The Naftali Mountain Range soars above the Hula Valley on the eastern side of Upper Galilee. The gully of Nahal Dishon (“Antelope Stream”) borders the range to the south, while the Litani River in Lebanon marks its northernmost point. The western flank of the mountains, which is about 25 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide, is likewise within Lebanese territory. We can, however, take comfort in Mount Shanan, to the north of the Menara Cliffs, which at 902 meters above sea level, is the highest point of the range.
The border between Israel and Lebanon passes along the watershed at the top of the ridge: Israel received the side of the hill where streams flow eastward into the River Jordan, while the waterways that drain into the Mediterranean are in Lebanese territory. Young fault lines connected to the Dead Sea Valley raised the Naftali Mountains upwards, creating a steep escarpment on the eastern flank that rears above the Hula Valley. As the rock layers tilt to the west, the side of the mountain located within the Mediterranean Sea’s catchment basin is wider and slopes more gently than the range’s steep eastern flank. It is geology’s “fault,” therefore (forgive the pun), that most of the area of the mountain is in Lebanese territory.
At the end of the 1930s, in response to the British White Paper, Jewish settlement in Upper Galilee increased, and was further strengthened later for security reasons. Three positions were established in the Naftali Mountains: Menara in 1943, then Misgav Am and Ramot Naftali – two Palmach outposts that eventually became civilian communities – two years after that.
The scenic route
Until comparatively recently, the scenic route from Mitzpeh Adi to Metulla could be negotiated only by four-wheel drive vehicles or exceptionally sturdy cars. Today, however, the trail is suitable for ordinary private cars, too, and parts of it have even been surfaced with asphalt. The best time of day to travel along the route is the afternoon, when the sun’s rays light up the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon and paint them in glorious colors. The route is indicated throughout by red trail markings.
From Tel-Hai Junction (Route no. 90), drive uphill on Route no. 9977 towards Kfar Giladi, then turn right after almost five kilometers and continue past the IDF’s Mitzpeh Adi camp. This is the southernmost point of the scenic route, as the KKL-JNF sign at the start attests.
First we pass through a forest planted by KKL-JNF, then immediately afterwards we can start to look forward to some amazing scenery. True, the view here is beautiful wherever we look, but if we continue for 2.3 kilometers we can park beside a Mount Atlas mastic tree at the side of the road and contemplate the scene in tranquility. In wintertime we can see the snowy peak of Mount Hermon with the checkerboard fields and communities of the Hula Valley at its foot, all laid out as if in the palm of a hand. Beneath us is Kfar Giladi, so far below we could be viewing it from a plane, and to the left towers Har Zakif (923 meters above sea level). To the south of Misgav Am is an important vantage point that provides a view of Lebanon.
Near Mount Zakif, between Nahal Shomer and Nahal Misgav, we find ourselves, geologically speaking, in a syncline (trough) in which chalk rocks have conglomerated in a special manner known as a Bar Kochba formation. Few woody plants grow on these rocks, but herbaceous spring-flowering plants are plentiful.
We continue along the scenic route with Kfar Giladi below us and Misgav Am above. Soon we can see the houses of the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila spilling sparsely down the hillside towards the border with Israel. In the past, when this part of southern Lebanon lay within Israel’s Security Zone, many residents of the village served in the South Lebanese Army. Today, however, the community is a Hezbollah stronghold.
About halfway along, some four kilometers from its starting point, the scenic route crosses the Nahal Misgav riverbed, at a point marked by a conspicuous date palm with a meager spring beside it. Now we find ourselves surrounded by the deciduous orchards of Metulla on the gentle slopes of Mount Noter. The surrounding landscape and the disposition of the orchards provide a picturesque backdrop to our journey.