Family Time in Jordan River Park
Strictly speaking, Jordan River Park by the eastern channel of the Jordan River is in the Golan, but it is only minutes from the north-east shoreline of Lake Kinneret and is therefore included in this section. It is administered by the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and is a wonderful place for doing activities with the family and for relaxing. There are plenty of picnic areas. The kids can swim and splash in the large pool and cool down under the waterfall. There are many paths to discover, that include shallow river walks. The children can cycle on the paths. Family evening activities are often arranged by the park. Unlike the nature reserves of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, this park is open till 11.00 pm, so that you have a complete day to enjoy yourselves, especially if you are camping here. The ruins of Bethsaida (Beit Tzeida) are within the park, and many Christians find them of religious significance.
Directions: Enter “Jordan River Park” on Waze.
Admission: Admission is 50 nis per car. Make sure you obtain a brochure with a map. Facilities include a store selling hot and cold drinks and snacks, WCs and showers. The park is open until 11.00 pm, but after 4.30 pm you start paying for another day. There is also camping here. Their telephone is 04-692 3422. This is their website.
Public transport: Enter "Jordan River Park" into Moovit. The closest bus stop is at Yesud Hama'ala and is a 22-minute/ 1.8 Km-walk.
There are many family-type activities to do here. The main attraction for children is a large pool with gently flowing water that drives a large paddled waterwheel of a reconstructed flour mill. There is also a waterfall in which kids can get wet. There are plenty of shaded picnic benches. There is fishing and kayaking and a play area with slides and swings. Biking is permitted on all the paths - but there are no rentals so bring your own bikes. There are also night nature activities for families. For information about these, call 050 691-2481.
There are a number of circular paths for walking. These are described in the brochure and are clearly marked. Three out of the four start by the bridge by the pool.
The yellow trail includes two sections in which one can either wade through the water or walk on the path by the side of the stream. The water is adult ankle-deep. The first brief section in the water is just after crossing the bridge by the start of the hike. The second section in the water is towards the end of the hike by a bridge and just before joining with the blue trail. The stream bed is fairly smooth and you should not trip. The water part of the trail should take about 20 minutes. Much of the walk is between dense vegetation and does not offer views. The trail is about 2.2 Km and takes about 1½ hours.
The blue trail is 1.8 Km, takes about 1½ hours, and provides views over the Jordan River and the ruins of watermills.
The red trail is along the streams of the Jordan River and passes the ruins of watermills. It takes about 40 minutes.
You can also walk over or take your car to the parking area for the Bethsaida Trail, which passes the ruins of Bethsaida. The first part of this trail is circular, is directed towards Christian visitors, and takes about 25 minutes. You can also do the entire trail, which is about 2 Km and takes about 45 minutes. It is not circular and you will need to return along the same path to wherever your car or family is located.
One of the water trails in the park.
Sign by the ruins of Bethsaida.
Et Tell, Bethsaida and the Kingdom of Geshur
The ruins of Et Tell have been identified with the village called Beit Tzeida in Hebrew, which means House of Hunting or Fishing. It was a prosperous fishing village during the Second Temple period on Lake Kinneret. Jesus performed two miracles here Three of his disciples, Philip, Peter and Andrew, were fisherman and were born in this village. Processed fish was a popular dish in that period. Jesus would finally curse this village, as well as Capernaum and Chorazim, because of their lack of faith in him and failure to repent (Matthew 11:20). The village was destroyed during the Great Revolt.
Not all archeologists, however, are in agreement that this is truly the site of Beit Tzaida, and other locations have been suggested. Somewhat against this location is that the ruins are about 1.2 miles from the shoreline. However, fishing equipment has been found in the ruins and it is possible that the level of the lake was higher in Second Temple times.
However, there is more agreement among archeologists that earlier in history, Et Tell was the site of Tzur, the capital of the Kingdom of Geshur. Excavations have revealed evidence of pagan religious practices, including high places, decorated stelae and dedicatory inscriptions.
This kingdom had a good relationship with King David, and David married Maachah, the daughter of the king. From this union came Absalom. Absalom fled to his grandparents after murdering his half-brother Amnon, although he later found favor with his father and returned to Jerusalem.
The Kingdom of Geshur was independent in the 9th century BCE and extended from along the eastern border of Lake Kinneret to the Golan Heights, as far south as the Yarmouk River. Joshua had allocated it to half the tribe of Manasseh, although they were unable to conquer it (Joshua 13:13). It probably existed as an independent state for no more than a century before being annexed by Aram.