The reserve encompasses an area of approximately 7,000 dunams (1,750 acres) (including agricultural areas), making it Israel's largest reserve of fresh water landscapes.The Bethsaida Valley, northeast of the Sea of Galilee, features a variety of waterscapes. It is the only place in Israel where natural wetlands have been preserved almost undisturbed. There are year-round streams of water, as well as seasonal streams, pools, springs, areas seasonally flooded by the Sea of Galilee and the delta of the most famous river in the world -the Jordan. The Bethsaida Valley is also home to a rich array of flora and fauna. Its lagoons, where a tangle of greenery flourishes, are an important habitat for Sea of Galilee fish during egg-laying season, especially mango tilapia. Thus this reserve makes an important contribution to the ecology of the lake.
The valley gets its name from the ancient city of Bethsaida. Impressive Bronze Age and Iron Age remains of the city are now being excavated, as well as remnants of the Roman period -the period of Jesus. Josephus Flavius writes that Herod Philip (a son of Herod the Great), built an opulent city at Bethsaida and named it Julias. A major battle took place in this valley during the Great Revolt between the rebels and the army of Agrippa. Josephus, who commanded the rebels, wrote that his horse threw him to the ground during the fray. Bethsaida is also mentioned in the Mishnah a number of times as "Tseidan". In the period before the Six-Day War in 1967, the fertile land here belonged to the Beck family. There were small farming and fishing villages in the valley, whose inhabitants also raised herds of water buffalo.
" Wet route": Includes walking through water and requires swimming (do not enter the water barefoot, or take anything with you that you don't want to get wet). Spring through fall are the recommended seasons for this route. It begins on a paved, marked trail down to a tangle of reeds on the banks of the Daliyot Stream. At this point you can get into the water and go downstream. The stream widens in the middle to a pool. At the eucalyptus grove you can exit this shorter route via a staircase, or continue downstream to the sign marking the end of the trail. Walking farther is prohibited due to nature conservation. Leave via the south and return along the dry route to the parking area.
“ Dry” route": This walk, along the southern stream-bank, allows visitors to enjoy the ambiance without getting wet. The route passes partially beneath trellises overgrown with vines. There is a picnic area in the eucalyptus grove.
Credit: Israel Nature and Parks Authority