Continuing on after the previous stop at the Nimrod Fortress with my photographer friend Boruch Len, our next stop on our little tour of the Upper Golan was the Sa’ar Falls. We sought it out after seeing a picture of it posted on the Tourist Israel Facebook page (here), and eventually found what we were looking for. We parked the car and got out, asking an ice cream vendor for popsicles and directions. To our surprise, the paradise from the picture was just minutes from the road – by foot. It is actually possible to drive off the bridge and into the river… and then down the waterfalls.
We stood on the bridge and watched the first waterfall, our popsicles not quite melting in the warm Spring weather. I was impressed with the torrid rush of cold water that misted daintily up at us but I knew from the roar that there was something even better below us. So we walked away, got into the car and parked on the other side of the bridge where a full view of the three falls was available. I watched the water for some time as Boruch fiddled with his camera, walking from place to place trying to get perfect shots (like the one above). I was content with snapping just a few, knowing that in truth, you need to actually be on location to truly appreciate it. But of course, I took a short panoramic, encompassing the Nimrod Fortress, Mount Hermon, the low mountains and hills leading up through the wilderness and fields to the jagged Sa’ar Falls:
And Boruch, with his professional CS5 photo-stitching feature, created this narrower panoramic of the Sa’ar Valley looking North (this was photographed not at the Sa’ar Falls but on a road heading South):
After spending a nice, leisurely time skirting the falls’ cliff-edge and watching the scores of tourists and school-children enjoying the same beautiful spot, we got into the car and continued on to Banias. We pulled into one of the Banias park entrances and got out to see Pan’s Cave, ruins of what once was a large Greek temple complex built in honour of Pan. Today not much remains of what once was the Temple of Augustus, the Court of Pan and the Nymphs, the Temple of Zeus, the Court of Nemesis, the Tomb Temple of the Sacred Goats and the Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats. But what lasted was the name of Pan: “Banias” is an Arabic corruption of the word Panias or Paneus, referring to the Greek god Pan.
While we were “shooting the cave” we were disturbed by loud wailing and chanting. I set off to identify the source of this loud noise and found a group of Japanese men and women seated on the ground in some little piece of land right at the banks of the Hermon Stream. I couldn’t figure who they were at the time but I did film their strange behaviour. They started to draw a small crowd, and a tour guide waved me over. He explained that they are disciples of Juji Nakada, a Japanese spiritualist who had a strong belief about a connection between the Jews and the Japanese. Nakada “saw the Jews as mystical saviors whose redemption would ensure the political and military, as well as spiritual, salvation of the Japanese.”
We then continued on to the Roman Bridge and the old flour mill, only minutes away down the Hermon Stream. It is truly amazing to see such history all over, even the ancient flour mill which still stands today and is theoretically fully operational. There is a Druze pita stand just outside the mill but apparently the flour comes from a more commercial source.
After the flour mill we turned back and made our way to the car. We hit the road and found the park entrance that is beside (and above) the Banias waterfall, the largest waterfall in Israel. There we were to make our way down a gorge gashed into the lush green land and find the roaring white Hermon Stream as it pounds its way down from Hermon mountains and to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
The walk down was beautiful, affording me a great panoramic of the land which was so nice and green after so much rain this winter. Here it is:
The way down to the waterfall is exceptionally clever. They built a suspended bridge along the basalt and travertine stone walls of the gorge leading down to the water. While we walked on the platform the white water below us crashed and roared. As we approached the waterfall we saw what we had come for. The waterfall is 33 feet high and buried deep within the rocky gorge, the fast-flowing water forced to spray the thrilled viewers. Within just a few seconds I was in danger of getting really wet. Boruch went down on the rocks at the edge of the stream and shot this great picture:
Soon to be posted: Mount Bental