Jordan Valley+Gilboa mountain Area Attractions
1. Belvoir Fortress- The Belvoir (Beautiful View in French) Fortress, which known also as The Jordan Star (In Hebrew), or, The Winds Star (In Arabic), is a Crusader fortress which was built in the 12th Century as a fortified farm, a common form of construction at that time, which served as an administrative center from which the nobles could manage what was going on in the estate, be close to the landlords who farmed their lands and also hide among the protective walls in time. Later on it was used also to try to prevent the invasion of Salach-A-Din (Muslim leader) from the East to Israel. The site is located on a peak that is 312 meters high Above sea level, and its Cliff side slopes to a height of 550 meters above the Jordan Valley, which spreads to its east. The Mountain, which the fortress is located on, called in Hebrew RAMAT KOCHAV (The Star Heights)- which is a Biblical name, that was given to this place by the Issachar Tribe.
Remains of an ancient Jewish settlement from the Talmudic period (3rd century) that were discovered there were identified as "Kochav". Remains of residential houses as well as the remains of an important public building, probably a synagogue, were discovered in the excavations. Stones decorated with Jewish symbols, such as a seven-cane lamp, were found among the building blocks of the Crusader fortress, and were probably taken from the Jewish village of the sword that resided in the Crusader period. Interesting place with marvelous observation to the Jordan Valley! Link to Belvoir Fortress Website is: https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/kokhav-hayarden-national-park/
2. Beit She'an-
First of all, I have to say that from my personal point of View, during a tour in Israel Beit She'an is the most beautiful Archeological site in Israel. Less known because of its location, less theological because there is no modern Synagogue nor Church there, but very interesting and impressive.
Beit She'an is mentioned in the bible in King Saul's time. During a battle against King Saul at nearby Mount Gilboa in 1004 BC, the Philistines prevailed, and King Saul, together with three of his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchishua, died in battle (1 Samuel 31; 1 Chronicles 10). 1 Samuel 31:10 states that "the victorious Philistines hung the body of King Saul on the walls of Beit She'an".
What you can see there:
Roman theater – the spectacular remains and reconstruction of the 2nd century CE theater.
Western bathhouse – the ruins of the large bathhouse of Bet She’an, in use during the Byzantine period. The remains of the bathhouse offer an opportunity to get to know this aspect of life at that time.
The reconstructed cardo (Palladius Street) – a street paved with basalt stone slabs, approximately 150 m in length. Along the length of the street are the remains of columns and impressive buildings.
The Sigma and the Tyche mosaic – a semicircular plaza that was the site of commerce and entertainment. In one of the rooms around the plaza is a mosaic depicting the figure of Tyche, goddess of the city’s fortune.
The Roman temple – the ruins of a large temple.
The nymphaeum – the remains of a splendid, decorated public fountain.
The central monument – the remains of the building that stood at the intersection of the main streets.
The Basilica (agora) – the remains of the open market of the Byzantine period.
Public latrine – a building and colonnaded courtyard. 57 toilet seats are set in the walls of the courtyard.
Ritual compound – a religious complex with a temple, altars, and nymphaeum fountain.
and many other things- really worth seeing.
Link to Beit She'an website is: https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/bet-shean-national-park/
3. Ein Jezreel- Ein Jezreel is one of the biggest natural pools in the Jezreel valley, which gets its water from an underground replica spring from the biblical city of Jezreel , near Gilboa . The spring is called in Arabic, an immortal meaning dead spring. The place is mentioned in the Bible "as the city of Asher in Jezreel" .
In the Bible Ein Izrael is mentioned in connection with the decisive battle of Saul against the Philistines , in the book of Samuel a chapter 29: 1 "The Philistines gathered all their forces at Aphek, and Israel camped by the spring in Jezreel ''.
In this area happened the story of Nabot 1 Kings 21:1-16 " Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a
vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth....”Ahab king of Israel wanted to inherit the vineyard of Naboth, and was refused, and due to that, the wife of Ahab, Jezebel , organized a trial of Naboth the end sentence him to dead. After Naboth died, Elijah prophesied the destruction of the kingdom of Ahab.
4. Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park- The synagogue in Alpha is an archaeological site in Israel, with the remains of an ancient Byzantine synagogue in Israel. The site became famous for its preserved mosaics and was seen as evidence of Jewish life for centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple. The building was declared a national park.
The synagogue was discovered at the end of 1928 and was excavated in early 1929. The excavation and the exposure of the mosaic floor revealed remains of an earlier synagogue, probably from the 5th century AD, from which ancient mosaic flooring remains were discovered. The excavators estimate that the late synagogue, from the 6th century AD, was destroyed in an earthquake in 749AD, or earlier. The parts of the building that fell on the floor of the mosaic protected her from wear and tear. Link to Beit Alfa Synagogue is: https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/bet-alpha-synagogue-national-park/
5. Gan Hashlosha – Gan Hashlosha ("The Sakhne" in Arabic), resides at the foot of the Gilboa and it is considered one of the most beautiful and touristic vacation and recreation sites in Israel. Its beauty has even gained international recognition when the Time Magazine crowned it as one of the 20 most beautiful parks in the world.
