Mount Tabor offers a spiritual journey across religions and a circular route for the whole family

If you visit the Lower Galilee, there are some places you can not miss – one of them is Mount Tabor. The mountain, which stands out in space due to its relative height, is one of the most beautiful and touristy in the country. In the pre-Corona days it was a center of pilgrimage for Christians from all over the world, especially in the pre-Christmas period, when Christian sites began to be decorated. These days are an opportunity for us to hop on a visit and embark on a spiritual journey across religions and periods and on the way also enjoy a circular route suitable for the whole family, at a time when nature comes to life.

Tavor, which rises to a height of about 560 meters, is accompanied by a fascinating history. It played an important role due to its strategic location and height in a relatively flat area. The mountain is important for Christians, Jews and Muslims, but today one can feel in it mainly the presence of the Christian religion thanks to the monastery and the Franciscan church that is at its head. A church that also has a rich history.

One of the reasons why the Christian religion has stuck a stake in Tabor is the connection that is attributed to it in the story of “change.” Christians believe that the mountain is the place where Jesus changed before his believers and became, by faith, the Son of God. Jewish believers, on the other hand, attach great importance to it because it has been mentioned in the Bible more than once in the context of the battle between Deborah and Sisera. Scriptures from a later period in history refer to the fact that Joseph ben Matityahu conducted the battles against him against the Romans.

Not only fascinating history has to be told. If you are interested in geology, you should know that the mountain is considered a “Horst” – an area that rose due to pressure from the earth. The shifts in the Syrian-African rift zone also contributed to its uplift. This is of course also the reason why it is so different in the local landscape.
Visiting Mount Tabor is suitable for all seasons, but if you ask me, there is something very special about the autumn season in the Galilee. Now that the weather is much more comfortable and the summit gets a pleasant breeze, you can make the trip effortlessly. If you arrive later in the season, or even in the winter after the rains, you can also include a trip to Nahal Tavor, which is no less charming. But we are not there yet, so we will take advantage of the comfortable temperature for a panoramic view from the summit of Tabor. You can make the observation after a picnic at the foot of the trees, just before you go on a tour following the points of interest on the mountain.

The view from the top of the mountain (Photo: Hadar Yahav)

Getting to the Tabor is very easy, as it is located near one of the main roads in the area (Route 65). Off the road comes a relatively narrow and winding road, so be focused on driving. At the end of the ascent you will reach the parking lot of the Church of the Transfiguration. The parking lot is the starting point for all the walks in the place, and I recommend starting the walk of course at the Church of the Transfiguration, which is a few steps away from the plaza, and entry to it is limited in hours. Note that on the mountain there are two churches: the Church of the Transfiguration, which belongs to the Franciscan stream and can be visited, and another church of the Greek Orthodox Church, which is on the north side of the Tabor, and which can not be visited.

Church of the Transfiguration – The Franciscan Church

As you can see, anyone can come to visit the Franciscan church, but as always when it comes to holy places, you should prepare for it with relatively modest clothing, or at least a large scarf that covers the shoulders. It is advisable not to ignore this requirement, because the locals abide by the rules and can certainly prevent entry – which will create heartache.

The church is open to visitors all week, from 08:00 to 12:00 and 17:00 to 14:00, and from the entrance area you can feel the reduction of tension and the exemplary silence that is maintained in the place. As you progress inward, you will see the level of investment in cleaning, designing and maintaining well-kept and green coveted corners. The pleasant and shady corners you will see are the resting place of the monks who live in the adjoining monastery and take care of the church during the week.

At the entrance to the church you will see an intimate museum where remains are found that have been excavated in the area and date to the Byzantine period. The church you will visit today is considered relatively young, and it was built in 1921 and was in fact the vision of the Italian architect Antonio Berlusconi. The new church actually sits on the ruins of a 12th-century Crusader church. Since Berlusconi’s vision was to preserve the rich history of the place, it can still be seen today that he used elements taken from the Byzantine period.

The Franciscan Church (Photo: Hadar Yahav)The Franciscan Church (Photo: Hadar Yahav)

From a glance at the impressive entrance of the church, one realizes that this is a creation of splendor, mainly thanks to two towers that stand in front. The towers are chapels built for Elijah the prophet and Moses. At the top of the church there is a spectacular mosaic which depicts the story of the Transfiguration. Beneath the mosaic is the crypt, the space that symbolizes the status of change. It is also possible to descend by stairs to the bottom of the building, where there are exposed remains from an earlier period and also a piece of rock mentioned in the story of Jesus’ conversion.

The Franciscan Church (Photo: Hadar Yahav)The Franciscan Church (Photo: Hadar Yahav)

After you are impressed by the Christian part of the Tabor, it is time to exercise your muscles and go on a tour of the path that surrounds the mountain and reaches, among other things, a beautiful observation post. The route is suitable for lovers of the circular hike, and is about two kilometers long.

All you have to do is reach the stone gate called the Wind Gate (Bab al-Hawa), which is located near the road and the parking lot. After crossing the gate, you will notice a route marked in black. The route actually encircles the mountain and passes through a grove where one can see a great evening of trees and shrubs.

Prominent in the trees is the Tabor oak, but you can also see pine trees, the gum goddess and more. In the fall season there is a great bloom here, and if you are lucky you will still see yolks and orchids. After a walk of about half a kilometer you will reach a split of paths – continue with the path marked in black. After just a few meters, you can enjoy a view of the Galilee and Gilboa landscapes. Continue to enjoy the serenity and walk naturally with the trail for another half mile to another trail split. Here, too, nothing has changed, choose the black path again. This is actually the highlight of the route – where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire area and on good days some say you can even see the summit of Mount Hermon.

If you take your eyes off the landscape for a moment, later you will see the opening of a cave. It is not clear who carved the cave, but it is possible that it was used by the church and even the monks lived in it. From the cave the path continues on, to the northern side of the Tabor. The path passes at the foot of the Greek Church and continues to a gate that leads to a large plaza behind which a “Melchizedek Chapel” was hewn in the rock. Since the chapel belongs to the Greek Church, it is impossible to enter and see it – and it is a pity, because according to the belief the place is considered the “Valley of Equality”, where Abraham met Melchizedek. From this point, continue to the path that leads to the last stop on the tour – the “Wind Gate”, through which you will pass to the parking lot, where the vehicle is waiting for you. 

Nature of the trip: A family trip of easy difficulty.
How to get there: Drive on Route 65 in the direction of Golani Junction. At the Tavor junction, turn left onto Road 7266 to Dvoria. Cross the village and follow the signs to the Church of the Transfiguration. After about five kilometers you reach the road that climbs the mountain – with it you reach the parking lot.


Source: Maariv.co.il – תיירות by www.maariv.co.il.

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