We make our way across the crater to its eastern edge. Here we find ourselves utterly unprepared for the tremendous “landscape hit” that awaits us. The imposing cliff of Mount Arbel rears up at our feet, with Mount Nitai facing it on the other side. Between Mount Arbel and the Horns of Hittin lies the fertile Arbel Valley, all of which is farmed. Beyond it, at the foot of the Golan Heights, is the Kinneret, while far to the north the majestic profile of Mount Hermon can be seen.
We turn to the southern extremity of the hill to view the landscape from a different perspective. Opposite us are the Galilean Hills. This is a good opportunity to examine the southern peak of the hill and the remains of the fortifications still visible upon it: some date back to the Late Bronze Age, while the others are from the period of the Israelite Kingdom (9th century BCE). Some experts identify the site with the Biblical city of Adamah in the territory apportioned to the tribe of Naftali, but the Horns of Hittin are renowned primarily for an incident that occurred at a time when the area was not settled at all. On July 4th 1187 it was the site of the final decisive battle between the Crusader army, commanded by King Guy de Lusignan, and the Muslim army under the leadership of Saladin (Salah al-Din). Although accounts of the battle differ, it is clear that the Crusaders, who had made their way from their favorite assembly point at Einot Tzippori, were suffering from a serious lack of water, and Birkat Maskana was in no way sufficient to slake the thirst of a large army. Their misery was compounded by the fact that the Muslims had set fire to the dry undergrowth of the surrounding area. The Battle of the Horns of Hittin heralded the beginning of the end of the Crusader Kingdom in the Land of Israel. Saladin constructed a triumphal dome on the peak of the southern hill, but it would appear to have remained in place to glorify his name for no more than a few decades.
On the southern side of the hill, a blue-marked path descends to the plain at the foot of the Horns of Hittin. We follow this blue trail for a kilometer or so until we arrive at a small copse of eucalyptus trees, where our vehicle is waiting to pick us up. The ruined buildings at the side of the trail are all that remains of the long-ago community of Tad-Hetz (an acronym composed of the initial letters of the Hebrew words Tora, Daat, Hesed, Tzedaka, i.e., “Torah, wisdom, grace, charity”), which settled the site on Lag Ba`Omer 1949. The community later changed its name to Ahuzat Naftali (“Naftali’s Estate”), but this effected no change in its fortunes, and the site was abandoned after about a year and a half, leaving only memories behind.