Naharayim – Two Rivers

Driving along the Jordan valley between Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee you pass a kibbutz called Gesher (Hebrew for bridge) because on the site of the original kibbutz was a bridge that crossed the Jordan river joining Israel and Jordan. Actually there are the remains of 3 bridges, one a Roman bridge built of basalt stone, one Ottoman train bridge and one British concrete vehicular bridge.

Old Gesher

The el-Mujami Bridge (Arabic for meeting, the meeting of the 2 rivers) built in 1904 holds the record as the earth’s lowest railway bridge at 257.5 metres below sea level. The line ran from the port at Haifa following the Jezreel valley (hence in Hebrew, rakevet haemeq), with the last stop at Hamat Gader before joining up with the main part of the Hejaz railway. [The line was unused for decades until 2011 when a new standard gauge rail from Haifa to Beit She’an along roughly the same route as the historic valley railway was constructed and began passenger service in October 2016.]

One of the stops was Naharayim, the station in Bauhaus style, constructed near the hydroelectric power plant built in 1927 by Russian Jewish engineer Pinhas Rutenberg. Rutenberg (1879 – 1942‎‎) was also a canny businessman and political activist. He was involved in two Russian revolutions, in 1905 and 1917 when he was imprisoned by the Bolsheviks. Freed in 1918 he travelled via Moscow, Odessa, Constantinople, Marseille to UK and on to Palestine. He was a contemporary and friends with Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor and founded the Jewish Legion and was sent as an emissary to the United States. While in the US, Rutenberg completed a detailed design for harnessing Palestine’s water resources for irrigation and electrical power production.

[This is an interesting question that I was asked. “When were residents of Palestine first given citizenship?” Rutenberg became the first Palestinian citizen after the British had enacted a law creating Palestinian citizenship in 1925.]

Palestine Airways - Lachs 1937Rutenberg endorsed the Labour party and cooperated with David Ben-Gurion. He was involved in the establishment of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary during the British mandate period. He founded Palestine Airways which flew between Haifa and Lydda (today Israeli-Arab city of Lod, 15 km. southeast of Tel Aviv) 3 times a week. Shortly after it moved its base to the newly built Tel Aviv Airport (in 1940 renamed Sde Dov) and flew the Tel Aviv to Haifa route, even on to Beirut.

After submitting a plan to the Zionist movement for the establishment of 13 hydroelectric power stations and securing financing for the plan Rutenberg was awarded a concession by the British Mandatory government to produce and distribute electric power and in 1923 founded the Palestine Electric Company (later, the Israel Electric Corporation).

This site was chosen because it is the juncture of two rivers (in Hebrew, nahar is river, naharayim would be 2 rivers), where the Yarmuk river which runs along the border between Jordan and Syria flows into the Jordan river.

Dam on Yarmuk

A zero degree canal connected it to the Sea of Galilee that could be used as a reservoir, to store excess water in winter to be released in drier summertime. Construction began in 1927 and continued for five years, providing employment for 3,000 workers. A model community, Tel Or, was built for the Jewish workers who supervised the plant on 6000 dunams of land in Jordan authorized by Abdullah in exchange for electricity.

Rutenburg's power station, Naharayim

Here is an incredible photograph of the Naharayim site taken by Zoltan Kluger in 1937 as part of a set of 40 aerial photographs of pre-state Israel commissioned by Zalmen Schoken for his 60th birthday.

Hydroelectric plant Naharayim - Kluger 1937

Hydroelectric plan at Naharayim – Kluger 1937. Credit: National Library Photo Collection

In violation of international law and a November 1947 agreement between Golda Meir and Abdullah, the Arab Legion’s 4th Battalion launched a mortar and artillery attack on the Tegart police fort and Kibbutz Gesher on April 27-29, 1948. After protests to the British Mandate administration the shelling was halted – Abdullah was reprimanded for “aggression against Palestine territory.”

When an Iraqi brigade invaded Naharayim on May 15, 1948, in an unsuccessful attempt to take the kibbutz and fort, the power plant was occupied and looted – it never functioned again. To prevent Iraqi tanks from attacking Jewish villages in the Jordan Valley, Israel opened the sluice gates of the Degania dam and destroyed the bridges that joined Israel and Jordan.


More Kalaniot, Red Anemones

Yesterday I did a tour of the western Negev to see the kalaniot, red anemones in bloom. The anemone (anemone coronaria from Greek Άνεμος ‘wind’) is a perennial in the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family.

The human eye can take in a scene much more broadly than a camera which makes photographing a wide expanse of flowers challenging. The deserts of Israel, both the Judean desert at the Dead Sea and the much larger Negev triangle are fascinating places to photograph – I’d be happy to take you to explore and photograph. Here are some photographs that I took that I think capture some of what we saw.





