Day 8:Pistachio Tree Park, Hurshat Tal, Tel Dan

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
What I did
Pistachio Tree Park
Hurshat Tal National Park
Tel Dan Nature Reserve

Flag of Israel  ,
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The birds were chirping and the roosters are answering each other's calls as we enjoy our morning breakfast on the balcony overlooking Rosh Pina and the Golan Heights.  The food is as pretty to look at as it is to taste.  Last night we met our hosts, Gil and Maayan.  This morning, Maayan, comes by and we schmooze for quite some time.  Again - connections.  We share stories of our family backgrounds.  Maayan’s parents came from Poland before WWII; a smart uncle told the family "it’s time to go".  Gil’s father’s family moved 19 times during the war.  His mother is the only one of the family who survived.  After spending some time hidden high in the rafters of the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, she was taken in by their friend’s parents .  Chills went down my spine when I hear this – last December we visited the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam and it is hard to imagine living in those high rafters.

We’re putting the pieces together about bed and breakfasts in Israel.  Maayan explains that the houses are so expensive that when they are purchased, the family plans to rent one or two rooms to tourists.  That’s how they afford to buy the home.    This is our second bed and breakfast on this trip and we are a definite fan of this type of lodging which is a combination of accommodation and local experience.  It’s a fascinating way to have an informal window into Israel by meeting Israelis.

We toss around the possibilities with Maayan for the day that I have prepared as our “menu of possibilities”.  Maayan graciously spends time giving pointers in our quest for trees and makes some suggestions for driving directions as well as lunch.  Okay, we’re off!

 Pistachio Tree Park (Khenyon HaElot) is our first stop.  The main attraction here is one specific Atlantic Pistachio tree – it is magnificent, huge, and ancient.  The estimated age is 450 years old.  There are some people sitting at the picnic table under the tree and they watch as I walk around taking photos.  They have this puzzled look and then smiles as I walk under the tree.   One person walks up to me and I comment about the tree.  He immediately says he doesn’t know anything about this tree but highly recommends an old tree at the main entrance to the town of Netanya.  I make a note of it so it gets on a list for our next trip to Israel.  After he takes our photo, he teaches us a new word “Labriot”  which means “to your health”.  What a great expression! 

Our next tree stop is Hurshat Tal National Park that has 240 Mount Tabor Oaks.  In the national park guide “The oaks are indeed ancient, many of them dating back two thousand years (with trunk diameters of 6 meters), while the youngest are some four centuries old.  Their survival is startling in a land whose trees were always cut down by the successive occupiers throughout history (only with modern Jewish settlement is the country being reforested).  The trees of Horshat Tal remained largely untouched only because they are associated with a Moslem legend and the nearby graves of several revered Moslems.  The legend concerns ten of Mohammed’s messengers who halted at the Horsha one day during their wanderings and found it to be a stretch of wasteland, with not a single tree for shade or a hitching post.  They therefore pushed sticks into the ground to tether their horses.  Overnight, the sticks sprouted and the holy men woke in the morning to find themselves beneath the boughs of giant oaks.”  This grove is one of the remaining woods from the large forest of Tabor oak that once populated a vast area of the country west of the Jordan. 

You might ask, why did I include this text?  It’s the stories associated with the geography and the culture as well as the structure and form of trees that intrigue me.  Sometimes I get a special sensation near a tree or grove.  That how it is today - it is here in this grove at Hurshat Tal, as I am wandering and photographing, that I feel an energy drawing me towards a group of oaks that seemed to be roughly in a circle.  It feels peaceful yet energized.   I never know when some special feeling or wisdom will emanate from a tree – and I love the surprise when it does!

Now at lunch, we sit under the shade of a large weeping willow and some fig trees by a stream.  Maayan recommended the restaurant, Dag Al Hadan, not far from Hurshat Tal National Park and at the junction of the Dan and the Hatzbani Rivers.  It’s known for its fresh trout.  We are not fish eaters and if it were not for Maayan I don’t think we would be here, but we decide to give it a try.    Our first course includes a variety of appetizers: house pita warm, eggplant, beets, tabouli, green tahini, grilled vegetables, olives. This alone could have been a meal.  But then we would have missed out on the grilled fillet of fresh trout.  We were surprised at how yummy it tasted, but since we have never had trout before we can make no comparisons.  We ordered a single portion and it was more than sufficient for us two.  There was a larger portion that was recommended for two people – yet we could not finish all the fish that was for a single person.  We highly recommend this restaurant!

Next stop is a revisit to Tel Dan Nature Reserve.  We loved Tel Dan on our last trip – it offers a feeling of water and streams emerging from everywhere as well as tree shaded paths through the excavated site of Dan.  Our special interest is the 3,800 year-old mud brick gate.  How incredible is that? There is a lot to see at Tel Dan and you can get a pretty good feel for it in the slideshow.  I am going to make a few comments about our experience here.

Shortly after we arrive we meet a couple from Toronto who are spending five days in the Galilee, have been married about 38 years, and although they are quite friendly, the wife is a bit of a complainer. We are just as happy that we walk in different directions.  We hike to the Mud brick gate, an extraordinary archaeological find from 1800 B.C. – that’s about 3800 years old!  Imagine – how could mud brick last so long?  How did the archaeologists recognize that it was a structure and not dirt and pull it apart? As we stand there looking at it, I am full of wonder and so many questions arise!

On our way to the exit, we had planned to stop in the wading pools.  We passed them shortly after arriving and decided that it would be a refreshing experience after walking around – now, as we stop by for our wade in the cool waters, hundreds of teenagers with red t-shirts are in groups chatting.  This is such stark contrast to the quiet area with just a few people a few hours ago.  Should we have gone earlier?  Should we have put it off to later as we did?

A young couple asks us for directions to the exit.  Harvey, the better navigator than I, offers an opinion.  They tell us they’ve been hiking all day and all the places they’ve been.   If you had a TV clicker in your hand and you’re looking at the TV, just fast forward and watch all the action - that’s them.  With us, click “pause” or “slow motion” periodically and then regular speed!  

We see the young couple again in the parking lot.  The tag on the car indicates we have both rented from the same rental car company and I’m curious about the size of their trunk and car; it’s all research for our next trip.  Anyway, this leads to a conversation. 

They have been going out for three years and before leaving for Israel they had a civil marriage service in Chicago.  Tomorrow, they are going to Jerusalem and will be married there.  Oh, they say, we’re eloping! No one in their family knows.  This leads to a discussion of their reasons for eloping.  Their energy, enthusiasm, vibrancy and excitement is contagious.  It all makes me start talking about how fantastic marriage is when it is right, how when you love someone one supports the other, that one plus one equals three, that it is a journey – just like this trip they are on, but it for their life, that they obviously are in love and enjoy being with one another, that we wish them all the best.  Yes, it was one big run on sentence!  They said I could be a rabbi!

I took a quick snapshot of this couple – no posing, just them in spur of the moment gestures.  Now that I recall the conversation and look at the snapshot, I wish I had said to them – please, just pause for a moment and get in touch with the spark of love inside and let me take your photo.  I wonder what they would have done to express themselves?

Our meeting this young couple (in their 40’s) made an impression on Harvey and I.  We love each other so very much.  Our energy doesn’t jump out of us, it’s so much more low key.  We tried to remember what we were like when we first got married (in our low 20’s). 

All this visiting old archaeological ruins of remains of past lives and only stones that remain, trees that are old but still living, and then seeing the difference between the Toronto and Chicago couples – all made us think about phases of our lives and what is enduring. 


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