Exploring Israel – The Ayun Stream

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The waters of the Ayun stream flow from the the Ayun valley in Southern Lebanon and originate in the freshwater Lebanon springs of Neba el Dardara and Ein el Kotzair. The stream flows into Israel through the Ayun canyon adjacent to the town of Metulla. The waters of the Ayun must make their way down from an elevation of 500 meters above sea level to 350 meters asl, flowing into the Hula valley and on to the Jordan River. Thus, the Ayun Canyon includes sudden drops in the erect rock walls and two of the highest flowing waterfalls in Israel, the “Mill Waterfall” (a drop of 21 meters) and the “Oven Waterfall” (a 30 meter drop).
Ayun (Ijon) is mentioned in scriptures as one of the Northern cities in the land of Israel in the inheritance of the tribe of Naphtali.
” And Ben-hadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali.”
The city of Ijon (as Ayun is translated in scriptures ) was a border city and one of the first to be overtaken by invading armies from the North. Later Ijon is listed in the Tosefta, a work written as a supplement to the Babylonian Talmud as “Nikveta deAyun” or “the Valley of Ijon” as one of the cities which is within the borders of the Land of Israel.

Today, the closest town literally built over the Ayun Canyon is Metulla. Metulla and its surrounding agricultural areas were purchased from a Lebanese Christian by the Baron Rothschild in 1896. It was the baron’s dream that the Jewish population in the land of Israel would spread to all parts of the country and work the land. His dream included the far north Ayun Valley in the Galilee panhandle. Thus, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, 57 families from Rishon LeZion and Zichron Yaakov were chosen to settle the town of Metullah, work the surrounding fields and defend the area from frequent Druze attacks from Lebanon. Until Israel’s Independence war in 1948, the fields of Metulla lay over the border in Lebanon, then controlled by the French, and the Jewish farmers would cross this border each day to care for the many fruit orchards, crops, and flocks of cattle there. After 1948, the fields were officially annexed to Lebanon, the Lebanese took over the agricultural areas that the Jewish settlers had planted and tended.
The constant attacks from Druze and other local tribes caused many of the original residents of Metulla to abandon the newly created town. Others, however, who had fallen in love with this beautiful area, held on tenuously. After World War I, as the security situation worsened, Israel Shochet, the head of the “Shomer” Jewish defense organization in the land of Israel, asked Josef Trumpedore to join the four new towns in the far north, one of which was Metulla. There were constant battles between different Arab groups and the French forces and although they tried to stay neutral, the Jewish residents were often caught in the middle. Such was the case in March 1920 in the nearby town of Tal Chai, where a group of armed Beduoins entered the town to search for French military men. The group tried to disarm the Jewish residents and a battle ensued. Six Jewish defenders were killed, two of them women, and, as a result, the four Jewish towns in the area were abandoned for half a year. In the fall of 1920, the brave settlers of the four towns of the Galilee panhandle courageously returned to their homes to rebuild and cultivate the area.
Today, Metulla and the other towns in the area maintain a vital and strategic area on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. The area teems with tourists who come for the enchanting view, spectacular natural phenomena, the historical sites, the climate and Metulla’s “Beit Canada” a world-class, Olympic-size ice skating facility. Yet, Metulla and its residents remember and memorialize what the Jewish defenders of the early 20th century endured to create this beautiful and thriving region.

Published: June 2, 2015
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