I was very happy when Ramblers Worldwide Holidays asked me to visit Israel to survey the walks for their new Biblical Footsteps tour. I arrived in Israel after dark and checked into the hotel that the group will use on the tour. Next morning I drew back my curtains onto the wonderful sight of the golden dome. This may not be the best photograph in the world, but the sight is something that I will always remember.
Running a survey for a tour is actually very hard work: not only do I have to find the walks, but I have to walk on them and write them up afterwards. There are also hotels to check and more reports to write. After a 6:30am breakfast, I met the local agent at 7:30am and was on the road by 8 o’clock. Due to the hotel and guide availability I did the Palestinian part of the tour first, so I met my Palestinian guide and we drove to the start of the Waddi Qelt walk.
This is a walk on the hillside above a waddi (dry river bed). We were the only ones on the path, so I was lucky enough to see many Rock Hyrax. These creatures are like giant hamsters. They live on the rocky hillsides, and interestingly their closest biological relative is the elephant! The walk was mostly, but not all, downhill to the famous St. George’s Monastery.
This is a Greek Orthodox monastery, formed around some caves in the 420s. It is perched on a cliff, and luckily for me they allow women to enter (not all do). I viewed the church and then we settled down in the shade of some olive trees and had a picnic. In the afternoon we walked down to Jericho, passing through the remains of Herod’s Great Palace. After a drinks and toilet stop I took a tour of Jericho, before transferring to the hotel.
My second walk in Palestine was a half-day walk along a very old Canaanite path, part of the Abraham Trail. This proved to be rather stony and sometimes difficult, however it was only four miles long and I was spurred on by the fact that at the end of the walk is the village of Taybeh. This is a Christian village with a famous brewery, and I had to visit to check it out. As I said above, surveys are hard work… but somebody has to do it!
Leaving Palestine, I returned to Israel and met my Israeli guide, and drove to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. There was an easy walk passing many waterfalls, much greener than the previous two days. It was a holiday, so there were a lot of people at the waterfalls. It was then a steepish ascent (optional for you, but not for me!) onto a rocky hillside to walk to the spring and historic remains.
Here I saw some Oryx (a type of antelope), although the only photographs that I managed to take were of their tails disappearing into undergrowth! Descending to the road on a good trail, we walked to the remains of an old synagogue to see a mosaic. This was another late lunch, as we are not allowed to eat in the reserve. There were also cold drinks and ice creams available.
From there I also visited Masada, but did not make the sunrise ascent that will be done on the tour. The following day we then drove on to Nazareth. After sightseeing, we did our first walk on the Jesus Trail.
We started our walk on the outskirts of Nazareth and walked through farmland until we reached the entrance to Zippori National Park for lunch. We then viewed the remains of the Roman Town; this was very interesting and there were some beautiful mosaics. From Zippori we walked through the forest and on to Cana (of water into wine fame), where we finished our walk at the church.
We spent the night at a hotel in Tiberius, and the following day we headed North to the Golan Heights. The walk started at Nimrod’s Castle, perched on the top of the hill with fantastic views. We did a short tour, and then descended down the hillside to the main entrance of Banias National Park. Here we had lunch and saw Pan’s Cave and the remains of Agrippa’s Villa. There are also cafes and toilets.
The afternoon walk was very pleasant, basically following the route of the Banias River. We stopped at a Druze café for refreshments and then continued until we reached a waterfall. There was the option of an extension but time was against us so we returned to Tiberius for the night.