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All at once tragic, beautiful and a symbol of both pure evil and pure goodness, Naharyim is a tiny strip of land situated between the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers which is a must see on any visit to the northern part of the Land of Israel. The little strip of land is often referred to as the island of peace because it sits smack dab between Jordan and Israel.
Naharayim by the Jordan river; Photo courtesy Travelujah
The area was under Israeli control until the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in 1994 and Israel ceded the area to Jordan. However, in a twist worthy of King Solomon, the Jordanians agreed to lease it back to the Israelis so that the Israeli residents there could continue to cultivate the land.
Naharyim, which means "two rivers," since the area is located right between the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers, first came to prominence when Pinchas Rothenberg under the British Mandatory authorities, built a power plant in the area in 1934. The plant provided electrical power to both the future Kingdom of Jordan and to the future State of Israel; however, it was destroyed in 1948 during fierce fighting between Jewish forces and invading Arab armies.
Israel eventually took control of the area and it became an extension of the nearby Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'acov. The members of the Kibbutz worked the land and the area was fairly unremarkable, save for the occasional visit of families or school groups enjoying the natural beauty of the area.
In 1994 however, the land became the spotlight of international fame when it was ceded to the Jordanians in a peace treaty signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Jordanian King Hussein. Naharayim was then nicknamed the "island of peace" because of the extraordinary arrangement reached between the two nations, whereby Israeli citizens could continue to visit on the land while Jordan would hold technical sovereignty.
Island of Peace; Photo courtesy Travelujah-Holy Land Tours
The tragedy of Naharayim occurred 3 years after the land was ceded to the Jordanians. A group of Israeli schoolchildren were visiting the land and receiving a lecture from their teacher about how the area was a symbol of peace when the unimaginable happened -- a Jordanian soldier of Palestinian descent opened fire on the school girls, killing seven before he could be subdued.
Memorial located at Naharayim; photo courtesy Travelujah-Holy Land Tours
Out of this tragic event however, grew closer ties with the Kingdom of Jordan when the late King Hussein made an unprecedented visit to Israel to personally apologize to the families of the children and to offer his condolences.
If you go
Today, visits to Naharayim must be arranged through Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'akov and security arrangements have been put in place to ensure that no tragedy like the one with the school girls is ever allowed to occur again.
The Power Plant - Experience Mesopotamia Bridge, Tourism site of Kibbutz Gesher
A visit to the area is not complete without visit the Mesopotamia bridge at Kibbutz Gesher and seeing the working model of the power plant, rebuilt in a small scale model to demonstrate what it once was like. The model is intended only as a demonstration and not a practical electrical generation plant.
There is also a light and sound "show" which is put on as part of the experience which is perfect both for children and adults visiting the area to get a better idea of what it was like to be there when the power plant operated. There is a visitors "trail" which will allow you to see the old dams and bridges along with the turbine room so that you can see all the details of what the working power plant was like.
Mesopotamia bridge experience
04-6752685 / 04-6753336 Tel
Don't Forget the Views
Of course, the real treat here isn't the power plant but simply the breath taking views -- Naharayim boasts a beautiful boardwalk from which the three bridges in the area and the banks of both the Jordan and Yarmuk river can be seen (along with both the border of the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan).
Other things to see include the museum of the Israeli war of Independence, in which Kibbutz Gesher took a central part and the memorial to the seven young victims of the 1997 tragedy.
In addition to these, be sure to ask your guide about things to see in Kibbutz Gesher itself as well as about nearby Bet Shean, an ancient city which existed at the time of Jesus where a number of archeological digs have been found which show what life was like at the time of the Roman occupation and the birth of Christianity.
The Crusader fortress of Belvoir is situated closeby as well and is a worthwhile visit. The reconstructed fortress is the most complete Crusader fortress in the country and the only one that has been completedly excavated. The pentagonal fortress has a 20-meter wide, 12-meter-deep moat surrounding it and also surrounds a stronghold tower (donjon). Phone 04-6581766 for more information or click here.
Where to Stay
Kibbutz Ashdot Yaacov offers a number of well appointed guest
rooms that are perfect for individuals traveling on their own as well as larger
group stays. The kibbutz is located in the Jordan Valley region, 5 minutes from
Sea of Galilee, 15 minutes drive from Tiberias and Hammat-Gader, and it is an excellent
vantage point for touring all over the North of Israel, The Galilee and Golan
Heights, Beit Shean Valley as well as the main Christian shrines, including the
Yardenit Baptismal site. Numerous recreational activities are available nearby including birdwatching, mountain trekking, biking and more.
