Ein Pik and Mitzpe Afik - a delightful spring and observation point
This short walk takes you via an exotically beautiful path from the partially reconstructed ruins of the Syrian, but formerly Jewish, village of Pik to the pretty Ein Pik spring. From the village there are wonderful views of the Ein Gev wadi. You can also walk or drive from the parking lot to the nearby Mitzpe Afik overlook in Kibbutz Afik, from where there are also impressive views. Adjacent to the overlook is a former Syrian officers' building which was visited by the famous Israeli spy Eli Cohen and is a stop on the Eli Cohen Trail.
ABOUT THE HIKE TO THE SPRING:
Time: At least 45-60 minutes there and back.
Distance: 0.90 Km there and back.
Type of walk: The same trail there and back.
Difficulty: There is an easy descent to the spring on stone and metal steps with railings on both sides. The short final section to the spring is slightly difficult and there are boulders to climb over.
Directions: Enter “Ein Pik” into Waze. This will lead you to the parking area. There is a portable WC here.
Public transport: There is a bus between Mevo Hama and Katzrin that stops at Afik Junction, and a bus line between Degania and Natur.
The houses of basalt stone you first see are those of a Syrian village called Pik, which was deserted after the Six-Day War. Some have been reconstructed. During the Roman and Byzantine periods this was a Jewish village. 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 pillar is now in the Golan Archeological Museum in Katzrin. Also displayed in this museum from here is a lintel with a menorah and other Temple symbols, a shofar, incense pan, and the citrous fruit the etrog.
From its name Pik, it has been suggested that this was the site of the Biblical city of Aphek, 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 the battle. The surviving Arameans fled to the nearby Biblical city of Aphek, but the walls of the city fell upon them. Aramean ruins have indeed been located here. If this was the city of Aphek, then this decisive battle was nearby. However, other locations for this city have also been suggested, and there may even 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 you can visit). Beyond this is the Sea of Galilee.
Take the steps on the left to the spring via an exotic 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, from which water can be seen dripping. The kids will enjoy playing in its cool water.
Return to your car the way you came.
The path from the village to the spring Ein Pik is quite beautiful.
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 the Mitzpe Afik overlook is worthwhile. There was once a direct footpath from Ein Piq to the overlook, but the path 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. You can also drive to the kibbutz. Enter "Afik Overlook" into Waze and click on “מצפה אפיק." By the overlook is a former Syrian officers' quarters, which is number 4 on the "Eli Cohen Trail".
From the parking lot ascend straight ahead and this will lead you to a southern peripheral road of the kibbutz.
Turn left and continue on the southern-most peripheral roads of the kibbutz until you reach the lookout, which is in a small garden. A recording in Hebrew or English describes the view. Visit the former Syrian officers' building. There is not a lot to see inside, but it has significance in 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.
The simple memorial to Eli Cohen in the Syrian officer's building.
View from Mitzpe Afik that includes the ancient city of Sussita.
Eli Cohen, master spy
Elie Cohen spied for Israel 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 Syrian defenses. He is recognized as Israel’s greatest spy, a hero, and a patriot who gave his life forhis country.
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 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 was able to remember details of the concentration of armaments and fortifications he was shown. As a reciprocal act of friendliness to the Syrian army, he financed the planing of eucalyptus trees 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 of the fortifications.
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 is 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 his application was rejected. However, his name resurfaced when the need arose for someone to take this position.
He had no problem living a double-life. He was once employed as a counter-intelligence agent for the Israel military, but left this position as he found it too boring. He had a degree in electronics from Egypt. He worked as an accountant in the supply department of a distribution company. Just before he agreed to accept employment from the Mossad, he had been fired from his job. He had a devoted Israeli wife and three children. He only saw his children on his three visits to Israel.
He was first assigned to Buenos Aires in Argentina to establish his cover and it was there that 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 led a revolution for the secular-leftist Bath party and become its president. Because he had the full trust of 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. He was even considered for the position of 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 miltary plans at these parties. Some of his closest friends had an open invitation to his apartment for sexual encounters.
He knew all the details about Syrian plans to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River and their plans to send Palestinian commando saboteurs into Israel. These plans were thwarted by the Israeli military based on the information Eli provided. 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 come home, but the Mossad wanted him to continue a bit longer as the information he was providing was so valuable. His broadcasting signals were traced and he was arrested in his apartment while sending a broadcast to Israel.
Despite an intense campaign to save him, his fate was almost a forgone conclusion. His very presence was now an embarrassment to the Bath party, 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 has nine sites where Eli Cohen passed through or spent time in. The trail begins at Hamat Gadar Hot Springs. This place was captured from Israel and used by the Syrians as a resort for Syrian officers and their relatives. Some of the stops on the trail consist of hand-carved sculptures, while at others there are audio recordings and photos. One of the stops is the community of Eliad, which was named after Eli (Eli Forever). It used to be a Syrian army base, and as one might expect there are eucalyptus trees nearby. The final stop is at the foot of Mount Avital where there is a sculpture of Eli's wife Nadia Cohen with her 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 their website.