What you can find there? Bathing pools: Wonderful pools, whose waters come from springs and cascades, with constant temperature (Winter and Summer) of 28°C (around 82°F), all year long, and this is the source of the park’s Arabic name Sakhne, meaning “hot”. The pools have been enlarged and improved, and made suitable for bathing and swimming.
In addition, you can find in this National Park, other attractions such as the Archaeology Museum, Model of the old Kibbutz Amal, and other attractions - which are open, only at holidays. A really beautiful place to visit.
Link to Gan Hashlosha website is: https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/gan-hashlosha-sahne-national-park/
6. The kibbutz stream - In the valley of springs between the communities and the kibbutzim is the kibbutz stream. Along the creek many seating areas and some are shaded. At the track we will park at the entrance to the reserve and walk along the stream. At the beginning of the stream is the kibbutz pool, next to a grove with benches. Close to the pool is a hill where we can go up and watch the valley.
The water is clean, and we can swim in the pools which are located along the stream. If we want, we can rent a Golf Cart for an hour or more, drive along this pastoral and beautiful site, watch the birds and the Ducks in the water- Very unique experience.
Attached a video which describe the Golf Cart experience there https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U92QYerYMn8
7. Sartava - Sartava or Alexandrion is an ancient fortress located on a high mountain dome, in the mountain range in southeastern Samaria, above the Jordan Valley. The summit of the Sartava rises to a total height of 650 meters above the valley, of which 377 meters above sea level.
The path leading to Sartava is with a view from the summit.
Most scholars believe that the fortress at the summit of the Sartava is the "Alexandrion" fortress, built by the Hasmonean king Alexander Yanai.
Herod commanded his younger brother Prors to rebuild the walls of Alexandrion during his battle with the forces of the last Hasmonean king Matityahu Antigonus (Jewish Wars, A, 308). The fortress is also mentioned in the story of Herod's suspicions of his two sons - Alexander and Aristoblos as trying to assassinate their father's life, presented to Herod a letter in which Alexander his son addresses the commander of the Alexandrion fortress and asks him that after the assassination of their father, he and his brother Aristoblos allow him to come to the fort and use his weapons. Jewish Wars, A, 528).
Remains from the Hasmonean period were discovered in excavations including sections and headings.
8. Gilgal- In the bible, Joshua 4:15-20: "15 Then the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant law to come up out of the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” 18 And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan."
According to the famous archaeological Prof Adam Zartal (Haifa University), this is the biblical site of Gilgal, where Joshua built the altar, around 3400 years ago.
He based his assumption due to several findings in the site:
8.1. the location of the site is very close to the place, which he believes, Joshua and the tribes of Israel cross the Jordan river (in order to understand that, you have to be there and to read from the bible!).
8.2. The size of the site is big enough to allow Thousands of people to worship there at the same time, With an Altar in the Middle!
8.3. The shape of the site is like a foot. It's well known, from other sites which were excavated in Israel from that period, that the Israel's tribes built worship sites with the shape of a foot, because the word "foot" is mentioned several times in the bible regarding the ark of the covenant. For example, In the Book of Exodus 23:14 it's written: “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.". But this is an English translation. In Hebrew there is no word as "Festival". In the original Hebrew version it is written: "Foots". fascinating!
9. Qasr al-Yahud - Christian tradition marks this site as the place of the “spiritual birth” of Jesus, as opposed to his physical birth in Bethlehem (when John the Baptist baptized Jesus). As it's written in Mark 1:9-11:"9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”.
According to Jewish traditional belief, in this site Elisha saw Elijah went up, with a chariot of fire, to heaven, as it's written in Kings 2 2:8-12: "8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.".
In General, this site is less comfortable than Yardenit- mainly for the ones that wish to be baptized.
10. Deir hajla -
Deir Hajla is an active Greek Orthodox monastery near the Jordan River. The monastery is dedicated to St. Gerasimus, who was one of the first founders of a site for reclusive monks during the Byzantine Age.
Gerasimus managed Deir Hajla as a Laura – The monastery itself served as a place of prayer and feasts on Saturdays and Sundays only. On all other weekdays, members of the Laura were in secluded cells and caves throughout the area. There are no remnants of the Byzantine monastery, but many of the 11 Laura cells were nicely preserved, some quarried in stone and some built into the marlstone along Wadi Nahil (Not easy to access).
The monastery was built in the fifth century and was destroyed and rebuilt several times. One of the most known times during which this monastery was destroyed, was in the Persian period (614-628 AD), when all of its monks were Slaughtered by the Persians. The human bones of these monks are presented in a closet in the monetary. The current structure is characteristic of the Crusaders, but many parts are a reconstruction of the original structure. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy conducted the last comprehensive renovations in 1890.
The monastery lies in the middle of a small orchard with nurtured gardens. It is a two-storied stone structure surrounding a courtyard and cistern. The monks’ bedrooms are on the second floor, alongside a beautiful prayer hall with an impressive mosaic floor.
It's a beautiful place to visit!