Wadi al Subia, Arabic for the “riverbed of the lion cubs,” is the name of a small ravine, one of the tributaries of Nahal Dishon, and one of the main riverbeds of the Upper Galilee that drains the northern slopes of Mount Meron. Even though the ravine is very close to Safed, the city of the Kabbalists, there is no connection between the ravine’s name and the followers of rabbi Isaac Ben Solomon Luria; he was known as the holy ari (Hebrew for “lion”) and so his followers were called lion cubs.
The small ravine derives its Arabic name from the ferocious waters that flow through the riverbed during heavy winter rainfalls. In Hebrew, the ravine is called Nahal Zivon, a name whose provenance I wondered about while hiking through the ravine two weeks after the great winter snowstorm, as part of my trip along the Israel Trail.
This section of the trail starts at the point where Nahal Dishon crosses the road from Zeitim Junction to Ramot Naftali. A four-hour hike up the Dishon Riverbed leads to Nahal Zivon, where the trail makes a sharp right and runs up the ravine to the Safed-Sasa road, underneath Kibbutz Zivon.
From there, the trail continues along the upper and more open reaches of the Zivon to the foot of Mount Meron. Zivon is the highlight of this section of the trail – and as such, I wondered about the name. Zivon is a biblical name that is spelled Zibeon in most English translations of the Bible. It is the name of a Hivite who was the father of Aiah and Anah (from the biblical text, it is difficult to know if they were his sons or his daughters). Aiah was the father of Rizpah, the concubine of Saul, but it is not clear from the text if this was the same Aiah that was the son of Zibeon. Anah was the father – or mother – of Oholibamah, the wife of Esau – a wife that he took “from among the Canaanite women.” Genesis 36:24 relates that Anah, “discovered the Yamam in the wilderness while pasturing the asses of his father Zibeon.” In many English translations, Yamam is translated as “hot springs,” but in reality no one has the faintest idea what this word means. In any case, this is an interesting family of the daughters of Canaan and the Horites, that is, the sons of Seir from the land of Edom, the abode of Esau. Anah also had another son who was named Dishon and was one of the leaders of the Horites.
All of this biblical genealogy is interesting because Nahal Zivon is a tributary of Nahal Dishon and both of these riverbeds are nowhere near the desert mountains of the land of Edom, which today is in southern Jordan. How did these names get here? The Zivon ravine was named thus because of the similarity of the sound of its name in Arabic to Zivon and Dishon because of what was until 1948 the Arab village of Disum, today the site of Moshav Dishon. Disum is a very uncommon Arabic name; the village received its name at the end of the nineteenth century, when the Ottoman authorities settled refugees from Algeria in this village. The refugees had been forced to flee their homeland following the rebellion in Algeria against the French colonists. In 1948, the 400 inhabitants of the village fled to Lebanon.
This background information is useful to understand how Wadi Farah, which was the original name of Nahal Dishon, became Nahal Dishon, the grandfather of Zivon, the river’s tributary.
Now, armed with an understanding of the nomenclature, it is time to hike along one of the most beautiful and lesser-known ravines in the Galilee. It is not necessary to hike the entire Israel Trail in order to get to the ravine. Here is a short, half-day hike that goes through the ravine.
Start the trip in the Baram Forest, which is particularly beautiful during late winter and spring with its myriad of natural flowers. In order to get to the forest, take Route 899 from Hiram Junction toward Baram and Dovev. After two kilometers, a fork in the road is reached. Take the right fork and after another kilometer and a half, the entrance to the forest is reached. Take the forest road with blue trail markings for 400 meters, until the forest road turns into a jeep track. At this point, a path also marked in blue descends through the forest to the riverbed of Nahal Dishon. It is a short walk to the riverbed, where the Israel Trail markings run along a trail marked in red (the Israel Trail attempts to run along existing trails as much as possible).
Turn right, upstream, pass under the large oak trees (following the trail) to the other side of the riverbed, and follow the trail upstream. Continue a short distance to the junction of Nahal Dishon and Zivon. Here the Israel Trail and the red trail leave the Dishon Riverbed and start ascending the Zivon ravine (on the right of the Dishon Riverbed).
The ravine is wonderful. The trail runs under a heavy canopy of forest where no sunlight penetrates. The rocks are covered with green moss and lichens; it looks as if any minute now, a group of trolls or forest elves will emerge from the shadows. The beautiful stretch of ravine is only one kilometer, but the climb over the rocks takes a while.
Near the top of the ascent, look for a path marked in black (Path 2162) that leads off to the right. Do not worry about missing it. Upon reaching the forest track that cuts across the red-marked trail, turn back for a short distance to find the black trail. This trail leads out of the ravine, still through the natural vegetation, and reaches a track in the forest. Turn right on the track (the trail markings also turn to the right) and continue along the track with the black markings until reaching the blue-marked forest road where the car is parked.
The hike takes between two and three hours, depending on how experienced hikers are at finding trails in a forest. Map: Upper Galilee Hiking and Trail Map (No. 2, Hebrew only)
For more articles on natural attractions around Israel and hiking trails, check out the latest issue of ERETZ Magazine.
Photograph: Nahal Zivon (Avner Avraham)