Peaceful streams and archeological sites in Tel Dan

Tel Dan nature reserve, in northern Israel, is a natural forest rich with springs that are fed by the melting snows of Mount Hermon. The water from the springs flow their way down to create the Dan Stream, which in turn flows southward and joins the Banias Stream, also fed by spring water from the thawing snows of Mount Hermon. These two streams with water originating in the highest peak of the Holy Land are the major sources of the Jordan River, which flows into the Sea of Galilee.

Tel Dan is a very popular site for visitors and hikers. The leafy shade and the cool, clear water attract tens of thousands of Israelis and tourists from all over the world every year, and especially in the hot days of summer.

Together, the Hermon springs comprise the largest karst spring system in the Middle East, and this is probably what attracted the early Tel Dan residents to the site. In fact, the Book of Judges tells us that the Canaanites who lived there thrived in an isolated garden, a paradise, “at peace and secure”, and “their land lacked nothing” (Judges 18: 1-10). The Canaanite name of the city was Laish (pronounced LA-yish). During the Judges period, before the tribe of Dan settled fully on the land given to it by Moses, the tribe sent spies to survey Laish and then dispatched 600 men to destroy the city. The city was rebuilt and renamed Dan, the northernmost city of the Kingdom of Israel. It remained inhabited by the Israelites until the Assyrian conquest around 722 BCE. There are signs that ritual activity there extended to the Roman period.

For the past 30 years, archeological excavations have been carried out in Tel Dan, yielding many artifacts. The main finds are a vaulted gate from the Bronze Age, considered the oldest building of its kind in Israel and the oldest of its kind in the world. The place was named “Sha'ar Avraham”, namely “Abraham’s Gate”, as Abraham pursued the four kings of Mesopotamia who took his brother Lot captive, and there he caught up with them.

In addition, an impressive stone structure from the Iron Age was uncovered. It includes a gate, a paved courtyard, rooms, a stone wall and an elevated embankment, probably intended to support the wall's covering. Also exposed was a large building that was used for rituals in the days of King Jeroboam in the Tenth century BCE. King Jeroboam I, who led the northern rebellion against the Kingdom of Judea, erected the building as an alternative site for the Temple. Also uncovered was a monument with a text referring to the House of David. Three fragments of one stone, engraved in Aramaic, are displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It appears that they are dated to the second half of the Ninth century BCE, and are considered the oldest reference to the House of David.

Tel Dan is warmly recommended for everyone who wishes to experience the biblical magic of the Holy Land in all its force. We invite you to take a refreshing stroll through the trees of the ancient forest in the Dan Nature Reserve, amidst the sound of flowing streams – one of the most impressive sites in the Holy Land.