Construction for a Gospel Trail tourist cable car between Upper Nazareth and the lower slopes of Mount Tabor was approved, the Tourism Ministry announced Sunday.
The project, a collaboration between the Tourism and Development of the Negev and Galilee Ministries, as well as the Upper Nazareth municipality, will connect historic sites in the area that lie within the municipal boundaries of Upper Nazareth and the lower slopes of Mount Tabor, which isn’t on the current Gospel Trail.
The length of the cable car will be six kilometers in an area with complicated terrain, making it an expensive engineering operation. So far, the two ministries have allocated a million shekels to the project, and altogether, the cable car is expected to transport 500 passengers per hour in each direction.
Recently, it seems the Tourism Ministry has been trying to start a cable car revolution. In May, the government approved a 1.4 km-long cable car plan, which will provide Jerusalem with a way to conveniently shuttle 130,000 visitors and tourists to the Western Wall every week.
While these projects are most definitely a blessing for the country, one must not forget the tourist attractions around the Western Wall are best viewed and experienced on foot.
The Land of Israel is known as the land where our forefathers walked. One of the most famous paths in the country is the one that runs from Beersheba to Hebron to Jerusalem, the Path of the Patriarchs. As this was the main highway in the times of Scripture, with it even continuing north to Megiddo, passing through Bethel and Nablus on the way, this was the spot of some of the most famous biblical journeys.
Just in the first book of the Bible alone, there are numerous examples of big-name figures traveling this route, such as Abraham and Isaac walking to the Land of Moriah before the Binding of Isaiah, and Jacob fleeing Beersheba and his raging brother in order to find refuge with his uncle and future father-in-law Laban.
This route was a critical artery in the times of the kings and the prophets, and even after the destruction of the first temple, the route was still very much in demand by pilgrims making the trek to Jerusalem, as the many ritual baths on the way have proven, and even after Israel’s exile, the path connecting the major cities of Beersheba, Hebron and Shechem to the center of the country in Jerusalem never lost its importance.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said, “The cable car will be a unique tourist attraction, offering passengers great vantage points over the unique sites and sights in the area, enriching the tourist experience and making the area more accessible.”
This is absolutely true, but it will never be the same as actually walking in the path of our biblical ancestors. Looking from on high is a wonderful experience, and anyone who’s visited vantage points such as Neve Daniel’s 1000-Meter Lookout or Itamar’s Three-Seas Lookout, both located in Judea and Samaria, as I have, will attest to that.
But Israel at its best is something that is up close and personal, not only getting to hear the locals’ stories, sensing the unique ambiance and trying to catch a vibe, but also to have a look and get a feel of every stone and clod of dirt, which radiate with historical significance. This can only be done by walking, and to show how important this is, the Jewish people’s deed to the land is activated through its feet.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, and later in the Book of Joshua, God promises the leader of the Israelites that he will give them all the land on which they walk: “Every place where you set your foot will be yours,” (Deuteronomy 11:14) and, reiterating the Mosaic promise, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses (Joshua 1:3).”
Many times, visitors and residents are forced to use some form of modern transport, as failing to do so would endanger their lives and unfortunately, the world we live in doesn’t have time to take a week to travel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But wherever possible, and by whoever possible – who would not want to walk on the exact same spot that their biblical ancestors walked.
Yes, climbing mountains is no easy task, but there is something romantic and nostalgic to getting one’s shoes, pants or feet dirty in the holy soil of the Holy Land. And not to mention, the Hebrew word for pilgrim is “oleh la’regel,” which literally means, “someone who ascends by foot.”
A cable car is a wonderful venture, no doubt, and hopefully the project will bring in more visitors than the ministries expect, and may it boost the regional development of the Galilee, which so badly needs it. But it mustn’t take away from the experience one can only receive by talking a walking stick and actually walking in the Holy Land.
Ride the cable cars. But don’t forget to experience the Land of Israel by foot. sign up to our newsletter