Discovering Katzrin

A major attraction in Katzrin is its Talmudic Village. But don’t speed away after visiting this site. There are other interesting things to do in Katzrin, including wine and spirit tasting, an archeological museum with interesting short movies, a countryside promenade suitable for strollers and wheelchairs, and horseback riding.

The Talmudic Village:

Because of its reconstruction, ancient Katzrin is the best display in Israel of how people lived in the talmudic period. Jewish settlement in the Golan reached its peak in the Byzantine period between the 4th to 7th centuries CE.  About 30 families lived here. There are 7 exhibits, 4 of which are described on this website. Also a movie in #7 The Talmudic Experience. Do not forget to take an English brochure with a map:

 

The reconstructed home of Rabbi Abun. Actually, no one knows who lived here, but the tombstone of Rabbi Abun was found in the village and posthumously he inherited this house. The first thing you will notice is how dark the house is, even in the daytime. This is because it has only a limited number of windows. Glass window panes had not been invented and any hole in the wall would bring in the cold. Illumination would have been provided by oil lamps. The roof was made of wooden beams with packed earth on top. There is a roller outside for doing this. (In fact, this may have been the job of the 1st century BCE sage Honi HaMe’agal, Honi the Roller. He also drew a circle and there may be two meanings to his name). The main room is where the family ate and slept on mats. Food would have been kept above floor level to prevent its consumption by rodents. The clay vessels are replicates of those excavated here. You can climb into the loft.

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The homes were dark because of the limited number of windows.

The roof was made of wooden beams with packed earth on top.

The oven was kept in the kitchen

Food would have been kept above ground level to prevent rodents from sharing it.

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A roller for packing the earth on the roof.

The Synagogue. As is usually  the case in  these Golan communities, the synagogue was the most magnificent building of the community. It faced south towards Jerusalem and a wooden ark would have stood on the stone dais abutting the southern wall. Two rows of decorated columns divided the large hall into three spaces, and worshippers would have sat on the stone benches adjacent to the walls. The earthquake of 749 CE destroyed the synagogue dissolved.

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The decorated columns supported the roof and divided the large hall into three area.

Note the jugs and pomegranates on the lintel

Golan Archeological Museum

Visiting an archeological museum may not sound that exciting, but there are many interesting exhibits and short movies that even older kids will be able to appreciate. Its scope is large - archeological findings throughout the Golan - and they are very nicely presented, including two short movies. There are three exhibit halls. Many will find the presentation on the fall of Gamla of considerable interest, especially if you intend visiting or have already visited the ruins. There is a 15-minute movie, which can also be viewed in English, shown in relation to a 3-D model of Gamla. The only descriptions at Gamla are quotations from Josephus, and this movie fills in the gaps very nicely.

 

Gamla was destroyed by the Romans in 63 CE. Following its destruction the Roman army eventually moved on to Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. Gamla was never rebuilt and its ruins were discovered after the Six Day War. The discovery of the ruins and the siege of Gamla are described in the movie.

 

The second exhibit hall shows discoveries from several of the ancient synagogues of the Golan, including a lintel from the study hall of Rabbi Elazar Happar in the ancient Jewish village of Dabura (the ruins of which can be visited during the hike in the Jilabun Nature Reserve). There were once about 30 synagogues in the Golan (of the 120 or so recognized in Israel). The villages in the Golan were destroyed in an earthquake in 749 CE and they were abandoned. The third exhibit hall is devoted to findings in the Golan from the Chalcolithic (pre-Canaanite) period, including a reconstructed home. There are larger exhibits outside the building.

 

Directions: Enter “Museum of Antiquities in the Golan” into Waze. The museum is open 9.00 am to 4.00 pm Sunday to Thursday and 9.00 am to 2.00 pm on Friday and holidays eves. It is closed on Shabbat. There is an admission charge. Allow about an hour to 1½  hours for a visit. This is their phone number 04-696 2412.

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A reconstructed Golan dwelling from the Chalcolithic period (4th millenium BCE). 25 villages have been found in the Golan from this period. The name Chalcolithic comes from people's use of copper for  tools etc. during this period.

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The movie is beautifully shown over a model of the ruins of Gamla.

Restaurants and cafes

Close to the museum and on the same side of route 9088 is מרכז מסחרי אתן. This has many reasonably-priced restaurants, outdoor benches, and a fountain in which small kids can play. In non-Covid times this can be a very busy place, since it is where tours and Katzrin residents eat out.

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In non-Covid times this is a popular hangout for tours and tourists, especially at meal times.

Golan Heights Winery:

This cooperative is Israel’s third largest winery. It was established in 1983 by 4 Golan kibbutzim and 4 moshavim. They produce 4 kosher labels – Yarden, Gamla, Hermon and Golan – each with different varieties. Their usual tour lasts about an hour and includes a visit to the barrel room and a tasting of 3 different types of wines. They also have special tours such as a Four Seasons Vineyard Tour. They are open Sunday to Thursday 8.30 am to 5.00 pm and Fridays 8.30 am to2.00 pm. They are closed on Shabbat. Their address is Derekh HaYayin 4. Enter “Golan Heights Winery” into Waze and click on “Golan Heights Winery visitor center.” Their phone number is 04 696 8435. This is their website.     

The Golani Distillery:

Israel’s first whisky was produced here, although they now have competitors. For 50 nis they offer a tour of the facility which is on one floor. You will view the distilling vats and wooden barrels and tasting some of their many products (single malt, different flavored whiskey’s, arak, gin and absinthe). They claim that because of the difference in weather conditions, their 3-year whisky is equivalent to a Scotch whisky that has matured for considerably longer. They may be able to accommodate drop-in visits, but best is to call beforehand. Their number is 054 384 3069 or 053 339 4787. Enter into Waze “18th Street. Qatsrin.” In actuality, this street has been renamed HaBe’er Street, but this new name is not yet in Waze.

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On a tour at the Golani distillery

Hatzavim Promenade: There cannot be that many circular countryside promenades in Israel that are completely paved and thus suitable for a stroller or wheelchair. Katzrin has one. Admittedly, the countryside is not madly exciting, being typical steppe-like Golan. But there is an observation area and also a small wadi. Mount Hermon is in the background. Directions: Enter into Waze “Katzrin Market.” To my knowledge this is not a functioning market, so you can leave your car here. For the trail, go back to Daliot St.  and then to Kikar Daliot. At this roundabout, turn right onto Zavitan St. You will pass Kikar Jilibun. When you come to the next roundabout after this, Kikar Zavitan, turn into Sir Oliphant St. You will see the beginning of the promenade and a map. Near the beginning of the walk is an observation area, Mitzpe Gur, that overlooks Nahal Katzrin. There are many benches on the route to rest, and a shaded picnic area a bit over half-way along. Follow the paved road and it will take you back to Katzrin Market and your car. The total distance is 2¾ Km and it should take you 50-60 minutes without any stopping other than for the observation area.

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Map of Hatzavim Promenade

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View from Hatzalim Promenade

 חוות האושר horse-riding on Zavitan St in Katzrin offers short or extended horse riding throughout the Golan. They also have a small animal park, pony rides, horse riding instruction, and vehicle rides. Their phone number is 072 392 5652. Directions: Enter "חוות האושר" into Waze and click on "חוות האושר קצרין״". This is their website.