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Family Time in Jordan River Park

Jordan River Park is by the eastern channel of the Jordan River and strictly speaking is in the Golan Heights. However, 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 family activities and relaxing. The kids can swim and splash in the large pool and cool down under the waterfall. There are many paths to discover, including 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 p.m., so 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 are of significance to Christians.


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, restrooms and showers. The park is open until 11.00 pm, but after 4.30 pm you start paying for the next day. There is also camping here. Their telephone number 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.


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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 this 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 begin 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 water is towards the end of the hike by a bridge and just before its joins up with the blue trail. The stream bed is fairly smooth and you should not trip. Much of the walk does not offer views because of the dense vegetation. The trail is about 2.2 Km and takes about 1½ hours. The water part takes about 20 minutes.


The blue trail is 1.8 Km, takes about 1½ hours, and provides views over the Jordan River and watermill ruins.

The red trail is by the streams of the Jordan River and also 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 leads to 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 and the search for the village of St. Peter


The ruins of Et Tell in the park have been identified with a village on Lake Kinneret called Beit Tzeida, which means House of Hunting or Fishing in Hebrew. It was a prosperous fishing village during the Second Temple period. Processed fish was a popular dish at that time.


Jesus performed two miracles at Beit Tzeida. Also, according to the Gospel of John 1:44, three of his disciples, Philip, Peter and Andrew, who were fisherman, were born in this village. Jesus would finally curse it, as well as Capernaum and Chorazim, because of the people’s lack of faith in him and failure to repent (Matthew 11:20). The village was destroyed during the Great Revolt.


Nevertheless, not all archeologists are in agreement that this is really the site of Beit Tzaida. Against this location is that the ruins are about 1.2 miles from the shoreline. Nevertheless, fishing equipment has been found in the ruins and it is possible that the level of the lake was higher in Second Temple times.


One location suggested for Beit Tzeida by archeologists is the site El-Araj on the northern shore of Lake Kinneret near the estuary of the Jordan River, and hence not far from here. This fishing village dates from the time of Jesus. It contains the ruins of a Christian, Byzantine basilica dating to the 6th century CE, together with a monastic complex. In this respect it resembles the monastery at Kursi, which commemorates Jesus’ swine miracle (see page xxx). Interestingly, a mosaic inscription within the church written in Greek commemorates a donor and implores the help of St. Peter who is designated as “the chief of the apostles and the keeper of the key of heaven.” This implies Peter’s association with this church and hence as strong likelihood that his home was in this village.


Much earlier in history, Et Tell was likely the site of Tzur, the capital of the Kingdom of Geshur. Excavations here 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 he murdered his half-brother Amnon who had raped his sister, although he later found favor with David and returned to Jerusalem.


The Kingdom of Geshur was an independent kingdom 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 allocated it to half the tribe of Manasseh, although they were unable to conquer the area (Joshua 13:13). It probably existed as an independent state for no more than a century before being annexed by Aram.

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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