The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is entrusted with the maintenance and preservation of these sites, some of which have a visitors’ center, guided tours and audio-visual displays. This time, we have chosen to bring you details on some of the notable reserves and national parks in northern Israel.
Nimrod Fortress in the Northern Part of the Golan Heights
At the center of the Nimrod Fortress National Park in the northern part of the Golan Heights stands one of the most beautiful fortresses in the Middle East. The remains visible today are what is left of Muslim construction over a medieval Crusader fortress.
The fortress commanded the northern road which led from the Mediterranean coastline to the city of Damascus, overlooking the magnificent views of the Hula Valley, the Upper Galilee, the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon and the mountains of Lebanon.
Walking along the different paths reveals stories of plots and intrigues from the days of the Muslim struggles with the Crusaders. Remains of stairs spiraling to the top of the tower, hidden passageways, wide halls, watchtowers, verandas used by guards, water holes and even a prison used by Muslim rulers can all be seen.
The fortress’s splendor has impressed visitors to the area. Author Mark Twain, who visited the fortress during his tour of Israel, wrote that “This is probably the most exquisite ruins in the world.”
The Nimrod Fortress can be reached from the direction of Kiryat Shmona, traveling east on road 99. This road winds through impressive views on its way to Mount Hermon and the village of Majdal Shams at its feet.
The Banias Reserve on the Hermon River
On our way to the Nimrod Fortress on road 99, or on our way back, we could stop at the Banias Nature Reserve. Here we will encounter flowing water, waterfalls and springs gurgling in the shade of huge plane trees. At the center of the reserve flows the Hermon River, one of the sources of the Jordan River. The path winds along the river, leading to the remains of a small mill and later to a pool of water called “the officers’ pool” and to the impressive Banias waterfall.
Water from the springs erupts from the rocks at the heart of the reserve, and is the source of the river. This is melted snow that seeped into the rocks down the slopes of Mount Hermon. When the water reaches the Banias region, it flows out and is collected in large pools, used by visitors for dipping and wading. Close to the springs, we can see the remains of the city of Panias and the temple to the god Pan, carved in stone.
Banias is also an archeological site, with remains from the Hellenistic period, a temple built in Roman times by Herod, palaces, walls and structures from the time of Kings Phillip and Agrippa II and findings from the Christian, Crusader and Muslim eras.
The tour of the reserve includes the ritual area, the remains of the magnificent palace from the Agrippa period, splendid structures from the Roman period and a walk along the river.