Category Archives: Hiking

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 https://israel-tourguide.info/2015/12/21/yam-lyam-hiking-sea-to-sea-3-days/.

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.

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Photographs from Nahal Og

Nahal Og is the northern-most stream bed that empties into the Dead Sea. It carries water 30 km from the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, draining a vast area of 112 sq km. It gets its name og from the Hebrew word for the sumac tree (Rhus Tripartite). The fruit of the sumac you find mixed with hyssop and sesame in za’atar. You cross Nahal Og on highway just before the cutoff to Nebi Musa. Another entry point is closer to the Dead Sea, near Kibbutz Almog. These two photographs were taken at the entrance to the nahal, the first one on December 15th in the afternoon and the second January 29th at noon, the time and day giving different expression to the same scene.

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We hiked Nahal Og on Friday, a great outing from Jerusalem before Shabbat. I took these photos, showing some of the rock formations in the canyon and up along the ridge at the end of the loop trail to capture the solidity of rock and form in this part of the Judean desert. Shabbat shalom.

Photo of the Week – Nahal Soreq

Early this morning we drove out of Jerusalem past Ein Karem and Sataf and followed the Soreq valley, the historical route of the train that joined Jaffa to Jerusalem. Suddenly the gauge on the car signaled that the temperature outside was 4ºC. As we looked to the right the valley was filled with mist. We pulled off the highway, parked and climbed the hill to get some elevation and take photographs.

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DSC_0108DSC_0163Then we descended into the valley and mist and got some nice closeups using a macro lens.

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Couldn’t find any spiders but saw their gossamer webs left behind.

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We did a nice hike in Nahal Katlav, from the derelict Bar Giora/Dayr-al-Shaykh train station, and I figured that the time was right to find crocus pushing up through the earth and we did.

Yam l’yam – Hiking Sea to Sea (3 days)

During the heat wave of July I walked yam l’yam from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee twice in 2 consecutive weeks so I have been initiated. We did it as a 3 day hike, walking about 20+ km per day, 1) Achziv to Maalot Tarshiha, 2) to Meron and 3) to Karei Deshe. Those who have heard of yam l’yam think it’s a cool concept, you walk across the whole country (that’s how small Israel is). In fact, each day is a great hike. Together the 3 days are more than the sum of their parts, enabling you to experience a cross-section of northern Israel. Each day hike is different, challenging in its own way, with varying topography, vegetation and accompanying history. This post is to document parts of the hike with photos, so that you, dear readers, will see something of what we experienced. I invite you to consider this amazing hike on your next visit.

Sea at Achziv

Sea at Achziv

Amitai carving watermelon

Amitai carving watermelon

Day 1: According to tradition we began yam l’yam by touching the water. The earlier you can start the better (especially in the summer, this year the temperature in July when we did the hike was in the 90ºs). The trail goes under highway <4> by the monument to the Night of the Bridges, an operation carried out by the Haganah and Palmach on the night of June 16-17,1946 in British Mandate Palestine to destroy 11 bridges linking the country to its neighbors, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt that the British army used as transportation routes. The operations were carried out successfully, without injuries, except for the railway bridge at Nahal Keziv which failed (14 soldiers were killed, 5 injured).

The route continues parallel to the nahal beside the fields of Kibbutz Gesher HaZiv. The kibbutz had harvested their watermelons but there were some left behind and we found a good one that Amitai carved and served. The kibbutz also had fields of sunflowers and forage crops that had been harvested and were drying in bales in the field – the scene reminded me of scenes of Tuscany.

Galilee like Tuscany

Galilee like Tuscany

Field of sunflowers

Field of sunflowers

From there you pick up the green trail that runs along Nahal Keziv and follow it through dappled woods and streams.

Forest, Achziv

Sumsum enjoying

Sumsum one tired but happy dog

If you keep your eyes open you’ll see all kinds of plants and animals.

Farther along the trail you’ll see the ruins of Montfort Castle, a Crusader fortress that was originally built as a farming estate by the French De Milly family. The name derives from the two French words mont (a mountain) and fort (strong). When the estate was sold in 1220 to the German Teutonic Knights they fortified it as their headquarters and called it accordingly Starkenberg, the same meaning in German.

Montfort

Montfort Castle

From here we reached Ein Tamir and this was where we stopped for lunch and a dip in the pool.

Boys relaxing

Everyone relaxing

Lunch break

Forest

Cascading watersClose to the end of day 1 we reached this waterfall and after cooling down we hiked uphill to the town of Maalot-Tarshiha. The city was established in 1963 through a municipal merger of the Arab town of Tarshiha and the Jewish development town of Ma’alot. Tarshiha is believed to have been built on the site of a Canaanite settlement, Haki, dating back to the 2nd-3rd millennium BCE. Excavations of a 4th-century burial cave in the village unearthed a cross and a piece of glass engraved with a menorah.

