Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Weekend in the Golan

Tomorrow is the first day of Passover, and a holiday here. So M and I took today off and made it a four-day weekend so we could take a trip to the Golan Heights. We had planned to take this trip last summer, but the Lebanon War made the area off limits. In fact, some of the rockets hit in Tiberias, the town on the Sea of Galilee where we stayed.

The first place we visited this trip was Bet She'an, the ancient city of Bet She'an Scythopolis and the best preserved Roman ruins in Israel. Settlement at the site began in the 5th millennium B.C.E. (a good location is a good location), and was subsequently inhabited by the Egyptians, Phillistines, Israelites, Assyrians, and Hasmonians before becoming one of the ten cities of the Decapolis under the Romans in 63 B.C.E. Under the Byzantines, it became a large Christian center of more than 30,000 people, and later declined following the Arab conquest. A devastating eathquake hit the area in 749 C.E., and you can still see the columns where they fell.

View of Bet She'an from the Tel

After we finished walking around Bet She'an, we headed for our hotel, The Scot's Hotel on the Sea of Galilee. The hotel is built on a converted hospital from the 1800s, with parts of the hotel being in the refurbished old buildings. All around are the remnants of the Roman occupation of that city.

On Sunday we headed first to the Banias waterfall at the Hermon Stream Nature Preserve. The waterfall is the largest in Israel and is magnificent. We would have done the hike to the other side, where there is a temple to the god Pan (Banias is a corruption of Panaes), but one of the park officials advised us to drive since it was raining off and on, making the path muddy and slippery.

Banias Waterfall

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