Instead of driving up to the top of the mountain, hikers on the Golan trail are obliged to climb up a very steep path that borders the road as it leads us up a cumulative altitude gain of some 150 meters before bringing us to the summit, which is crowned by an unmanned IDF post and the famous Coffee Annan restaurant, whose name translates as “Cloud Coffee” in a mixture of English and Hebrew. Mount Bental, whose Arabic name Tel al-‘Aram (“Tel Heaps [of Wheat]”) derives from its shape, rears up to 1,165 meters above sea level to the west of the Quneitra Valley. Both Mount Bental and Mount Avital are part of the mouth of the same volcano. The northern section of the mountain is composed of scoria, which is easily identifiable because of its reddish color, while the southern section, i.e., the inner part of the mouth of this dormant volcano, is composed of yellowish gray weathered tuff.
An audio facility at the site provides explanations of the magnificent view. To the east extend the landscapes of the Quneitra Valley and the basalt plains deeper inside Syria, Mount Hermon, southern Lebanon, the Galilee Hills and the expanses of the Golan Heights. Quneitra, the city occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War, which was eventually returned to Syria as part of the separation of forces agreement signed in 1974, was never rebuilt and remained an abandoned ruin. Instead, the Syrians built a new town named Baath City (Madinat al-Baath), to the east of Quneitra. Near the café is an exhibition of iron sculptures by Joop de Jong, a member of Kibbutz Merom Golan.
The Trail to Quneitra Valley
The Golan Trail descends to the Bental Reservoir and Bab al-Hawa, which is situated at the western entrance to the large Quneitra Valley. This fertile valley, which extends into Syrian territory, is planted with orchards, vineyards and field crops. Archeologist Naama Goren-Inbar discovered a prehistoric site in the valley that contained a large accumulation of bones belonging to a variety of animals including rhinoceroses, wild cattle, horses, a lion, a turtle, a red deer, a gazelle and a wolf. Some of the bones showed signs of cuts made by human hands around 54,000 years ago, when the Quneitra Valley was a large lake where men ambushed animals as they came down to drink. The bones of these animals can be seen in the Golan Archeological Museum in Katzrin.
The steep trail, which is about a kilometer in length, descends the northern slope of the hillside, which still retains some attractive remnants of woodland. The northern slope is densely populated with natural woods in which Israeli common oaks, gall oaks and sumac (Rhus coriaria) predominate.