Day 2: Early morning we took a lift to the trailhead to rejoin Nahal Keziv at the intersection of highway <89> with <8944>. The challenge on day 2 is the climb up Mount Neria and over Mount Meron, the highest peak in Israel (proper) at 1208 meters above sea level (except for the Hermon that soars to 2814 meters).
Yam l'yam day 2

Katlav, Nahal Amud

Katlav, Nahal Amud

When you reach the peak of Mount Neria the view is breath-taking and these lines may come to mind.

There is much beauty in the world                           יש בעולם הרבה דברים יפים
Trees and flowers and people and scenery             עצים ופרחים ואנשים ונופים
And if you open your eyes                                              ומי שיש לו עיניים פקוחות
You’ll see every day                                                                           רואה יום יום
A hundred incredible things, at least.                       מאה דברים נפלאים לפחות
                 Leah Goldberg                                                         לאה גולדברג

Day 3: Rejoin the trail and enter Upper Nahal Amud just past Meron. The trail is part of the Israel Trail and runs north-south to the Sea of Galilee at about 200 meters below sea level.

Pine Forest, Meron

Pine Forest, Meron

This is one of the pools where you can go in to cool off.

Pool, Upper Nahal Amud

Sehvi Pool, Upper Nahal Amud

And finally the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee. According to tradition we ended by touching the water (and then enjoying a dip).

Sea of Galilee

Negev

Ben Gurion grave, Sde BokerI’m thinking about the Negev. The Negev covers some 13,000 km² (4,700 sq mi) and makes up more than 55% of Israel’s land area. Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and statesman, saw the Negev as the key to a viable Israel. He joined Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev in 1970, lived the last 3 years of his life there and is buried overlooking Nahal Zin.

There are some remarkable sites in the area for hiking and photography : Ein Avdat, white cliffs, reflection pool and Griffon vultures (like angels) soaring overhead and a hike across a high plateau to a spring, Ein Akev, in a stream bed. This part of the Negev is a rocky desert, a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by dry stream beds, in Hebrew nahal, in Arabic wadi. The photographs below are the view across the plateau from an early morning hike with Bonna in August 2013. This week, Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, we celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary.

In the first photo, there is a lot of foreground, brush, rocks, sand stretching to the distant horizon. In the second, there is little foreground and a lot of sky. The shift in the horizon line creates a dramatically different effect. I hope they capture some of the barrenness, expanse and spiritual power of the Negev. 

Rocky Negev

Negev sky

Hiking the Makhtesh

Even from space Makhtesh Ramon appears as a masterpiece of the spirit of the earth.
(from Space Shuttle Columbia monument)

This week I did a very nice 13 km hike in the Har HaNegev reserve to Har Ramon, the highest mountain in the Negev at 1037 meters above sea level. After the winter rains we saw many plants blooming even though this area is a desert.

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Along the way we passed a number of tumuli, piles of rocks that are ancient tombs, and a 4.6 km stone wall running between the mountains Ramon and Romem estimated to be from the Intermediate Bronze period, more than 4000 years ago. Further along the red trail we reached a lookout on the basalt hills of Karne Ramon below, where a monument has been established to the 7-person crew of the space shuttle Columbia that disintegrated on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2003. One of the crew was Israeli, Ilan Ramon, who had taken his surname from this area.

From Karne Ramon lookoutFrom there we descended in a winding path to Nahal Ramon at the bottom of the makhtesh. We then joined the green trail through the Canyon of Prisms and ascended the trail out of the makhtesh.

Canyon of Prisms

It’s hard to capture the expansiveness of this “hole” in the earth because the makhtesh is so large. The makhtesh is 40 km long, 2–10 km wide and 500 meters deep, and is shaped like an elongated heart. I took a sequence of overlapping photographs with the intention of stitching them together to try to give you an idea of the view. Click on each of these images to see it full-size.

The image below is made up of 2 photos “stitched” together.Makhtesh Panorama1This image is made up of 3 photos.Makhtesh Panorama2

This image is made up of 4 photos, a pan of 180º, overlooking Karne Ramon at the southern end of the makhtesh.Makhtesh Panorama

Reflection on Ein Avdat

Busy guiding. Today one of the places we visited was Ein Avdat. I’m always interested in capturing reflections of a landscape and the pool at Ein Avdat is a classic, you can see some photos here. This is a reflection at another place in the canyon.

Ein AvdatPhoto was taken with my iPhone 4.

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