Ein Pik and Mitzpe Afik

This short family hike takes you via a beautiful path from the partially reconstructed ruins of the Syrian and formerly Jewish village of Pik to its spring Ein Pik. From the village there is a wonderful view of the Ein Gev wadi. Walk or drive to the overlook Mitzpe Afik. This also has wonderful views. The adjacent former Syrian officers' building has a strong connection to the famous Jewish spy Eli Cohen.

FOR THE SHORT HIKE

 

Time: At least 45-60 minutes.

Distance: 0.90 Km there and back.

Type of walk: One-way.

Difficulty: The descent to the spring is on stone and metal steps with bars on either side. The short final section to the spring is slightly difficult and there are rocks to climb over.

Directions: Enter “Ein Pik” into Waze. This will lead you to the parking area. There is a portable WC here.

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The houses are those of a Syrian village that was here called Pik. It was deserted after the Six Day War. Some of its homes made from basalt stones have been reconstructed. In the Roman and Byzantine periods this was one of the many Jewish villages in the Golan. Archeological findings of Jewish interest are a pillar on which was engraved a seven-branched menorah and the Hebrew words “ana yehuda hazan” (I am Judah the cantor). This can now be viewed in the Golan Archeological Museum in Katzrin. Also displayed there are the finding of a lintel with a menorah and other Temple symbols – a shofar, an incense pan, and the citrous fruit the etrog.

 

From its Arabic name, it has been suggested that this was the site of the Biblical city of Aphek, which is mentioned several times in the Bible. In the 9th century BCE, King Ahab, the king of the Northern Israelite Kingdom, decisively defeated Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram who had declared war on Israel. As told in Kings 1 28:20, Ben Hadad's army suffered numerous casualties in this battle. The surviving Arameans fled to the nearby Biblical city of Afek and the walls of the city fell on them. It has been speculated that this is the city of Afek, and its name is retained in the Arabic Pik. In fact, Aramean ruins have been located here. If this is the case, then the battle would have been nearby. However, other location for this city have also been proposed. There may also have been more than one Biblical city called Aphek.

Directions to the spring:

 

  • From the parking area, take the path ahead of you. At the first fork turn right. At the next fork turn either to the right or left - both lead to the village. Some of the Syrian buildings have been reconstructed.

 

From the wooden bridge there is a beautiful view of the Ein Gev wadi. The hill in the distance is the site of the ruins of the Greek city of Sussita (which can be visited). Beyond this you can see Lake Kinneret.

 

  • Take the steps on the left to the spring via a shaded path with dense foliage on either side. Crossing the remains of an aqueduct will bring you to a small concrete-bounded pool. It is quite deep, up to the neck of an average height adult. Just before the pool is a short path to the spring. The source of the spring is a crevice in the rock, and water can be seen dripping from it. The kids can play in its cool water.

 

  • Return to your car the way you came.

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The path from the village to the spring Ein Pik is quite exotic.

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Watch the spring water drip from the crevice in the cliff. Kids can play in the water.

Visiting Mitzpe Afik (Afik Overlook):

 

A visit to Mitzpe Afik is worthwhile. There used to be a direct footpath from Ein Piq to the overlook, but I was unable to find it and it no longer seems to be passable. Instead, walk up to Kibbutz Afik from the parking lot and the overlook is on the south-west edge of the kibbutz. Otherwise, drive to the kibbutz. Enter “מצפה אפיק” into Waze. The building by the overlook is a former Syrian officers'' building and is number 4 on the "Eli Cohen Trail".

 

From the parking lot continue straight ahead and this will lead you up to a southern peripheral road of the kibbutz.

 

Turn left and continue on the southern-most peripheral roads until you reach the lookout, which is a small garden. There is a recording about the view, which can also be heard in English. Visit the former Syrian officers' building. Objectively, there is not a lot to see in it, but it has significance within the context of the Eli Cohen trail.

 

Return to your car the way you came.

Paths to Ein Pk and Mitzpe Afik: To follow your location on your smart phone, click on https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/share/wY4vknCd4z. Click on the black box with a cross at the top left of the map and it should change color to green. It is not necessary to download the program unless you wish to.

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The simple memorial to Eli Cohen in the Syrian officer's building.

