The Ancient Baram synagogue
The ancient synagogue of Baram, one of the most impressive preserved anywhere in Israel, is today a national park, and visitors are required to pay an entrance fee. In the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods this area was the site of a large Jewish village. The synagogue has three entrances, and its façade is particularly impressive. The lintel over the main entrance is adorned with typical Jewish symbols: vines, bunches of grapes, balancing scales and floral motifs. Most of the building’s pillars, which apparently supported the second storey of the original building, have been re-erected in the prayer hall.
Near the synagogue lie the ruins of the Arab village of Biram, whose Maronite Christian inhabitants were ordered by the Israel Defense Forces to vacate their homes after Israel’s War of Independence. The local church is still intact, and the village’s former residents return to it from time to time on special occasions.
Nahal Gush Halav
The gully of Nahal Gush Halav descends from the community of Gush Halav (Jish) into the Dishon Gully and its lower section borders the forests planted by KKL-JNF. This route is a four-kilometer walk that takes about two hours from the starting point to the pick-up point (be sure to have a vehicle waiting!) at the end. The starting point for this route is the Gush Halav Post Office, from which we descend the winding street marked in green until we come to the dirt path the descends along the riverbank. After walking for a kilometer between olive groves and fig plantations on either side we arrive at the remains of a Byzantine synagogue to the right of the trail. The façade, which faces Jerusalem, is constructed from large impressive stones. The stone door sill now lies on the floor of the main hall, and the remains of a relief depicting an eagle and a wreath can still be discerned upon it. The first pillar to the right after the entrance bears an inscription in Aramaic, which reads: “Yosei son of Nahum made this lintel, may a blessing be upon him.” This synagogue may have belonged to a neighborhood of Gush Halav.
The green-marked path now turns aside from the dirt road and makes its way along the riverbank. In summer, this route may be blocked by a tangle of thorny undergrowth, in which case we should take the dirt road instead, where small springs can be seen flowing all along the way. In the upper section of a gully that enters from the right, whose tall poplar trees are visible from Nahal Gush Halav, a spring of pure clear water called Ein Alva emerges from a concrete pool and flows abundantly. The route continues peacefully along the gully, passing a number of ruined watermills before coming to an end in Nahal Dishon, where we wait for our vehicle to come and pick us up.
Nahav Aviv is a short gully that descends down to Nahal Dishon from the environs of Kibbutz Yiron, providing a hiking route of around 4.5 kilometers in length that takes three to four hours to complete. Here again we need a vehicle to come and pick us up at the end of the route, at the point where the road from Yiron to Nahal Dishon meets the dirt track along the gully. The starting point for this route, which is best avoided in summer, is the sharp bend on the back road from Kibbutz Yiron to Moshav Avivim.
The gully offers a beautiful walking route, largely because of the rock pillars along its banks. Along Nahal Dishon the footpath is marked with Israel Trail markings, and here we turn right (i.e., westwards) along a dirt road and continue until we reach the point where it joins the road that descends from Kibbutz Yiron, where our vehicle is waiting. In November, it is worth considering a slight change of route and turning left along Nahal Dishon to walk downstream: at this time of year large clumps of winter daffodils (Sternbergia clusiana) bloom here, just near the gully. If we choose this option our walk will end at Alma Bridge (Gesher Alma), and we shall have walked two kilometers more than we would have done had we followed the route proposed earlier.
The Dafna Friendship Memorial Site
In 2003, on Kibbutz Yiron, KKL-JNF established a memorial to members of the Dafna settlement nucleus (gar‘in) who were killed in Israel’s fight for independence while undergoing training on Kibbutz Dafna prior to settling Kibbutz Yiron. This monument to their memory is called the Friendship Memorial, and it is dedicated to three members of the group who fell in the War of Independence on what is now Israel’s northern border. A scenic lookout was also established, providing a view of the hills of Lebanon, Mount Hermon, the Golan Heights and the Galilean hills. A scenic promenade nearby displays environmental sculptures by some of Israel’s leading artists.
How to get there:
After entering Kibbutz Yiron, take the perimeter road on the northwestern side and continue for about 500 meters until you arrive at the site.