Guest room at Nehara guesthouse - Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov; photo courtesy Travelujah-Holy Land tours
The guesthouse includes a total of 43 rooms, 32 of which are designed for 2 people and 11 are family units. The guesthouse is managed by Yonatan Alter, one of the most well regarded figures in Israel's hospitality industry. Yonatan will organize agricultural tours to the date farms and to the nearby Naharayim center and Island of Peace, along with other nearby attractions. For additional information regarding special events at Ashdot Yaakov contact Yonatan@nehara.co.il
For further information on Christian tourism and Holy Land tours please contact Travelujah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Eric Hammer and Elisa Moed for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
Israeli life was built because of the many pioneers who came to the country built the first kibbutzing, planted the crops, made the desert bloom and much more.
This pioneering spirit continues today as Israel has become one of the leading centers for high tech start ups, incredible medical research, and so much more.
The Bio tour at Sde Eliyahu is one site that is worth visiting in the Beit Shean region. Situated on one of the very remaining real community-owned kibbutzim, Sde Eliyahu, you will have an opportunity to explore Israel's eco-friendly agriculture for which it has also become so renowned.
The Bio -tour inlcudes a visit to one of the largest producers of beneficial insects, Bio Bee. It night sounds awful buts its actually a lot of fun not to mention fascinating You will see a huge box of bees with the queen in the middle all working very hard. But these bees don't sting. You can put your hand in the box and absolutely nothing will happen. They are used to keep all the annoying and destructive insects away from the produce grown in the fields. The bees will polinate the produce making it totally unattractive to the insects that would ordinarily thrive on these fresh fruits. It also raises bumblebees for natural pollination in greenhouses and open-field crops, and sterile Mediterranean fruit fly males to control this major pest in fruit trees.
Consequently, there is no need for artificial pesticides. The bumblebees work of natural pollination in greenhouses and open-field crops. . But is not just bees - there are many bugs that are very friendly to the plants and keep away those that destroy. Dr. Aviva Steinberg, who has been the R&D manager 22 years at Bio-Bee, and he has identified many beneficial insects and mites for biological pest control. For example, the sterile Mediterranean fruit fly males controls the major pest in fruit trees.
BioBee has grown to become one of leading international companies in the field of biologically based Integrated Pest Management, Natural Pollination, and Medfly Control. The company, which started on the kibbutz in 1983 ago by Aviva Falk is now sold in over 50 countries worldwide. The company is the world's leading producer of Phytoseiulus persimilis, the most effective natural predator of Tetranychus urticae (red spider mite). Aviva Steinbergy, is the
Your visit will include a tour into the hot houses, tour along the Jordanian border and taste many of the fresh produce that is in season, right from the fields. Returning to the kibbutz enjoy a typically rich kibbutz lunch with all the other kibbutz members inside of Sde Eliezer's kibbutz dining room.
When people are thinking about planning their Holy Land tour, particularly first timers, 99% of the time they will ask for a tour with all the highlights. But what are these highlights?
Jerusalem, Old City, Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee?
Try Hava, an Ethiopian immigrant who lives in her very Ethiopian style home in Beit Shean. Anyone who has ever spent time in her home situated near one of the most ancient cities in Israel will tell you - she's the highlight!
Not to take out away from the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Via Dolorosa, and all the incredible amazing sites - Masada, Jewish Quarter, Western Wall - all on the list - but meeting real Israelis and hearing their stories is what creates a truly authentic, personal and powerful experience which for many is the biggest highlight of all.
Hava preparing to host in her garden; Photo courtesy: Travelujah
Hava runs an Ethiopian cultural heritage center in her Beit Shean home where she tells her personal story about the lifestyle, culture, and foods of Ethiopia. Sitting around her colorful courtyard area, sipping her specialty coffee and tasting the unique, freshly made Ethiopian breads that she prepares daily, you can't help but be mesmerized by her daring story of escape.
The inside and outside of her home are traditionally decorated with Ethiopian household items including many colorful textiles. Guests are invited to ‘dress' in the authentic Ethiopian costume and are then seated in her courtyard where Hava tells them all about the ancient traditions, dress codes and lifestyle of life in Ambober. She explains that her original birth name was Zina but that she later changed it to Hava once in Israel.
Her journey to Israel began as a 10 year old child who longed to come to Israel. Her parents refusal to allow her to join her older brother in his escape with many other fellow Ethiopians but she joined anyway, initially without anyones knowledge (including her brother). As a young pre- teen Hava spent spent 14 months in a camp in Sudan where she reconnected with her brother and from which she eventually made her way to from the Sudan to Israel on Operation Moses in 1984.
The story is quite powerful and is a real life reminder of how Israel is the only place in the world that is truly a safe home to the Jewish people. Tourists and Israelis alike make their way into Hava's home to be riveted by her story of longing, escape and bravery.
Elisa and Hava inside her home. Photo courtesy Travelujah
Hava's heritage center is one of the many projects promoted by the Beit Shean Regional Council and Cleveland Partnership 2000, which encourage Ethiopian Culture and Heritage in Beit Shean.
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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the leading Christian travel network focused on Holy Land travel. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour on Travelujah.