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Discovering the city of Katzrin

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



Directions: Enter "Ancient Katzrin Park" into Waze and click on "Ancient Katzrin Park, Qatsrin."

Admission. This site is open Sunday to Thursday 9.00 am to 4.00 pm, Friday 9.00 to 2.00 pm, and Saturday and holidays 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. There is an admission charge. There is a gift shop with hot and cold drinks and snacks. An English brochure with a map is available. There are picnic tables outside the gift shop, but not inside the village. The site is wheelchair accessible. Their phone number is 04-696 2412. This is their website.

Public transport: There are buses to Katzrin from Haifa, Acre, Safed, Kiryat Atta, Yokniam Illit, Emeq Hayarden and Tiberias.

Ancient roller used for packing earth on roofs is shown. 

An ancient roller used for packing earth on roofs is shown. 

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The Talmudic village at Katzrin


The reconstructed Talmudic village at Katzrin has the best display in this country of how Jews lived in Israel during the Talmudic period. There are seven exhibits, four of which are described here, although not all the exhibits may be operating at any one time. A short movie is shown in The Talmudic Experience (#7).


Jewish settlement in the Golan began during the Hasmonean period. By the 300s CE, in the Byzantine period, the southern Golan was predominantly Jewish, with some 30 Jewish settlements. Distant from the main Byzantine Christian centers in Palestine, Jews would have had little interference with their lives. All these settlements had a synagogue, and this was invariably the most impressive building in the village. About 30 families lived in the village of Katzrin.


Jewish life in the Golan came to an abrupt end as the result of an earthquake in 749 CE, and all the villages were abandoned. Why were they not rebuilt? We have no records from this time. However, the Jews were now living under Muslim rule and this may have resulted in a significant change in their economic and security situation. They no longer had the benefit of the Byzantine "common market" and it may have been difficult and even dangerous to get their products, primarily olive oil, to their previous customers. The earthquake may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

During your visit you will see the following:


The reconstructed home of Rabbi Abun. In actuality, no one knows who lived in this house, but the tombstone of Rabbi Abun was found in the village and posthumously he inherited this home. The first thing you will notice is how dark it is inside, even during the daytime. This is because it has only a limited number of windows. Glass window panes had not been invented and any holes in the walls would have let in the cold. Illumination was provided by oil lamps.


The roof was made of wooden beams with packed earth on top. There is a roller displayed outside for packing the earth. (Repairing roofs may have been the job of the 1st century BCE sage Honi HaMe’agal, Honi the Roller, described in the Talmud. Honi also drew a circle, magal in Hebrew, as a challenge to God to deliver rain during a drought). The main room was where the family ate and where they slept on mats. Food was kept above floor level to prevent it being eaten by rodents. The clay vessels are replicates of those found here. You can also climb into the loft.

House of R Abun in the Talmudic Village in Katzrin

Reconstructed home of Rabbi Abun. The homes were dark even during the day because of the paucity of windows.


The oven is in the kitchen

The roof of Rabi Abun's home was made of wooden beams with packed earth on top.

The roof of Rabbi Abun's home was made of wooden beams with packed earth on top.

Food in Rabbi Abun's home was kept above ground level to prevent it being shared by rodents.

Food in Rabbi Abun's home was kept above ground level to prevent it being shared by rodents.

The synagogue. As in other Golan communities, the synagogue was the most impressive building in the village. It faced south towards Jerusalem. A wooden ark would have stood on the stone dais abutting the southern wall. As was typical for other synagogues built in this period, two rows of decorated columns divided the large hall into three spaces. Worshippers sat on the stone benches adjacent to the walls. The synagogue was destroyed in the earthquake of 749 CE.

Note the decorative jugs and pomegranates on the lintel of the ancient synagogue.
Decorated columns supported the roof of the synagogue and divided the large hall into three areas.

Decorated columns supported the roof of the synagogue and divided the large hall into three areas.

Note the decorative jugs and pomegranates on the lintel of the ancient synagogue.

Olive oil production. The main industry of the village was the production of olive oil and two olive presses are shown outside the building the Talmudic Experience (#7). The stone weight is from an original olive press but the wooden structure is reconstructed. (See also the essay below on olive oil production).

The Golan Archeological Museum


Visiting an archeological museum may not sound a terribly exciting thing to do on a family vacation, but this museum has many interesting exhibits, and older kids will appreciate the short movies in particular. The scope of the museum is broad - archeological findings throughout the Golan - and all are nicely presented.


There are three exhibit halls. Many will find the exhibit on the fall of Gamla of considerable interest, especially if you intend visiting or have already visited its ruins. Gamla was destroyed by the Romans in 63 CE. It was never rebuilt and its ruins were discovered after the Six-Day War.  The siege of Gamla and the discovery of the ruins are described in a 15-minute movie shown in relation to a 3-D model of Gamla. The movie can be viewed in English or Hebrew. The only explanations at Gamla are quotations from Josephus and this movie presents a much fuller picture.


Another exhibit hall shows discoveries from several of the ancient synagogues of the Golan, including a lintel identified by its inscription as coming from the study hall of Rabbi Elazar Happar from the ancient Jewish village of Dabura. (The ruins of this village can be visited during the hike in the Jilabun Nature Reserve). Of the 120 or so ancient synagogues found in Israel, over 30 were found in the Golan.


The third exhibit hall is devoted to findings in the Golan from the Chalcolithic (pre-Canaanite) period, including a reconstructed home. More information about this period can be found in the section “The History of the Golan Heights” on the webpage "About the Golan Heights."

