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National Parks in Israel: Ma’ayan Harod Nature Reserve

From biblical times to more recent history this one spot has been a place where armies gathered prior to battle, where great battles were fought, and where an army in the making, trained.

The Spring of Harod flows from Gideon's Cave. This is the place where Gideon gathered his men before fighting the Midianites. Judges 7:1 describes the scene, "Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley." It was here that Gideon administered the 'water test' as a way of choosing the warriors for the coming battle (Judges 7:4-7).

Today it is a nature reserve with the second largest pool in Israel, sprawling lawns, a picnic area, and great looming eucalyptus trees. Aside from Gideon's Cave you'll be able to see some remains of an ancient aqueduct and a memorial to soldiers who died fighting on Mt. Gilboa. The home of Yehoshua Hankin, the "Redeemer of the Valley" (see the Jezreel Valley) is preserved as a small museum just above the cave and serves as an observation point of the valley. The tombs of Hankin and his wife Olga are located here as well.

In 1260 Baybars I, a Mamluk general defeated the Mongolian army that had invaded Palestine, in the battle of Ayn Jalud (the Arabic name for the Harod Spring) that was fought here. The battle put an end to Mongolian occupation of the Middle East. Much later, in 1921 Kibbutz Ein Harod was established here. The kibbutz later moved a few miles down the road, opposite the Gilboa, to the Kumi hill.

The Harod Spring also served as one the first training bases for the Palmach under Orde Charles Wingate, a British intelligence officer who was sympathetic to the plight of the Jews in Eretz Israel. The Palmach was a special strike force within the Haganah (which means defense). The Haganah was the organized clandestine effort of the Yishuv, at armed self-defense and ultimately led to the establishment of the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces.

Wingate organized special Night Brigades composed of local Jewish settlers, who fought Arab gangs that were terrorizing both the Jewish settlers and the British alike. He operated from his headquarters at Kibbutz Ein Harod.

The Harod Spring Reserve is located on the Afula-Beit Shean road, Route #71, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Afula (the turn-off is at Gidona). There is a Youth Hostel on site.

Harod Spring Nature Reserve:06/653-2211 TEL 06/653-1136 FAX

Harod Spring Youth Hostel: 06/653-1669 TEL 06/653-1660 FAX

Visiting Hours: April-September: 8:00 AM -5:00 PM
October-March: 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Entry fees: Individual Adult 25 NIS/pp Children, 15 NIS/pp
Groups Adult 21 NIS/pp Children, 13 NIS/pp

Note: Harod Spring is called Ma’ayan Harod in Hebrew (and appears as such on the map within this issue).

Sources: Copyright © 2000 Gems in Israel All rights reserved. Reprinted with Permission.