2016 in Review

This new year marks 9 years as a tour guide in Israel and as in past years this is an opportunity to review what has been accomplished. I managed to write 24 blog posts this year bringing the total to 331 articles in words and pictures (more than 1000 of my photos).

There were 65,313 page views by 37,160 visitors this year (mostly from US and Israel, some from Europe, Canada and Australia), down about 18% from last year. I am now less than 5000 views from reaching a half a million page views. The total number of people who interact with my website/blog increased, there are currently 390 (up from 325) people who have subscribed to my blog directly and another 528 (up from 430) people on Facebook who are notified when I post a new article. I also post updates regularly to my Facebook page, Israel Tours.

I had slightly fewer clients this year but those clients hired me for more days enabling me to effectively guide twice as much.

Again this year in the heat of the summer I hiked Yam l’yam, leading a family on the 3 day hike from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee.

Yam l'yam day 2

I guide both Bethlehem and Jericho and can report that the newly uncovered mosaics in the bathhouse at Hisham’s palace are really something to see.


I am happy to offer Photography Tours for people who are interested in my experience and expertise to help them get great photos. Here is a sample tour of the area at the Dead Sea and another tour south to the Great Makhtesh.

I did my longest tour ever, an indepth 17 days with a couple and her parents (in their 80s) where we covered Christian and historical and nature sites throughout the country, with some great food and wine along the way and even 2 days from Eilat to see Petra and the desert from Jordan.


Wadi Araba, Jordan

ostrichHere is what Mom wrote which I think sums it up:

Dear Shmuel. We write to tell you what a wonderful guide you are, with so much knowledge in so many areas. You were truly professional and were attentive to our interests and more. You were so genuine, friendly that we felt you became part of our family by the end of our two weeks. Thank you for a superb, learning experience done in your special way.

Photo of the Week – Nahal Zin

Nahal Zin is in the Negev near Sde Boker and meanders along so that you cross it a number of times along highway 40. I was with clients on the way to Eilat and Petra, Jordan, the Nabatean capital, and we stopped for the night at one of the family farms, Carmey Avdat, that has planted a vineyard on terracing that was prepared by the Nabateans some 2000 years ago. In the morning we went to visit the nearby Nabatean city of Avdat and the makhtesh along the legendary Spice Route that led from Yemen across the Negev to the port at Gaza.

This photograph was taken from the lookout above En Avdat a couple of weeks ago on that trip. I think the hills look like the meringue on the top of one of my son Amitai’s lemon pies.


The technical details – the photo above was taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera in October 2016 (ISO 320, 32mm, F11 at 1/500 sec).

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in buying or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Photo of the Week – Makhtesh exit

The Hebrew word makhtesh is the word used for a geological formation that is unique to this area, formed when a river hollows out a mountain. This photo was shot from inside and shows the rim of the makhtesh where the river exits the mountain and the colored sandstone. The panorama shows more of the makhtesh but to really experience it you need to go the Negev.


The technical details – the photo above was taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera in February 2016 (ISO 400, 44mm, F11 at 1/400 sec). The panorama below shows more of the expanse of the makhtesh and was taken with my iPhone 6s, the exit is the dip on the left. I’ve printed this image as a large (40x150cm), high-quality inkjet print.


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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in buying or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Yam l’yam: Start at Achziv

Last week I walked yam l’yam again, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. In 3 days you actually walk across the width of the country (that’s how small Israel is). Each day is a great hike but together the 3 days are more than the sum of their parts, enabling you to experience a cross-section of the Galilee. Each day hike is different, challenging in its own way, with varying topography, vegetation and accompanying history. I invite you to consider this amazing hike on your next visit to Israel.

For a more complete description (with photos) of the hike, see my post from last year at

Here are the introductory lines of Naomi Shemer’s poem Night at Achziv beach.

The wind and the darkness and the water
Remember from yesterday night your steps
The froth that erased your footprints
Knows that you were here alone

I was up just after 4am and took these photos of the sea and sky before morning light at Achziv.

First shot

Early morn

When light broke I shot some photos of the beach.


DSC_0170 (1)


Photos Touring the Negev

If you are interested in photographing the desert then contact me about exploring Israel’s Negev with a guide – you will get some great photo opportunities. Today I guided En Avdat, the Large Makhtesh and then we drove down the Aqrabim Ascent to the Dead Sea. Here are a selection of photos from our day.


En Avdat


Large Makhtesh


Down from Aqrabim Ascent


Dead Sea

These photos were taken yesterday, a very sunny day in June with my Nikon D5300 DSLR camera, this last one at ISO 800, 26mm, F13 and 1/1000 sec.

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.