The Northern Section - Attractions
Tel Gamma Lookout Point - this lookout point highlights the size of the tel and the power of the floods in the HaBesor Stream, which have washed away parts of the tel. The ruins excavated here indicate continuous habitation since the Chalcolithic period (4500-3300 BC) through to the Hellenistic period (2nd century BC). This site is identified as the Canaanite city of Yurza or Yurtza. This site is mentioned in the Madaba Map as Orda. The tel was excavated in 1926 by British archaeologist Flinders Petrie (1853-1942). Petrie found several large granaries and a series of public structures. An interesting find here was a silver coin bearing the Aramaic inscription Yechizkio Pacha, which is interpreted as being the coin of the province governor named Hezekiah.
The settlement here was an important way station along the Incense Route which terminated in Gaza. The excavation uncovered large quantities of adult camel bones, probably those of the camels that succumbed to the rigors of the journey.
The Badland Landscapes - beside the track we will see an area bisected by deep gashes. Loess soil is considered fertile, however on the desert perimeter it is endangered by uninformed cultivation, overgrazing and strings of drought years.
When the land is exposed, stripped of all vegetation, the rainwater runoff erodes channels, which prevent cultivation. The erosion degrades the soil's fertility in a process called desertification. KKL-JNF has developed drainage methods and means for preventing soil erosion, such as waterways and channels which divert the runoff and prevent erosion; terraces along the stream banks; runoff harvesting through mini-dams and use of the stored water to raise trees and vegetation suitable for grazing. These are all visible along the HaBesor Track.
Hydrometric Station - The HaBesor Track crosses Grar Stream near its confluence with HaBesor Stream. A short distance west of the crossing point is a concrete dam spanning Grar Stream. This is a flow measurement station for the water flowing in the stream during floods. The maximum flow rate measured here is 271 cubic meters per second! In a nearby hydrometric station on HaBesor Stream a record flow rate of 759 cubic meters per second was measured, almost three times as much as the Grar flow rate. By comparison, the flow rate at the Dan springs is about 8 cubic meters per second.
The Grar Grove - a giant sycamore tree, prickly pear cactus, and fruit trees near the ruins of an antilia well all come together to create a lovely little corner. Antilia is a pumping installation that uses the moving chain principle. Vessels are connected to the chain and the chain is then rotated, usually powered by a working animal. When the vessels descend into the well they fill with water. When they complete their rotation the vessels are turned upside-down and the water inside them gets poured into a holding pool. This place used to be called Baykat Abu Coheyl (Abu Coheyl's cabin), apparently named after its occupant. An ancient site from the chalcolithic period (5th millennium BC) was discovered near the well. The findings included ceramic fragments, a basalt mace, stone axe and flint tools.
Confluence Observation point - the observation deck overlooks the confluence of Grar and Besor streams. Assaf Stream flows in from the opposite side. Tel Gamma can be seen to the east, rising above Besor Stream and to the west one can see the houses of the al Bureij Refugee Camp.
Besor Crossing Path - a short circular path, about 600 meters, exposes a bit of HaBesor Stream's history during World War I (1917). First we will see a well, which was apparently dug by the British army during the war. Later on, below the loess cover we will see a rocky outcrop of the Pleshet Formation. These rocks were deposited in a shallow sea, which flooded the Negev lowlands and the lower part of the Judean Foothills during the Paleocene period (5.3 to 1.8 million years ago). When the Paleocene Sea receded, it left behind the Pleshet Formation deposits - a thin layer of littoral conglomerate (pebble aggregates), coastal rocks, marine sandstone and sandy marl. Later on, the precipitous banks of HaBesor Stream give way to a gradually sloping section. The British army shaped this slope to facilitate the transfer of supplies to its forces in the sector. On your way back, note the shallow channel beside the Scenic Track. This is what is left of a railroad the British had laid from Deir al Balach to their forces at Khirbet Mandour (Hurvat Mador) 3 kilometers to the east. The railroad was intended, among other things, for evacuating the injured from the battlefields.
Sha'arata Stream - HaBesor Track follows the Sha'arata Streambed - one of HaBesor tributaries, between a eucalyptus forest and avocado orchards. The track ends near the "concrete road" in Be'eri Forest. From here we can go on to visit Be'eri Forest, or we can end the excursion and drive east to Kibbutz Be'eri and Road 232.