From 417m Below to 1,171m Above: Trekking Around Israel
By Caroline Reder
If you haven't heard it before Israel is a magical place. Traveling through this land is one of the most unique experiences imaginable - you are able to explore the stark landscape of the dessert and within mere hours, transversing several climates and altitudes, end up in the lush greenery of the mountains.
Here is a little peek into my adventure from 417m below sea level up along the Jordan Rift Vally to 1,171m high along the border with Syria.
Waking up at 3:30am is never fun but with views like this and the excitement of reaching a summit ahead, it makes the trek up from the Dead Sea worth it.
Ascending Mt. Yishay, there were absolutely stunning, out of this world views of neighboring "Wadis" - translated from Arabic as a valley, ravine or channel dry until the rainy season.
Strength waning, mouth parched, skin burnt, breath gone...getting to the top and seeing these panoramic views of sheer beauty erases all of these fleeting feelings. All that is left is to stare in wonder at the immense vastness encapsulating you and the monochromatic landscape. It is devastatingly spectacular how void this area is of any forms of life or vegetation. It's just you and the valley.
Driving up from the Dead Sea you see a lot of villages like this - harkening back to a time when everything was a bit more simple, a bit more quiet and life was lived on a smaller scale.
On the edge. I love how this village is quite literally built into the side of the mountain. An inch more and those red-roofed houses would be toppling over into the valley below.
After a bit of a drive and two climate changes later, we are ascending to Tzfat, located 900m above sea level.
Ruins like these scatter the hillside of this ancient city.
Blue Doors, traditionally symbolizing heaven, the realm of God and painted as a ward against evil spirits, scatter the city of Tzfat.
After Tzfat it was over to the Banyas - a nature reserve also known as the Nahal Hermon Reserve - which covers a number of archaeological sites.
The Gilabon Stream hike is arguably one of the most beautiful in Israel. The river itself originates from Mount Avital and Mount Shifon, and the water is carried down through the Gilabon into the Jordan River. That's me taking a quick break in the photo.
Coming out from the waterfall after climbing up for what seemed like half a day, we emerged to this amazing open field with a lone tree standing watch.
After the hike we drove even further up to the very top of Israel along the Syrian border. I really enjoyed the dissonance between the pastoral delicacy of the land and the reality of the security apparatus separating the two nations.
Next to the border sits Mount Bental, site of a major battle fought in 1973 during Israel's war for the Golan Heights.
The sign reads 11,800km to Washington D.C., 135km to Amman.
Here's a view from inside the bunker. We are now at 1,171 meters, the zenith of our travels.
The day ended back at the Kinneret with an especially gorgeous sunset drenching the mountains above.