Ma’ayan Harod National Park
Ma’ayan Harod (Harod Spring or Gideon’s Spring) originates in a cave where Mount Gilboa meets the Harod Valley in the eastern part of the Yizrael Valley, 8 km south of Afula. The spring becomes the Harod Stream and flows along the narrow valley into a pool then runs through the Ma’ayan Harod National Park and finally reaches the Jordan River. In the distant past, a Roman aqueduct channeled the spring towards two water-powered flour mills. You can still see remains of the aqueducts but today the park is for recreation and relaxation.
Historic Events in Herod Valley
Looking back over the last 2,000 years this small valley has been the site of incredible historic events and seen iconic figures come and go. The cave where the spring originates is called the Cave of Gideon after a famous Old Testament judge who gathered his warriors here when preparing to battle the Midianites. In the Book of Judges, we read how Gideon encamped at the Well of Herod and tested the men who had gathered to find the best warriors. He asked each one to drink from the spring and God told him to send home those who had lapped the water like a dog and keep only those who had knelt and brought the water to their mouths with their hands (Judges 7:4-7). The valley has also been associated with the death of Goliath (1 Samuel 17) and Saul’s victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 29).
It was in Herod Valley that the Battle of Ain Jalut was fought, and the Mongols were defeated by the Egyptian Mamelukes. This was a decisive battle that changed the course of history. The Mamelukes went on to conquer the Holy Land from the Crusaders and rule until the Ottomans took Palestine in 1516. Up until the beginning of the 20th century, the marshy valley was used only for battles and as home to a few Arab families. In 1909 Yehoshua Hankin began buying up land for Jewish settlements in the area.
Points of Interest in Ma’ayan Harod National Park
The Hankin House stands in the center of the national park overlooking Harod Spring. Today the house is a museum documenting the life of Yehoshua Hankin (1864-1945) who was responsible for buying more than 600,000 dunams of land across the country for the Jewish people who came to establish the State of Israel in the 1940s. Hankin is known as the “redeemer of the lands of the valley” and is buried with his wife alongside the house. The grave is at the highest point in the park and is a great place for views across the Lower Galilee, Harod Valley, and Yizrael Valley.
During the War of Independence, seven local young men lost their lives on Mt. Gilboa. Today a memorial commemorates their lives and the lives of those lost in all battles fought in the valley. The memorial was created by sculptor David Palombo. The iron memorial sculpture is shaped like a bridge torn in places by flames of fire with two symbolic figures rising from the bridge.
Visiting Ma’ayan Harod National Park
Visitors to the park can see Gideon’s cave and Ma’ayan Herod. They can swim in a large recreational pool and visit the Hankin Museum House. Alongside the house are the memorial, lookout point, and Hankin’s grave. A large lawn has been set aside for camping overnight. The park can also accommodate caravans and tents. There are facilities such as picnic tables, mobile phone charging stations, toilets, and showers. At the park visitors can enjoy a pleasant day in the sun but also known that this valley has seen remarkable historic events.