological Museum in the center of the modern city (also on Route 9088). Here you can see the unique and exciting remains of nearly 3 dozen Jewish villages that were planted long ago on the Golan Heights. Buy a combined ticket for the village and museum and hold onto your ticket stub!
6) Saluki Springs: Highway 87 closed between Bashan and Katzrin Junction. Filled with small waterfalls, this charming little park has a wading pool for kids and a dry path for adults. Mei Eden, a large mineral water company based in nearby Katrin, helped develop the site for visitors and bottles water from these springs in its factory. Small ponds are home to the river frog, an amphibian that lives in fresh water and is 7.5 cm long. Fruit trees and old buildings from Syrian times remain on the Golan. Absolutely charming, shaded by eucalyptus trees, the site has been developed with local materials, mainly dark, basalt rock. The path, although not paved, is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.
7) Mitzpe Ofir – Ofir Lookout: Off Route 789, the road goes 2 kilometers west to the north of Moshav Givat Yov. In your eagerness to get a proper view of Lake Kinneret, don’t forget Mitzpe Ofir! About 480 meters above the shimmering waters of the lake, the site served as a suitable outpost for Syrian sharpshooters from 1948 until Israeli capture of the Golan Heights in the Six Day War. The troops may have had a field day—only they didn’t have a great view of the settlements below, making it easy to take potshots when they wanted—but in April they could feast their eyes on the wild, pink-and-purple blossoms. Mesapotamica iris is called (iris aram naharayim, in Hebrew). With the help of the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency, and the local council, Mitzpe Ophir was developed by Jimmy Shall of nearby Moshav Givat Yoav as a memorial to his son Ophir: a young man who died of a long, chronic illness. 16. A grove of 16 olive trees planted here, symbolizing each year of his short life. A view near the stone picnic tables and parking lot is wheelchair accessible (pavement consists of flat basalt rocks); Climb up the hill to another, unusual group of stone tables with a stunning view of Lake Kinneret, Kibbutz Ein Gev, Kursi and, on the other side of the water, the mountains of Tiberias and the Lower Galilee.
8) Mitzpe Gadot – Gadot Overlook: Off Highway 91 and 1.5 kilometers northeast of the Daughters of Jacob Bridge. For 19 years after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Syrian forces stationed in the Golan Heights fired relentlessly at the settlers below. Life was a living hell for members of the kibbutzim, farmers plowed their fields from armored tanks and children played, studied and slept in shelters. Over 400 firefights took place until Israel captured the Heights during the Six Day War. More than a thousand bullets were fired at Kibbutz Gadot alone on one dark day. The former Syrian base is now called Mitzpe Gadot. The site of particularly fierce battles, there is now a central memorial to the soldiers of the 33rd Battalion who lost their lives taking this place and its adjacent positions in ’67. Men from the same battalion who were killed here during the Yom Kippur War and during the Lebanon campaign in 1982 are also remembered. It is a beautiful, peaceful place where wildflowers, butterflies and lizards bask in the sun on the rocks. From a bench shaded by eucalyptus trees, you can see the eastern Huleh Valley and the fields of Kibbutz Gadot directly below. Try to grasp the enormity of the Syrian strategic advantage on this hill and imagine spending night after night in underground shelters or tilling your fields constantly flanked by tanks. Listen to an audio guide for more information about the area and its history.
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