written by Erez Speiser
In the land of Israel, almost any piece of ground your footsteps steps on, also has a biblical connection. The major sites like the Church of Holy Sepulcher or the Mount of Beatitudes need no further introduction. Here we will describe 5 walks to lesser-known spots that associate with the greatest story of the bible. Reaching the location on foot brings an added value of a deeper connection with the land.
- MOUNT TABOR – THE STORY OF DEBORAH THE PROPHET
In the center of the Lower Galilee, Mount Tabor (Mountain of Transfiguration) rises prominently above the surrounding valleys. Its commanding height relative to its surroundings made it an interesting point that brought to its summit warlords and prophets, who have created fascinating history spanning over thousands of years. Mount Tabor is mentioned 7 times in the Old Testament and was the setting for the biblical story of Deborah the Prophet. Years later, it was the location where Jesus was transfigured with bright rays of light in front of his apostles.
The Church of the Transfiguration dominates the summit. The Church you see today was built by the Franciscans in 1924. In size, it is one of the largest in the Holy Land. It was built on the ruins of an ancient (4th–6th century) Byzantine Church and a 12th-century church of the Crusader Kingdom period. From the Church’s gate starts a pleasant trail that encircles the mountain.
The climb up to the mountain summit is a real hike. But those who prefer a more relaxed experience can drive up to the summit and walk on the 2 kilometers flat circular trail. The trail takes us for a leisurely walk with spectacular views on northern Israel. During the walk, we view below us the Jezreel Valley, where the event of Judges chapter 4 took place. In this chapter, we learn about the battle between the Israelites, lead by Deborah and Barak, against the Canaanite lead by Sisra.
- VALLEY OF ELAH – THE BATTLE OF DAVID AND GOLIATH
The valley of Elah is a small valley, located in the Judean plains. In ancient times it was an important corridor from the coastal towns to the Judean mountains and the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. The Elah valley was also the place of the famous Biblical battle between David and Goliath.
There are several hiking trails on the ridges surrounding the valley. You can do a full circle of 10 kilometers, or just make a short climb to Tel Azekah (Azekah hill). From the hilltop, there is an excellent view of the Judean mountains at the horizon and the Elah valley just below us, where the famous battle between David and Goliath took place 3000 years ago. A perfect spot to read 1 Samuel Chapter 17 especially comes to mind, with the famous verse “Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.”
- MOUNT SODOM – THE STORY OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH
Explore the unique landscape on a white Salt Mountain. Mount Sodom’s soil containing 80% Salt, creates a unique landscape that cannot be found anywhere else. It is also the setting of the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah that is mentioned more than 20 times in both the old and new Testament. It’s a 10 Kilometers challenging desert hike with great views. Standing on the summit of Mount Sodom and looking at the harsh dry landscape that surrounds us, we can understand why the extermination of Sodom and Gomorrah became the ultimate symbol for punishment and destruction. A great excuse to open the book of Genesis in chapters 18-19.
- MUHRAKA – The story of Elijah confronting the false Baal prophets
The Muhraka is a prominent summit at the southeastern corner of mount Carmel, overlooking the Jezreel valley. It is the setting of the famous story from 1 Kings chapter 18 about Elijah challenging King Ahab and the prophets of the Canaanite deity, the Baal. It is possible to reach the location by car and visit the Carmelite Monastery of the Prophet Elijah. The old monastery belongs to the Carmelite Order, whose members arrived at the Holy Land from Europe in the 17th century. The Carmelite monastery carries the name of its patron, the Prophet Elijah. From the roof, you can see the Mediterranean, Mt Hermon, and everything in between. In front of the building, there is a peaceful little garden with a statue of Elijah and a small walking trail. If you feel more energetic, you can make a more extended 8 kilometers walk on the beautiful trails of mount Carmel and finish the hike with a visit to the monastery.
- HORNS OF HATTIN – THE “SERMON OF THE MOUNT”
“Horns of Hattin” is a steep hill in the lower Galilee rising about 250 meters above the surrounding plains. It is an extinct volcano with a crater in the middle and twin peaks (“horns”) on each side. Thus, the name “Horns of Hattin.”
The location where Jesus preached the “Sermon on the Mount” is still debated. The more accepted site is the Mount of Beatitudes. However, many believe the correct location is the Horn of Hattin. The historical event that made the “Horns of Hattin” famous is the battle between the Muslim forces led by Saladin and the crusader’s army, which took place here in 1187. The defeat of the Crusaders in this battle marked the “beginning of the end” of their rule of the Holy land that resulted in the surrender of Jerusalem.
It’s a short steep climb to the summit, where you can enjoy a fantastic panorama: Mount Arbel, the sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Galilee mountains, and Mount Tabor.
My name is Erez Speiser. I was born in Israel in 1966, living now in Rakefet (Lower Galilee). By education, I am a mechanical engineer. For the last decade, I hold a marketing position in a multi-national metal-cutting tools company.
However, my true passion had always been nature and outdoors. I Love Israel and its nature, and since 2018 I started to put my skills, passion, and knowledge into promoting Hiking tourism in the holy land