The Israel Trail - a hiker's dream

Instead of seeing the holy land through bus windows and tour guide books, why not take a path less traveled?

By TRAVELUJAH
June 24, 2012 13:35
Israel trail

Hiker370. (photo credit: Thinkstock)

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Mount Tabor (Lower Galilee)
As the Bible says in the Book of Jeremiah, "As Tabor among mountains", it's impossible to ignore the presence of Mount Tabor as it looms up from all directions. The hike up Mount Tabor offers staggering views while the peak is crowned by the Church of Transfiguration and various antiquities.

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Tzippori stream (Lower Galilee)
The trail here covers one of the geographical areas least familiar to hikers. In this area of gall oaks (known in Hebrew as Alon ha-Tavor  - Tabor oak), you can also find birch trees and carpets of blossom in winter and spring. In the Lower Galilee there are Bedouin settlements. Along the trail are streams of flowing water, improvised water pumps and a castle which is named the Monks Mill and the remains of another impressive gristmill at Khurbat Alil.

Ma'apilim / Nahash stream (Mount Carmel)
A walk through Nahash Stream provides an almost complete representation of Mount Carmel's hidden treasures: From the top of the trail and while walking down the ravine, you can see an impressive view of the northern Coastal Plain and the Lower Galilee. The path exits near Kibbutz Yagur. You can also see a vertical karstic hole, the "Arbutus Curve" and at the end of the trail in Yagur, a slick (secret weapons hiding place) from the pre-state Haganah underground. "Nahash" means snake in Hebrew though your chance of encountering the venomous Palestinian Black Viper are slim. Following statehood, the stream was renamed Nahal Ma'apilim after the illegal Jewish immigrants who attempted to slip ashore in defiance of the British Royal Navy's embargo on immigration.

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After this section, the Israel National Trail continues south through the Sharon plain, through the urban sprawl of Gush Dan and greater Tel Aviv, and the Shephaleh lowlands. Those who prefer trekking in pristine landscapes will want to skip this section.

Shayarot Range (Judean Mountains)
Trekking along the Shayarot Range provides views down to the Coastal Plain and up to the Judean Mountains, hundreds of kilometers of mountain dirt tracks, walking routes, caves, and an abundance of flowers in the spring. The trail passes through the Burma Road - a goat path widened to barely allow trucks to pass that lifted the Arab siege of beleaguered Jerusalem in 1948. Here you can climb to the military posts overlooking Route 1, today the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv expressway but six decades ago the scene of savage fighting between Arab villagers and the soldiers of the Palmach's Har'el brigade.

Yatir ruins to Dragot Quarry
This segment of the Israel National Trail goes from Khurbat Yatir, one of the Levite cities in the land of Judea on the eastern brim of the Yatir Mountains ridge, through the Yatir Forest, the largest forest planted by the Jewish National Fund, to the Mount Amsha nature reserve, which has impressive views and unique plants. It also contains the remains of the Roman "freeway" Ma'ale Dragot.

Mamshit stream (Negev) 
The trail passes through the 2,000-year-old ruins of the Nabatean city of Mamshit. Its alleys, churches, stables, houses and administrative structures, though damaged in the massive earthquake of 749, are still impressive. You can visit the ancient dams at Mamshit Stream - designed to capture every last drop of precious water in the desert, walk through the beautiful narrow canyon of the stream, and see the remains of ancient agriculture.

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Mitzpe Ramon and Ramon Crater (Negev)
The desert city of Mitzpe Ramon is a meeting place for artists, a station for people heading south to Eilat, and a base for visitors to the Ramon Crater - better known to geologists as a makhtesh or erosion cirque. Ibex - mountain goats with huge horns - scamper freely on the cliffs, while the crater's colors change with the passage of the sun.

Kisuy stream and Uvda Valley (Negev)
While the Negev is a rock desert, in the Uvda Valley you'll encounter towering sand dunes reminiscent of the Sahara. The Neolithic "leopard" temple here attests to early human occupation.

Shkhoret stream (Eilat Mountains)
The final section of the trail is the most geologically diverse: here you'll find Israel's only granite formations, as well as the more common limestone and dolomite. Hiking at night, one encounters a surprising array of nocturnal fauna proving the desert is hardly a lifeless wilderness.

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Reaching the port and resort of Eilat with your dusty hiking boots, you'll realize civilization isn't necessarily such a good thing. In Israel, with all its varied attractions, nature is near the top of the list.

Gil Zohar writes regularly for
Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


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