There are also larger exhibits outside the building.


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

Reconstructed Golan dwelling from the Chalcolithic period shown in the Golan Archeological Museum.
Move on Gamla in museum.jpeg

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 the use of copper for tools etc. during this period.

The movie about the siege of Gamla is shown in relation to a model of the city.

Restaurants and cafes at Eitan Center

A short walk from the museum and on the same side of Route 9088 is the shopping center Eitan Center. This has many reasonably-priced restaurants, outdoor benches, and a fountain in which small kids can play. It is a popular eating place for tour groups and Katzrin residents. Enter into Waze "Eitan Center" and click on "Eitan Center, מרכז מסחרי איתן, Qatsrin."

Eitan Center is a popular hangout for tours and tourists, especially at meal 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 four Golan kibbutzim and four moshavim. It produces four kosher labels – Yarden, Gamla, Hermon, and Golan – and each has different varieties. Their usual tour lasts about an hour and includes a visit to the barrel room and a tasting of three different wines. They also have special tours, such as a Four Seasons Vineyard Tour. They are open Sunday to Thursday 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and Friday 8.30 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. 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.     

Kesem HaGolan (Golan Magic) Visitor Center

This center located about 2 Km east of Katzrin shows a movie on a 180-degree screen about the history and geography of the Golan Heights. It is shown every hour in Hebrew, and in English and Russian by arrangement. There is also a model of the area. There is an admission charge. Taste of the Galilee and Golan is a combined coffee shop, kosher dairy restaurant and store selling local produce and cosmetics. The center is open Sunday to Thursday 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., Friday 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., and Saturday 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Their phone number is 04 696 3625. In the same building is the Golan Brewery. There are also nearby stores. Directions: Enter into Waze "Visitor Center Katzrin" and click on " מרכז המבקרים קסם הגולן."

The Golani Distillery:

The Golani Distillery is where Israel’s first whisky was produced, although it now has competitors. A tour of their facility is offered, including the distilling vats and wooden barrels, all of which are on one floor, and a tasting of some of their many products (including single malt, different flavored whiskeys, arak, gin and absinthe). There is a charge for the tour and tasting. They claim that because of the different weather conditions, a 3-year-old Israeli whisky is equivalent to a Scotch whisky that has matured for much longer. They may be able to accommodate drop-in visits, but it is best to call beforehand. Their number is 054 384 3069 or 053 339 4787. Enter into Waze "Golani Distillery" and click on "Golani Distillery, 18 Street, Qatsrin.” [In actuality, this street has been renamed HaBe’er Street, but this new name may not be in Waze]. Click here for their website.

On a tour at the Golani distillery.

On a tour at the Golani distillery

Hatzavim Promenade

This circular countryside promenade is completely paved and therefore suitable for a stroller or wheelchair. The countryside is not particularly exciting, with typical Golan steppe-like scenery, but there is an observation area and a small wadi with different vegetation. Mount Hermon is in the background. Directions by car: Enter into Waze “Katzrin Market.” This is not a functioning market and you can park your car here. For the trail, walk 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. From here you will see the beginning of the promenade and a map.


Close to the beginning of the walk is an observation area, Mitzpe Gur, that overlooks Nahal Katzrin. There are many benches on the route and a shaded picnic area a bit over half-way. Follow the paved road and it will take you back to Katzrin Market and your car. The total distance is 2¾ Km and it takes about 50-60 minutes without any stops other than for the observation area.

Map Chazalim promenade.jpeg

Map of Hatzavim Promenade

View of the Golan savannah from the Hatzavim Promenade.

View from Hatzavim Promenade

Osher Ranch 

This ranch is on Zavitan St. in Katzrin and offers short or extended horse riding throughout the Golan. It also has 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.

Olive oil production in Roman and Byzantine times

The main agricultural product of the Jewish settlements in the Golan in times past was olive oil. Olives were harvested for two months during the fall, and the olive presses would have been operating full-time during this period. Olive oil had a multitude of uses, including for making cosmetics, cooking, and particularly for illumination. Olive oil burns without any smell or smoke. This would have been very useful for a literate society, since reading could be done after the workday.


The pressing of olives results in about 20% fat, 40% solid waste and 40% watery lees or sediment. The oil is contained within the kernel as well as within the fleshy fruit. The role of the olive press was to extract oil from both. (This is in contrast to grapes in which the juice was not extracted from the seeds, as this would otherwise have imparted a bitter taste).


The first step in oil production was crushing the olives in a mill. This consisted of a round basin with one or two crushing stones that revolved around the basin on their own axis. One end of the axle for the crushing stone served as a handle and was usually pulled by a donkey. The oil that floated on top of the watery lees was skimmed or ladled off. The Mishna termed this the “first oil.”

Two types of presses were used in Israel during the Roman period. The earliest was a direct pressure lever press. By the 1st century BCE, screw processes were also in use. Examples of both are shown outside the Talmudic Experience building.


In both type of presses, the mushed olives were placed in baskets one on top of each other and squeezed between round press boards. Pressure was exerted by weights hanging from the beam of the press or using its screw. The so-called "second oil” extracted by this process dripped into a central vat below the press or into collecting vats by its side (which are not shown in the models here).


The whole process was then repeated again, beginning with the crushing. The oil obtained this time round was called the "third oil.”

The basin and crushing stone of an olive press in the Talmudic Village.

The basin and crushing stone of an olive press. A screw press and direct pressure lever press are seen in the background.

Direct pressure lever olive press at the Talmudic Village at Katzrin.
Olive press III.jpeg

Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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