The Great Juba is a crater-like structure in the Odem Forest Nature Reserve, and can be visited all year round. From the parking lot, a path leads to this mysterious volcanic rarity (“juba” is the Arabic word for “pit”). There are over 20 such juba pits in the area, and one theory suggests that they were formed by an explosion caused by groundwater coming into contact with hot magma below the surface. This specific juba – the largest of them all – is about 250 meters across and about 60 meters deep. The adventurous can venture down into the juba; but remember that you have to climb back out…
The Odem Forest is named for the red volcanic soil (“adom” is the Hebrew word for “red”) that surrounds the dormant volcano located in the center of the forest. It gave its name not only to the forest, but also to the volcano itself (Mt. Odem), as well as the adjacent village known as Moshav Odem (the local winery is named “Odem Mountain Winery”). Also nearby is the Druze village of Masadeh, which is known for its many eateries that offer traditional Druze cuisine.
The Odem Forest is the remnant of a much larger forest that was deforested approximately a hundred years ago for agricultural purposes. Many fields were later expropriated by the Syrian army, but the forest renewed itself north of Mt. Odem. Since 1967, Israeli law protects the forest from being destroyed.
In the summer, the shade provided by large oak trees (mainly Common oak and Aleppo oak) makes a visit cool and inviting. In all other seasons, wildflowers will most often be blooming. In the fall – crocuses; in the winter – the rare, bright-pink Eastern cyclamen; in the spring, orchids can be found, too. After the first rains, many mushrooms can be found in the forest, but beware: many species are poisonous!
Among the many trails in the forest, is one that leads up to the peak known as Tel Katza, surrounded by orchards planted by Druze farmers. The top of the hill (at an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level) offers visitors a beautiful view of the surrounding area, especially that of Mt. Hermon to the north.