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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tel Dan©

By Vardah LIttmann
Photos Rimonah Traub
The shaded, verdant, wonderland of walkways of the Tel Dan Nature Reserve are filled with lush beauty. The 120 acre park features four different trails which range from about 30 minutes to a full two-hour trek (depending on your walking speed). One of these walkways is 100 percent wheelchair and pram friendly.
In Tel Dan, you walk through the thick undergrowth, stepping many times on black stones to cross though babbling brooks. You are enveloped by the heavy, sweet smell of figs mingling with that of daphna,marsh ferns, lotus jujube (with crooked branches, whose fruit resembles tiny apples), Saint John’s wort, and other  typical riverbank vegetation (holy bramble, loosestrife, common hemp agrimony,  galingale, bedstraw, cynanchum, and willow herb).
The flora is varied, with a shady tangle of trees, mainly oaks, laurel, Italian buckthorn, Jerusalem thorn, and Syrian ash with heart shaped ivy and other creepers intertwined around their trunks and hiding the sky. The good conditions here allow the ash to grow as tall as 20 meters in height. Of the many Atlantic pistachio in the reserve; one enormous specimen is almost 2,000 year-old.
In a circular clearing, you can enter and be photographed in a huge hollow tree trunk dubbed “Winnie the Pooh Tree.”
It is difficult to spot birds flying between the tangled branches, but you can hear the chirping of the cetti warbler, a small songbird which hides and nests in the thicket. White wagtails may also set up home in the thicket and many jays fly over the Reserve. You may encounter the Cairo spiny mouse, broad toothed mouse and the Tristram jird (a rodent which lives in burrows and eats seeds and foliage), pink-crab, and the fire salamander. 
Wooden bridges span the Dan River at various places in the park. It is bewitching to look down at the fiercely flowing water and foamy white bubbles caused by trapped air. In the perfectly clear waters of the Dan are many interesting fish such as Damascus barbell which can climb up waterfalls, and the Levantine-Sicker which can attach itself to rocks.
The Dan River that emerges from a spring at Tel Dan is one of the three sources of the Jordan River, and is the largest and most important, providing  up to 238 million cubics of water to the Jordan River. The Yarden (Jordan) River is called so, because the Dan River yared  (meaning “came down”) from  Dan.
The National Parks Authority has reconstructed a 700 year-old Arabic stone flour mill that is run by water power.
In the reserve is a Tel called Tel Dan or Tel el-Qadi ("Mound of the Judge" in Arabic). It is interesting to note that dan is also "judge", or "one who judges" in Hebrew. This has been identified as the Canaanite city of Laish (Judges 18; 27-29) or Leshem (Joshua 19;47) that was conquered by the Israelite tribe of Dan and renamed Dan. The city continued to be a major commercial center. During the Roman period, the city was abandoned and Banias became the main city.
Excavations at this place are ongoing. In 1993, an inscription bearing what may be a reference to the "House of David" was found here and would be the first outer-Biblical mention of King David's royal family to be discovered.
There is a snack bar (that sells Badatz ice cream), souvenir shop, and picnic areas near the entrance. If you take things to eat on your walk, please do not litter. This area is well taken care of, and visitors should try to keep it that way.
 It is best to visit in spring (Nisan - Iyar) when the water is at its height after the winter rains, and snows on Mount Hermon have swollen the rivers and streams.  In the summer, you may find only a trickle of water.
The Tel Dan Nature Reserve is located on Road 99 (Kiryat Shmona-Mas’adeh), about 11 km east of the Metsudot Junction, north of Kiryat Shmona, near Kibbutz Dan.

Published in the "English Update".

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