Mount Tabor - sentinel of the valleys

Empires rose and fell at the foot of this lone mountain.

Mount Tabor 311 (photo credit:
Mount Tabor 311
(photo credit:
It stands high, like a faithful guardian where the beautiful Jezreel Valley and the lower Galilee meet. Its perfectly round shape commands our attention.
Mount Tabor is an ancient horst (a geological term for a mountain that pushed its way above the cooling Earth’s crust when the surface was first forming) that has determined the fate of empires.
We read about this mountain in the Book of Joshua (19:22) as Joshua leads the 12 tribes in the conquest of the Promised Land 3,500 years ago. The mountain was determined to be the border between three tribes; Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali.
We know that Joshua’s conquests were not complete, impressive though they were. The Bible tells us that pagans were allowed to remain in the Land after submitting to Israelite rule and taxation.
This concession is criticized by the Bible.
We can assume that they were not allowed to practice idolatry in public, though we know that some hundreds of years later, the expulsion of the 10 tribes from this northern part of the land was partly because they sometimes emulated their heathen neighbors. It was just this behavior that the prophets beseeched the Jews to abandon.
Mount Tabor was supposed to witness the sound defeat of the northern tribes under the wheels of Cicero’s 900 iron chariots. Armed with farm implements, the Jews asked Devorah the judge to lead them. She summoned Barak Ben- Avinoam and instructed him to lead the Jewish irregulars and farmers against the Canaanite military machine. Mount Tabor was to fit in to Cicero’s plan to squash the ragged Jewish resistance, but as the Psalms say, “Some on chariots and some on horses, but we on the name of the Lord rely.” And so it was.
The 900 chariots stormed down the mountain, but their wheels were abruptly stopped by the winter mud in the Kishon stream. The chariots became death traps. It was a complete rout.
Cicero fled alone and sought refuge in the tent of Yael of the Kenizy tribe, an ally of the Canaanites. She beckoned him and promised to protect him from his pursuers. He asked for water. She gave him milk; and when he was asleep, she finished the tyrant off.
And the Jews enjoyed peace for another 40 years.
In the waning years of the Maccabee dynasty, when Rome was really calling the shots, Alexander the Macabee, a great-grandson of the ones that defeated the Greeks, made one last attempt to secure independence. He gathered an army of 31,000 and fought a series of battles on and at the foot of Mount Tabor. He lost 10,000 men and was captured and executed. There would be another two giant revolts against Rome before the Jews were finally sent into global exile.
Meanwhile, empires rose and fell at the foot of this lone mountain. The Crusaders slugged it out with the Mamelukes, the Mamelukes with the Mongols, and Napoleon with the Ottoman Turks.
In 1799 Napoleon invaded Egypt. He wanted to cut off British shipping in the Mediterranean. Shrewd politician that he was, he allowed a rumor to spread that he was interested in converting to Islam. All the dignitaries and military leaders of Egypt were invited to a banquet, and there they were beheaded. The rest was easy.
He continued his conquests up the Sinai coast to Jaffa, and then Acre. There he was stopped by the British-Turkish forces. However, to secure his rear, he sent his trusted general Kleber to head off Turkish reinforcements coming from Damascus. At the foot of Mount Tabor, 1,500 French troops formed two tight squares and fended off 35,000 Turks. The French lost two dead and 60 wounded. The Turks lost 6,000.
Then the Jewish renaissance was brought near the biblical mountain. In 1901 Kfar Tabor was established.
In 1948 the ragtag militia of the infant Jewish state faced five invading Arab armies and secured the mountain for the third Jewish commonwealth.
Deborah would be proud!
Shalom Pollack is a veteran Israel tour guide. He has produced a DVD: Israel, Ancient Roots - Modern Miracle, and will be touring the USA from Nov 21 - Dec 21.