Lake Kinneret and the Jordan Valley
There are many places around Lake Kinneret and the Jordan Valley up to Beit She’an that family members will appreciate and one can easily spend several days in this area. If you are driving from Jerusalem along route 90 you will pass close to many of these sites. This includes parks in the Beit She’an Valley and Harod Valley, activities between Beit She’an and Lake Kinneret, walks and activities just before the the southern end of Lake Kinneret, and places around Lake Kinneret itself.
The Beit She’an Valley is a large valley that is part of the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Rift Valley is part of the Syrian African Rift (or Great Rift Valley) that runs between Lebanon in the north to Mozambique in Africa, a distance of about 3,700 miles. It results from the moving apart of two tectonic plates – the African Plate and Arabian Plate – leading to a thinning of the earth’s crust. These plates are still, in fact, moving apart. The Arabian plate on the east side of the Jordan River is shifting north, while the African plate on the west side of the river is moving to the west. The movement is only several mm a year, but over 15 million years it adds up. The rivers, gullies, and even copper mines on both sides of the Jordan River and Arava no longer align, with a difference of 65 miles between each side.
About 3.7 million years ago, oceanic water from the Mediterranean poured into the Jordan Rift Valley through the Jezreel Valley. Subsequently, the intervening mountains rose up, leading to the isolation of a large lake called Lake Lissan. Lake Kinneret in the north and the Dead Sea are all that remain of this giant lake. The Jordan River meanders through the length of the Jordan Valley and connects these two lakes. As the crow flies, the distance is only 65 miles, but the twists and turns of the river more than double this.
The Beit She’an Valley is part of the Jordan Valley in the area of Beit She’an and is at the confluence of several valleys. It is also known as the Valley of the Springs because of its multiple water sources. It contains the town of Beit She’an and nearby kibbutzim and agricultural communities. The Harod Valley is one of the eastern outlets of the Jezreel Valley and joins the Beit She’an Valley at its western aspect.
Two exceptional parks in the Beit She’an Valley are Gan Hashlosha (Sachne) and the adjacent Park Hama’ayanot. Gan Hashlosha is often regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Israel and the swimming here is superb. Also next to Gan Hashlosha is Gan Gan Garoo Park, which will keep the kids very happy for quite a few hours. It is also educational for adults, particularly if there is interest in dinosaurs. Not far from these places is the park of Ma’ayan Harod in the Harod Valley. The kids will enjoy swimming and playing in the shallow pools and there are other areas to explore. And of course, the ruins at Beit She’an demonstrate the splendor of the architecture of Roman times.
Between the southern shore of Lake Kinneret and Beit She’an is Kohav Hayarden and its Crusader fortress. This is more than just old ruins, as the castle has been partially reconstructed, and it is not difficult to recreate the life of its Crusader defendants. I also highly advise a tour at Naharayim at Gesher for inspiring stories about Jewish pioneers during the Mandate and 1948 War of Independence. Just before the southern tip of Lake Kinneret are two interesting family walks – Kibbutz Kinneret Nature Walk and a walk along the Jordan River. There also canoe rides on the Jordan River. Leave time to explore Tiberius. Also, on the other side of Lake Kinneret by Ein Gev there is an off-the-beaten-track hike to the ruins of Sussita.
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