By Hadassah Levy
To the south of the Beit Shean area is a dry and almost barren stretch of land and to its north is the lush greenery surrounding the Sea of Galilee. And in the middle is a small oasis called the Valley of Springs, where it’s hot almost year-round and unexpected streams burst out of the ground to form beautiful pools.
Spend a day in this relaxing spot where you can enjoy nature at Nahal Hakibbutzim and Mount Gilboa, experience history at the Beit Shean National Park and get really wet at the Sachne.
A great family-oriented water hike, Nahal HaKibbutzim is about a two hour walk in water that can reach an adult’s chest. Kids especially love the water pipes which do double-duty as water slides. At the end of the hike you reach a walled off swimming hole, built for British officers during the Mandate era.
The pool is also accessible by car, if you prefer to skip the hike and dive straight into swimming. If you have small children, bring along tubes, since the water can be deep in places.
The Sachne (that’s it Arabic name; it’s called Gan Hashlosha in Hebrew) is a thermal spring which stays a warm 28°C (82°F) all year long, so it’s comfortable for swimming even in the winter. Small artificial waterfalls make this swimming hole extra fun and there are shallow areas for smaller children as well as deeper areas for older kids and adults.
Once you’ve dried off and picnicked, visit the historical attractions. An old water-powered mill has been restored and you can see it operate and learn about other agricultural implements of the early twentieth century. A restored “tower and blockade settlement” tells the story of how settlements sprang up around the country during the British Mandate, when pioneers built the main elements of a new town in the dark of night.
Another attraction is the Sachne’s Mediterranean archaeological museum, which features rare Greek tools found in digs throughout the Bet Shean Valley.
Beit Shean National Park
The city of Beit Shean is one of the most ancient in the land of Israel. It was the Egyptian center of Canaanite rule, an administrative region under King Solomon, a sophisticated Hellenistic polis and the hometown of early Christians. This rich history is evident in the extensive excavations at the Beit Shean National Park. As you stroll along the ancient streets, you’ll be amazed at the grand public buildings, large bathhouses and enormous amphitheater.
On some evenings, you can enjoy Shean Nights – a 3D audiovisual presentation which introduces you to the characters, smells and sights of ancient Beit Shean. Remember to bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water.
A scenic road up to Mount Gilboa takes you deep into the story of the biblical battle between King Saul and the Philistines. You can also see the spot where the Midianites went to war against Gideon and the scene of the battle in which Barak defeated the Canaanites with the help of the prophetess Deborah.
Mount Gilboa is a beautiful mountain which is covered in blooming flowers in the spring, including impressive purple irises. Hiking trails of various levels start at the peak of Mount Gilboa and provide breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, shady forests and charming picnic spots.
You can easily spend a full day in the Valley of Springs and Beit Shean. It’s an excellent stopover on the way to Jerusalem from the north or vice versa. Like many spots in Israel, it combines history, nature and archaeology for a fulfilling and fun-filled experience.
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