Banyas Tourist Attractions
Golan TerritorySituation and characteristicsThe village of Banyas lies in a setting of extraordinary natural beauty and abundant vegetation 13km/8mi east of Qiryat Shemona on the river Banyas (one of the source streams of the Jordan), under the south side of Mount Hermon. The area, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967, is now a nature reserve and a favorite place of resort with Israeli families and groups, particularly on the Sabbath.HistoryThe name Banyas is derived from the Greek Paneas. From Hellenistic times this was the site of an important temple of the shepherd god Pan, whose cult had replaced the older worship of Baal. In 200 B.C. Antiochus III defeated a Ptolemaic army here and added Coele Syria and Palestine to his Seleucid kingdom. Augustus presented the area to Herod, whose son Philip established the capital of his tetrarchy here, naming it Caesarea in honor of the Roman Emperor. To distinguish it from other towns with the same name it was known as Caesarea Philippi. It was in this area that Jesus called Peter the rock on which he would build his church and promised to give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16,13-20). In the fourth century Caesarea became the see of a bishop; in the seventh century it was conquered by the Arabs; it was taken by the Crusaders, who held it until 1165; and thereafter, until 1967, it was an Arab village.
Source of the Banyas
Following the river Banyas upstream to the reddish-gray rock wall from which it emerges, we see a number of recesses with Greek inscriptions, once occupied by statues of Pan. To the left is the large cave where the river had its source until it was blocked by an earthquake.On a hill to the left is the Weli (Tomb) of Sheikh El-Khidr, a Muslim holy man.
On a ridge of hill 3km/2mi east of the kibbutz of Snir, to the left of the road to Mount Hermon, is a castle built by the Arabs in 1226 under the name of Qalat Sudeiba and later occupied by the Crusaders. It is now known as Qalat Nimrod (Nimrod's Castle).