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View from Mitzpe Afik that includes the ancient city of Sussita.

Eli Cohen the master spy

 

Elie Cohen was active in Syria between 1961 to 1965. Two years later Israel captured the Golan Heights during the Six Day War. From the information he provided, Israel had full knowledge of the Syrian defenses. He is recognized as Israel’s greatest spy, a hero, and a patriot who eventually gave his life for Israel.

 

Eli was able to penetrate deep into the Syrian Bath administration soon after he arrived in Syria, reaching as high as its President. He befriended the top Syrian military brass and as a gesture of friendliness was shown around closed military zones. The Syrian Officers’ Club at Ein Pik was one of the places he visited. He had a photographic memory and remembered details of the concentration of armaments and fortifications he was shown. As a reciprocal gesture of friendliness, he advised and paid for eucalyptus trees to be planted around these fortifications so that the soldiers would have comfortable shade while manning the outposts and so that Israel would not suspect their true nature. In actuality, they functioned as markers.

 

Eli had no qualms about taking risks and this made him an extremely effective spy. Two movies have been made about his activities as a spy. All the episodes of the latest movie “The Spy” are absolutely gripping. This was not to say that his life in Syria was always like this, but there must have been many times that it was. His propensity to take inappropriate risks had been previously noted by Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, when he first applied for a position with them and he was rejected for a position. However, his name resurfaced when the need arose for someone to take this position.

 

He had no problem living a double life. It was certainly more exciting than his position in Israel. He had been employed as a counter-intelligence agent for the Israel military, but left this job as he found it too boring. Although he had a degree in electronics from Egypt, he then worked as an accountant in a supply department of a distribution department. Just before he agreed to accept employment from the Mossad, he had lost his job. He had a devoted Israeli wife and three children, whom he only saw on his three visits to Israel.

 

He was first assigned to Buenos Aires in Argentina to establish his cover and he befriended Syrian patriots in the Moslem Club, including General Amin al-Hafaz, then the military attaché for Syria. Shortly after Eli arrived in Syria, Al-Hafaz would lead a revolution for the secular-leftist Bath party and become its president. Because he was absolutely trusted by the top political echelon, everyone else in the government and military felt comfortable trusting him with state and military secrets. He carried out political missions for the Bath party. On one occasion, he was even considered for the Minister of Defense.

 

To everyone in Syria, he was a Muslim, a rich business man who was generous with gifts, a patriotic Syrian, a supporter of the Bath party, a trustworthy friend of those high up in the Bath government, a lover of night life, and an eligible bachelor. He accumulated favors by arranging parties in his large apartment that included flowing alcohol, pretty girls and prostitutes. His guests would openly discuss their work and army plans at these parties. Some of his closest friends had an open invitation to his apartment for sexual encounters.

 

He knew full details about Syrian plans to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River and their plans to send Palestinian commando saboteurs into Israel. The Golan provides 30% of Israel’s water supply and this diversion would have been a disaster for Israel. These Syrian plans were thwarted by the Israeli military. However, it was becoming increasingly apparent to the Syrians that Israel was obtaining inside information. It was now just a matter of time before he would be discovered. Eli was prepared to give up, but the Mossad wanted him to continue a bit longer as the information he was providing was so valuable. His broadcasting signals to Israel were traced and he was arrested in his apartment while actually sending a broadcast to Israel.

 

Despite an intense campaign on his behalf to save him, his fate was almost a forgone conclusion. His very presence was now an embarrassment to the Bath party by indicating how easily they had been fooled. He was publicly hanged. Despite repeated requests his body was never returned to Israel.

 

The 70-Km Eli Cohen trail was completed in 2013 and consists of nine sites where Eli Cohen passed through or spent time in, beginning at Hamat Gadar Hot Springs. These springs were taken from Israel and used by the Syrians as a resort for Syrian officers and their relatives. Some of the stops consist of hand-carved sculptures, while at others there are audio recordings and photos. One of the stops is the community of Eliad, named after Eli (Eli Forever). This used to be a Syrian army base. There are eucalyptus trees nearby. The final stop is at the foot of Mount Avital and is a sculpture of Nadia Cohen with three small children gazing in vain in the direction of Damascus for her beloved husband. A description of the trail in English can be found on the this website.