This week school will start for Gideon and Hill. We spent last week squeezing the last bits out of summer while trying to prepare for the upcoming year. As part of that effort, we went hiking in the Golan – something that was missing from our summer until last week. In previous summers and vacations throughout the years, we have hiked most of the more popular hikes in the area, and last week we repeated one of the good hikes – Upper Nahal Zevitan.
What makes it a good hike?
First of all, it needs water, preferably enough water in which to swim. Nahal Zevitan and its continuation in Nahal Meshushim have pools surrounded by the black hexagons which characterize this stream system. The pools are cool and deep – I could not stand up even at the edge of the pool at which we stopped to swim. The stepped hexagonal prisms provide a “diving board” up to 12 feet above the surface of the pool. Everyone had a chance to jump into the cool water, and most did. About 4 million years ago, Golan volcanoes covered the limestone crust with igneous basalt. This basalt cracked due mostly to tectonic activity as the Golan lies on the upper end of the active Dead Sea Fault System. The Zevitan Stream lies on a major surface fault and so the canyons are very steep. Water erosion carves narrow canyons through the basalt. When these canyons fill with water, very deep, narrow pools form.
Secondly, a good hike requires a bit of nature. Our first foray into the Zevitan system a few years ago led to our first experience with Sabra (Prickly Pear) fruit. Boaz convinced us that we could safely pick, peel and eat a sabra right from the cactus with only a pocket knife and a bandana. Anyone who has tried this knows that this is almost impossible. But the fruit looks so alluring, so juicy, so wonderfully edible that you can’t help but try. After picking prickers out of peoples hands, arms, lips, tongues, we realized that we should leave the sabra-picking to trained professionals (or at least those with leather gloves). The Golan is also populated by rock hyraxes which you can often see along this trail. And the views. The views through the crevasses toward the Sea of Galilee were exquisite. The winding stream bed, which gives Nahal Zevitan its name, covered in low trees and bushes and yellow grasses framed the blue water in the distance from the sea – just beautiful.
The third factor in a good hike is a bit of history. We walked for a bit in an aqueduct. The issue of water has been a major factor in the development of history in Israel. Here, in the Golan, the control of water is key. In 1964, the National Water Carrier opened, pumping water from the Sea of Galilee as far south as the Northern Negev. As a response, Syria and Lebanon started plans for a Diversionary Canal which would take water from the headwaters of the Jordan and carry them to the Yarmuk Stream bypassing Israel. The tensions which resulted, and the tank and artillery exchanges which took place between 1964 and 1966 provide a backdrop for one of the causes of the Six Day War in 1967. Even in ancient times, control of the water meant that you could water your fields and your animals. In this part of the world, water is connected to survival and prosperity. It appeared to us that the aqueduct in which we walked was modern, being lined with cement, possibly to bring water to a nearby Syrian farm, whose remains we came across later in the hike.
The last major factor in a good hike is a bit of challenge. The beginning was filled with climbing over rocks and through pricker bushes. My feet got totally bruised and reinforced that it really was time for new hiking boots. Next time we do this one, we will dedicate more time to it and climb down to the base of the waterfall and continue on to the Sea of Galilee. I like that – the plan for “next time” and how we can improve our experience and push just a little farther. It is one of the things I like most about hiking with this group of friends. We will be there for each other and there will be a “next time”. The walk from the overlook of the waterfall back to the Yehudiya parking lot was, quite honestly, a bit boring, with the biggest challenge being how long it would take to hitchhike from the parking lot back to the car. My hitchhiking karma bank must be doing o.k. – it only took Gavi and I five minutes to get a hitch. After another 15 minutes of walking on the road, we were back to the car.
It was a fitting hike for the end of summer, with all the factors of a “good hike”.