A trip to Lower Galilee

Take advantage of the pleasant fall weather and visit Mount Tabor and the beautiful Franciscan church that sits atop the mountain. And for the adventurous, there is a challenging path that winds its way back down

MOUNT TABOR is a horst  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
MOUNT TABOR is a horst
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
It’s hard to miss beautiful Mount Tabor, which is visible from numerous locations in the North due to its impressive height of 560 meters. Technically Mount Tabor is a horst – an area of land that rose due to pressure from inside the earth. This is why the mountain is so different from the rest of the Lower Galilee, which is relatively flat and about 100 m. above sea level.
Mount Tabor has an especially rich history for Jews as well as Christians – who call it the Mount of Transfiguration, since it is where Jesus is believed to have changed form right in front of his followers. According to the New Testament, Jesus spoke on the mountain with Moses and the Prophet Elijah, who confirmed his status as the son of God. The site’s significance to Jews can be found in the Book of Judges as the place where the Prophet Deborah fought against Sisera. In addition, Josephus fought against the Romans there in the first century CE.
The hike up Mount Tabor is enjoyable any time of the year, but if you are interested in a water hike, it’s best to go in the winter when the river is gushing. That said, fall is a great time of year to take advantage of the pleasant weather and hike up to the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy a light meal while resting under the trees and surrounded by blossoming flowers. Tabor has some of the richest flora in the country, as well as many animals, including wild boars, hyenas, jackals and foxes. And needless to say, the view from the top is absolutely mesmerizing.
If you are traveling by car, it is easy to find the site, but the road is steep and relatively narrow, so you should be careful as you navigate the twists and turns. You can park your car in the small lot facing the impressive Franciscan church, which is the main attraction on the mountain.
The visit to the church requires advance preparation, since modest clothing is a requirement. The clergy there are quite strict about this, and you will notice as soon as you arrive that the people who run the site also insist on proper conduct and quiet (even Israeli visitors manage to abide by these rules). It’s worthwhile also to check opening and closing hours ahead of time (it’s usually closed between noon and 2 p.m.).
As you approach the church, you will notice the green corners and shadowed alcoves used by the monks who live there. There are two walking paths to choose from. The first one, which is relatively short and well-maintained, passes through the church and offers a number of lookout spots. This path is recommended for people who’ve come with only one car and prefer a circular route. It is 2.5 km. long.
Another option is to begin on the circular path, but to continue along the green path until you reach the Beduin village of Shibli at the foot of the mountain. This path is recommended for adventurous types who love steep descents and are not afraid of a challenging hike.
Since the latter path is through dense shrubbery, it is not as comfortable and requires that you pay attention to each step. If you decide to take this path, it’s best to leave another car in the parking area down below in Shibli.
Otherwise, you can try to catch a ride or stop a taxi to bring you back up top.
Location: Lower Galilee, Mount Tabor
Type of hike: For the whole family
Level of difficulty: Easy
Length: Between one hour and an entire day, depending on path chosen
Directions: Take Road 65 north toward the Golani Junction.
Turn left at Tavor Junction onto Road 7266 and drive until you reach the town of Daburiya. Look for signs directing you to the monastery.
Translated by Hannah Hochner