WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES TO SEE IN THE GOLAN HEIGHTS?
The Golan Heights Israel have long been a "blank spot" for science. Not only ancient settlements have not survived, but even their names. It was only after the liberation of this area during the 1967 Six-Day War, after 1,500 years of Jewish absence, that we began to re-acquaint ourselves with this land, to explore and develop it.
WHAT ATTRACTS ME TO THE GOLAN HEIGHTS?
First, the amazing nature of the Golan Heights. The geological connection between basalt strata and chalk rocks has created a special landscape here. The relatively flat mountain plateau is cut by deep gorges with natural springs, pools, and high waterfalls. In the north, Mount Hermon, the highest in Israel, rises, which is covered with a white mantle in winter. In the east, dormant volcanoes stand out in several rows. Endless expanses, breathtaking, alternate with quiet, intimate corners of nature.
Secondly, in the Golan, archaeologists have found ancient mysterious objects of cultures and peoples that used to live in these places. From the time of the Second Temple, amazing monuments of antiquity have been preserved here: the ruins of the Jewish city of Gamla, which heroically defended the road to Jerusalem from the Roman legions; the Greek Byzantine city of Susita (Hypos), in the excavations of which real heaps of marble and granite were found; archaeological excavations of Jewish settlements and synagogues of the Mishna and Talmud periods and much more.
Thirdly, the Golan is interesting to me as a place of military glory. It was here that the most difficult tank battles in the history of the State of Israel took place. Some of them were of global importance. Traveling through the Golan Heights, it’s hard not to come across battle sites, memorials with traf ’weapons, old and new military bases.
Also in the Golan heights, I am amazed by the inhabitants of the modern Jewish settlements that have revitalized the area. Indeed, in the bare stone expanses and former minefields, these people have raised thriving agriculture.
In this guide to the south of the Golan Heights, I want to share with you the places where I love to visit with my family, conduct individual and group excursions. Hope you enjoy these places too.
HISTORIC SITES AND ATTRACTIONS IN THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
1.Gamla - the ancient Jewish capital of the Golan Heights
Gamla was built during the Hellenistic period in the 2nd century BC. The city was located on a mountain and was protected by two deep gorges. In shape, it resembled the hump of a camel, which is why it got its name. In 67 A.D. the inhabitants of Gamla fought heroically against the Roman legions that were marching on Jerusalem. A detailed description of this battle can be found in Josephus. 1900 years later, after the Six-Day War, Israeli researchers turned their attention to this mountain. During the excavations, houses, workshops, wineries, and an ancient synagogue were found. Archaeologists have unearthed protective walls and a tower that dominated the city. Evidence of the last battle was also found: remnants of weapons, destroyed houses, gaps in the city wall made by Roman siege weapons. Walking along Gamla, you can feel the last moments of the life of this city, legendary fighting for Jewish independence.
You can get to the observation deck on Gamla by car, and then go down the steep mountain path towards the ruins of the city. There are two gorges with waterfalls under Gamla. There are eagle's nests on the slopes of the gorges. There are special covered verandas for observing soaring predators. A beautiful hiking trail runs along with one of these gorges.
2.Susita - the ruins of a Greek city opposite Tiberias
Susita existed for about a thousand years and was one of the ten cities of Decomanus, a union of pagan Greek cities. The city is mentioned in Roman sources and the books of Josephus. The Jewish sages called her Tsarata Shel Tiberias - the oppressor and enemy of Jewish Tiberias.
In 739 A.D. during a severe earthquake, the city was destroyed, and the inhabitants never returned here. During the War of Independence, Israeli soldiers consolidated their positions on this mountain, and this made it possible to defend the Jewish kibbutz Ein Gev, built in the 1930s on the banks of the Kinneret.
During excavations in the ruins of pagan temples and Christian churches, Israeli archaeologists have found hundreds of columns of marble, granite, and limestone, built-in various classical styles. In Susita, a special water supply system was found with a large siphon, which made it possible to raise water tens of meters.
From the Israeli military base, there are fenced minefields, several military structures, and an underground passage where bats now live.
3.Um el Kanatir - unique excavations of a Talmudic synagogue
The ancient Jewish settlement with the later Arabic name Um el Kanatir (Mother of Arks) was destroyed by the same earthquake that destroyed Sussita, Beit Shean, and dozens of other settlements in the Golan Heights. An earthquake razed it to the ground and no one lived here until the beginning of the 20th century. All the stones of the synagogue of this town remained in the same place where they fell due to a powerful earthquake.
With the help of the latest technologies, researchers and archaeologists have managed to identify each stone and return it to its original place, and thereby recreate the ancient synagogue exactly as it looked 1600 years ago. In this place, you can see how our ancestors lived, feel their spiritual values.
4.Hamat Gader - one of the most popular Israeli medical resorts
Hamat Gader (hot springs in the ancient city of Gadera - now in Jordan) contain hydrogen sulfide springs that help heal skin conditions. Near the pools and thermal baths, there is a crocodile farm and many other attractions for the whole family. And next to the modern attractions there are excavations of baths two thousand years ago. These were the second-largest baths in the entire Roman Empire. The statements of the Jewish sages are interesting, as they saw this place with all the manifestations of Roman culture, because not only pagans came here, but also Jews.
ATTRACTIONS IN THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
You can get around the Golan Heights by car, walk, or take hikes. However, there are other popular ways of getting around. One of them is a trip by jeeps and tractors. There are very picturesque slopes along the gorges towards the Kinneret. One of the routes that I love very much starts in Moshav Kanaf and descends past the ancient synagogue of the Mishna and Talmud times, Khurvat Kanaf, towards the Kinneret. Then I advise you to continue to the Beit Tsayda Valley, where streams and water streams flow into the Kinneret from the northeastern side. A jeep can easily cross these streams. You can also rent horses and tour the Golan Heights on horseback. The local scenic views will make your hike very special.
ACCOMMODATION IN THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
Most settlements in the Golan have Zimmers, rooms, or small houses that can be rented overnight or for several days.
In the south of the Golan Heights, I advise you to stay at the tourist complexes in the Avney Eitan settlement. Here you can get all the basic services for little money. You can spend the night in a large Bedouin tent or set up your own tent, use the kitchen, shower, and toilet.
If you prefer hotels, then I recommend a hotel in Hispin settlement. The Kinar religious hotel with a separate beach is located near the Kinneret. You can stay at a hotel or set up your own tent on the beach.
I wish you a wonderful trip to this amazingly beautiful and peaceful area. There are no Arab villages here, only Jewish agricultural settlements, kibbutzim and moshavim. Nearby is the town of Katzrin, which serves as the administrative center of the Golan Heights. There you can find all the city services you need.