December 30th 2014
The Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve, covering more than 2000 acres, is a multi-faceted attraction in the eastern portion of the lower Galilee. The most dramatic image of Arbel National Park is Mount Arbel, the cliff face that rises 1300 feet above the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and offers a spectacular view of the Golan Heights, the Kinneret and Mount Hermon. Arbel is also the location of a formerly affluent community that dates back to the times of the Talmud. And Arbel National Park is a place visitors go to hike trails that lead to clusters of caves hidden deep within the rock face.
The Arbel Stream bubbles through the national park and gives birth to a number of springs. The largest spring is known as En Arbel. Walking along the path of the Arbel Stream, you might be lucky enough to come upon the ruins of ancient flour mills or orchards that once were fragrant with pomegranates, figs and citrus. The national park is home to wolves, hyenas, hydrax and martens, with their cat-like faces. The Arabs call Arbel Stream Wadi Hamam (Dove Stream) because of the variety of doves that can be spotted in the area.
Six distinct trails have been established and marked for visitors. The most interesting and manageable of them for all walkers is a 30-minute walk from the parking lot to the ruins of the Talmudic-era Arbel village and its synagogue. This trail is a loop that begins and ends in the same location. Other trails, mostly those meant for experienced hikers, can take up to 3 hours and sometimes require a vehicle waiting at the other end of the hike. A brochure offering extensive details about visiting Arbel National Park and all the hiking options is available in English.
There is a tradition, dating back to the 2nd century, that an important battle will take place at Arbel sometime after the arrival of the Messiah. In the meantime, serious hikers should carry 3 liters of water and wear walking shoes and a hat to protect themselves from the sun. All visitors are cautioned to stay away from the edge of the cliff, where loose stones have been known to roll.