Duration of the Tour – A Whole Day
Nahal Ga’aton, Duration of the Tour – A Whole Day
Nahal Ga’aton flows for 19 kilometers, from Moshav Meona in the Upper Galilee until the Mediterranean Coast, next to Nahariya.
In fact Nahariya’s name was given to it because of its location next to Nahal Ga’aton (Nahar means river in Hebrew). Lots of water once flowed through this stream from the many springs that flow into it. Today most of the water is captured by Mekorot (Israel’s national water company) and is used for the benefit of the nearby towns. The Arabic name of the Nahal: Wadi Al-Ayoun (The Stream of Springs) testifies to the many springs that flow into it..
Ashchar Stream, where the trip begins, is one of the largest springs in the stream and the concrete structure above was probably used for water pumping. In the winter and summer months, not all the water is pumped and the stream channel fills with flowing water. The path begins from behind the pumping structure, marked by the JNF. The path moves alongside the southern bank of the stream on which there is a rich thicket of Mediterranean vegetation including the trees: common oak, styrax, redbud and carob trees. We can also find individual Jerusalem pine trees, remnants of a forest planted by the JNF with the establishment of the state and cut down as a result of disease a number of years ago.
At the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring many anemones, buttercups and cyclamens are visible while towards the end of the spring one can see the flowering of the hollyhock, different types of cistus, the poterium, the Helichrysum sanguineum, the daucus carota maximus and more.
Go with the path west about 300 meters, where you will see signs that lead you up the hill towards the carob observation point. The ascension is not long and from the top of the hill is a breathtaking view from Ga’aton Valley to Nahariya and the coast. After the observation, continue on the black-marked path, southeast along the range that separates Nahal Ga’aton and Nahal Meirav. After about 700 meters, the path descends towards the At Springs, which also flow during part of the year. Next to the springs are a cistern and a burial cave, apparently from the Roman period (see the historical timeline).
At Springs – Continue with the path westward and after a short walk you will arrive at Meirav spring, which you can easily find because of the large Eucalyptus planted next to it. Meirav Spring, whose waters are not captured by pipes, flows all year into a nice round pool. The water is indeed shallow but you can certainly get your feet wet. Also here, next to the spring are remains of structures scattered throughout the area, a testimony to the flour mills that operated here until the 1948 War of Independence. The original stairs and rooms and the beautiful stone arches leave much room for imagination and games.
Meirav Spring – Continue with the dirt road in Nahal Meirav, which links after about 400 meters with Nahal Ga’aton. Here return to the path that you started with until you get back to the car at Ein Ashchar and continue with it for a brief ride towards Khirbet Ga’aton.
From Ashchar Spring return west on the dirt road marked in blue from whence you came about 400 meters until the left turn towards Ga’aton Spring. A brief dirt road will lead to a parking area next to which is a grove of Eucalyptus trees. A wooden bridge passes over the channel of the stream whose water flows only in the winter and spring months. The channel is fed by Ein Ga’aton which is known in Arabic as Ein Majnouna (the crazy), because its flow is intermittent. At the top of the hill, standing above Nahal Ga’aton is Khirbet Ga’aton, which was once an impressive estate of the Soursuk family, a rich Lebanese family that owned many lands throughout the country. Some of these lands were purchased before the founding of the State of Israel by the land redeemer, Yehoshua Hankin. The estate, which apparently sits atop even more ancient settlements, included all that was necessary to maintain a Muslim agricultural lifestyle. The agricultural products from the fertile parcels along Nahal Ga’aton were processed on the estate, which included an olive press, a carved cistern and a Muslim cemetery at the center of which was the grave of Sheikh Hussein.
The remains of the estate point to four stages of building, the most ancient of which was apparently from the Crusader period (12th century CE). One can get a breathtaking view from the top of the estate but be careful – the structure is not stable.
The thicket at the foot of the estate is very suitable for picnics.