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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Majrasa (Daliot Estuary)©

By Vardah Littmann
The “wet" walking trail through the jungle of vegetation at the Majrasa, is as its name suggests nothing less the majestic. With the sun’s rays coming though the thick scrub and playing on the clear water, the Majrasa is one of the loveliest nature reserves in Eretz Yisrael. The Majrasa is a park (Bet Zayda -Betiha-Nature Reserve) on the northeast side of the Kinneret, with a hiking trail whose primary path is in a small lagoon in the Nahal Daliot estuary. 
It is located southeast of the larger Ze'evi Estuary (Meshushim Estuary) in the Bethsaida Valley (Betayha).  The waters in the valley have their source in the Golan Heights rivers – Meshushim, Zavitan, Yehudia, and Batra. The rivers split into 15 estuaries, creating lagoons while emptying into the Sea of Galilee. The Daliot Estuary (Majrasa) is one of these lagoons.
The Majrasa is a fantastic, family-friendly route. The one kilometer tail that will take one and a half to two hours to wade though is recommended to do in the summer time since it is then that the water is refreshingly icy cold. The depth of the water can vary from between twenty centimeters to three meters, depending on the season, the amount of rainfall during that specific year and the amount of water being pumped in from the Kinneret. This necessitates special clothing and shoes appropriate to walking in water.
Along the banks the vegetation that is suitable to water and humidity is varied and rich. Salix acmophylla, or more simply put-- aravot --are very plentiful.  Mentha longifolia or wild mint scents the air. Nerium oleander with its poisonous leaves and toxic qualities add splashes of color with their pink and white flowers.
Vitex agnus-castus, commonly known as chasteberry, is prominent here in the summer, blooming with long exotic lilac flowers and leaves that looklike a hand. The fruit of this plant have been used for thousands of years to help reduce women’s monthly symptoms and to stimulate the production of milk for nursing mothers. It is said to help with types of infertility, as well as acne. Many identify it as the bush in Akeidus Yitzchakin in which the ram’s horns were entangled before it was sacrificed in Yitzchak’s stead.  Therefore some call it “Abraham's Balm.”
In among the vegetation that grows by the water lives aquatic wildlife in the form of river crabs, water turtles, and fish. This is especially so during the egg-laying season when these creatures are searching for shelter for their eggs. Numerous waterfowl, and fish that entered the lagoon from the Sea of Galilee swim past. White butterflies that seem to be dancing in duets flutter by. Throughout the year the vegetation and hillsides around are full of birds, including Eagle Owl, Little Swift and Long-billed Pipit.
If the track is getting too strenuous, there are various points along the way where you can leave the water-trail. If you make it to the end of the hike, you reach an area with eucalyptus groves growing on both sides of the river. On the right (north bank) is a sign, forbidding walking in the water from this point on. This area was designated as a closed nature reserve, in order not to interfere with the unique life cycle of the lagoon.
After leaving the water you can backtrack on the left (south bank) on a dirt road, for about 15 minutes, parallel to the route of the river until you reach the olive orchard and parking lot next to the reserve entrance.
There are a number of possibilities for the source of the name “Majrasa.” According to one version, flour was milled and ground here. Another explanation connects the site to a Moselem place of learning which is also called Majrasa. 

To reach the Majrasa; travel around the Kinerret, on bypass road number 92. Turn west at the Ma'ale Gamla Junctions. At the end of the road, turn right onto a dirt road until you reach a crossroads. Go left according to the signs directing you to the "Zaytim" parking area, and continue an additional 1.5 kilometer until reaching the olive orchard and the entrance to the nature reserve. Next to the olive orchard is a break in the thick vegetation. At that point, enter the water of the lagoon to begin this glorious walk.
Published in the "English Update".

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