A View from the Heights
Magnificent scenery and spectacular views, fun activities for the entire family and opportunities to focus on history as well as on issues facing contemporary Israel.
Manara, located in northern Israel, has it all. Kibbutz Manara, founded in 1943 by young immigrants from Germany and Poland, is perched on the top of the Naftali Ridge at an altitude of 888 meters (2,913 feet) above sea level and near the Lebanese border to its west. It is located in the section of Israel known as “Etzba HaGalil” (Finger of Galilee). Look at a map of Israel and draw an imaginary line along the Jordan River from Kiryat Shmona south. This was the border before the Golan Heights became part of Israel as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967. You can easily see why people associated this narrow protrusion of Israeli territory, barely a few miles wide and nestled between the Lebanese border to the west and the Golan Heights (which belonged to Syria prior to the war) to the east, with the image of a pointing finger.
Israel’s main north-south highway, Route 90, runs through the Hula Valley to Kiryat Shmona, and then to Metula, Israel’s northernmost town, just a few miles further north. The dominant geographic feature of the region is a huge cliff, about halfway up the incline between the valley and the kibbutz above. At that very spot, Kibbutz Manara opened Manara Cliff to the public in 1998, a site featuring the country’s longest cable car ride. The ride to the top of Manara Cliff, the highest cliff in Israel, takes about ten minutes and offers stops along the way, so visitors can enjoy the magnificent views of the Hula Valley, the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon.
The cable car can be boarded at either the lower station, located on the west side of Route 90, just before the southern entrance to Kiryat Shmona or the upper station which is located in Kibbutz Manara on Route 886. Visitors can opt for a round trip or, if you have a driver who can leave you off at one place and pick you up at another, a one-way journey.
Whether you arrive at the upper station by car or after the ascent by cable car, you will be treated to a breathtaking view of the entire region. Spread out below is the city of Kiryat Shmona. The city, which was founded in 1949, was named in memory of eight heroes who fell in battle at nearby Tel Hai in 1920. Among the eight was a man named Yosef Trumpeldor who had emigrated from Russia and was instrumental in founding the famous Zion Mule Corps, which worked alongside the British during World War I and subsequently became the first Jewish defense units in Mandatory Palestine. After his death, Trumpeldor became a national hero and his last words, “Never mind; it is good to die for our country” are familiar to most Israeli schoolchildren. If you have some extra time, visit the impressive Tel Hai Memorial.
Across the valley in the distance stands Mount Hermon. At 2,224 meters (7,297 feet) above sea level, Mount Hermon is by far Israel’s tallest peak. The large amount of snow that falls on the mountain in an average winter not only provides the Jordan River with a major source of water during the summer but has enabled the development of Israel’s one and only ski site. There is frequently snow remaining on the highest parts of Mount Hermon well into June and occasionally even into July. Standing on Manara Cliff in the heat and looking at the snow in the distance on a clear day is an amazing sight.
Directly below is the beautiful Hula Valley. The expansive agricultural endeavors of the various kibbutzim, moshavim and towns are spread out like a beautiful patchwork quilt of colors, shapes and textures. In the middle, the Jewish National Fund’s efforts to restore the Hula Lake stand out as patches of blue in the midst of swaths of shades of green. In the distance, beyond the Hula, lie the foothills of the Golan Heights. The view from the upper cable car station alone makes a trip to Manara worthwhile.
But there is more. Manara has developed an entire recreation area. At the bottom station of the cable car, there are all-weather trampolines and a mountain slide which winds its way along 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) of track. There is also a third cable car station in the middle. This serves as the base for additional activities including a climbing wall and a 200-meter (656-foot) zip line. During the summer, additional activities are provided at all three stations.
With the Lebanese border only yards away and the Golan looming across the valley in the distance, Manara is also an ideal location to understand some of the dynamics of Israel’s existential challenges. There is no comparison between hearing about these struggles and witnessing firsthand the proximity in which Israel coexists with hostile neighbors.
It is advisable to check the cable car schedule in advance (04.690.5830); you do not want to be stranded on the top with your car 2,460 feet below! It is also worth noting that there are many other things to do in the immediate area including the beautiful Tel Dan and Banias nature reserves and a number of the popular routes for Jordan River rafting.
Peter Abelow is a licensed tour guide and the associate director of Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. Keshet specializes in creating and running inspiring family and group tours that make Israel come alive “Jewishly.” He can be reached at 011.972.2.671.3518 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.