The alarm clock went off at 5am Sunday morning. We were to drive our 2 sons, Amitai and AdirChai and his friend Ariel, from Jerusalem to the Hermon to hike the Golan Trail. We had 2 days to explore the area.
Day 1: Nimrod
After seeing the boys off, we drove to Nimrod, just 5 families on the southern slope of the Hermon and at 1110 meters above sea level, the highest settlement in Israel. There is a great view of Birkat Ram to the south-east and the Nimrod fortress to the west. As you enter, there’s a blue boxy concrete building, a gallery of paintings by Diego Goldfarb and next to it a restaurant (not kosher) called the Witch and the Milkman. They carry artisan cheeses from the HaNoked Dairy and give tastes. We bought two cheeses, a hard Tome style (French) goat cheese treated with red wine and a Manchego like (Spanish) sheep’s cheese treated with Chardonnay to go with the crackers I had made (I think I’m the only tour guide who bakes homemade organic whole wheat crackers to share with my clients).
From there we drove 8 km to the Nimrod fortress off of highway <989>, part of the Parks Authority with an entrance fee of 20 NIS per person. The fortress controlled one of the main roads that ran from Tyre to Damascus. It was built around 1229 by the Ayyubid ruler Al-Aziz Uthman, nephew of Salah ad-Din. Later additions by the Mameluk sultan Baybars in 1260 (actually his second in command Bilik) are commemorated by a large, beautifully carved inscription in Arabic.
Also found was a stone relief of a very cute looking lion, the symbol of Baybars.
There are 2 incredible things about this fortress that I experienced when I visited it for the first time on the guide course:
- I took this photo of the arch above the entrance to the northwest tower where a number of stones have slipped due to an earthquake in 1759 and are hanging suspended to this day.
- Nearby is the vaulted stairway of the secret tunnel. I noticed that it was quite damp and in looking up I saw stalactites growing from the ceiling and I understood that since the fortress is built of limestone from the Hermon (as opposed to the basalt of the Golan) the water seeping through is dissolving the limestone blocks just like in a natural cave.