We are now in the catchment basin of Nahal Semekh, which, with a length of some 20 kilometers, is the longest stream in the southern Golan Heights. It rises at the springs beside the village of Shaabaniya, to the east of Gilgal Refaim. In the past its upper reaches were known as Al-Mawaqer, and the stretch between its meeting point with Nahal El-Al and the Kinneret was referred to as Wadi al-Samak (“Fish Stream” in Arabic), possibly because the fishing grounds in the estuary beside Kursi are considered to be among the Kinneret’s best.
We pass by a depression that fills up with water in winter, as we can see from the tamarisks growing nearby. To the north of the depression is a small cliff populated by fig trees, which teaches us something about their preferred habitat. To our left the gully slowly deepens until suddenly it develops a kink and turns sharply to the left. This bend in the river is dominated by a large and impressive basalt plug that soars to a height of about twenty meters, creating a cliff face scored by scarred pillars. Geologists explain that this is a remnant of a volcano that has eroded away, leaving only the hardened basalt that once plugged its vent.
Now the path descends to the bed of the flowing stream. We make our way through a “tunnel” of reeds and arrive at a large bridge made of basalt rock, commonly known as the Syrian Bridge. Note the plane trees growing along the riverbed.