Located on the Lebanese border, Metulla is the northernmost town in Israel. Originally a tiny farming colony established in June of 1896 on land purchased by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, today it is a flourishing community of over 1,500 souls. The main street is lined with Metulla’s earliest buildings, and offers a breathtaking view of the snow-covered Hermon Mountains.

Metulla wasn’t always the peaceful and prosperous town that it is today. When the Baron bought his land, the local tenants who had been living on the property were furious. They made life miserable for the new farmers and, in 1920, bloody Arab riots forced the pioneers to evacuate their homes.

But Metulla residents were firmly resolved to settle the Upper Galilee, eventually returning to their little community. And it’s lucky that they did. For when the Land of Israel was divided between the English and the French in 1924, the British made sure that the thriving, ever-growing Metulla would be placed inside the British Mandate. Thus Metulla’s position at the tip of the Galilee eventually determined the northern border of the State of Israel.

Charming Metulla. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Charming Metulla. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Metulla is best known, these days, for its Canada Center, with its huge swimming pool, and excellent ice rink. But what we like best about the town are its pastoral ambience, and the welcome tranquility that it offers its guests.

Beautiful Ma’ayan Park, situated at the entrance to Metulla, played an important part in the settlement’s development. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its spring supplied settlers with all of their water. When it had outlived its usefulness, the spring became covered with weeds and refuse. Fortunately, the Jewish National Fund stepped in and turned the entire area into an enchanting park full of canals, footbridges and flowing water.

Another “must” is Har Hatzfiya (Lookout Mountain), located about a kilometer west of Metulla. Here you will stop at Mitzpe Dado, a lovely JNF overlook named for the late General David “Dado” Elazar, Israel’s chief of staff during the Yom Kippur War. The man affectionately called Dado was a war hero who first distinguished himself when he led a surprise attack on Arab forces in the Old City during the War of Independence and captured Mount Zion.

The spectacular view from Mitzpe Dado. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

The spectacular view from Mitzpe Dado. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Many Israelis believe that this highly respected and exceptionally able commander was erroneously blamed for Israel’s lack of preparedness before the Yom Kippur War in 1973. He died of a heart attack in 1976, and some believe he actually died of a broken heart.

Mitzpe Dado offers superb views of Metulla’s old and new neighborhoods, the fertile Ayoun Valley, the majestic Hermon, and the Lebanese mountains. On the Lebanese side stand a runway and buildings, part of a British airport built during World War II but never used. This part of the valley used to belong to the residents of Metulla, but was granted to Lebanon after the War of Independence in an exchange that helped realign the border.

Aviva Bar-Am is the author of seven guides to Israel. Shmuel Bar-Am is a private tour guide.

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