Mount of Precipice, a Lookout over the Galilee

The summit trail on the Mount of Precipice. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
The summit trail on the Mount of Precipice. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

The Mount of Precipice in northern Israel is very popular because of its walking trails and the wonderful view it offers of the surrounding landscape. Now there’s another reason to visit it: the Gospel Trail, which descends from the top of the hill and leads all the way to the Kesullot Valley.

  • How to get there

    Drive along the Afula-Nazareth Highway (Route 60) until you come to the new “tunnel road” interchange that leads up to Nazareth. At this point the visitor has two options:

    a) Via the old road: You can take the old road that ascends to Nazareth (follow the signs to Iksal then turn on to the road that leads up to Nazareth). After around four kilometers you will reach a junction with Route 75 (3001). Straight ahead of you Paul VI Street (Rehov Paulus HaShishi) descends into Nazareth. Turn right into the broad street and after about 800 meters you will see a brown signpost that points to the right, to the Mount of Precipice.

    b) Via the tunnel road (the continuation of Route 60): Drive along the road, pass through the tunnel hewn into the flank of the Mount of Precipice and you will arrive at the junction with Route 75 (3001). Turn left on to Route 75, drive for another kilometer or so and you will see the brown sign that indicates the left turn towards the Mount of Precipice.

    The road to the hill
    Turn off Route 75 and follow the signs. After around 400 meters you will come to a junction where you turn left and continue driving along the surfaced road. On the right you will see a roof leaning on a giant diagonal pillar and beyond it are rows of seats arranged on the hillside. This is the amphitheater built by KKL-JNF in honor of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, who celebrated mass here on May 14th, 2009 in the presence of some 40 thousand worshippers.

    Opposite, on a bare hill on the other side of Route 60, you can see the walls of the Bishop’s Palace Church, which overlooks the Mount of Precipice and commemorates the attempt to throw Jesus from its summit. The church was built in the 19th century and has recently undergone renovation. It is not open to the general public.

    Our route leads us to the parking lot before the summit. On the northern slope KKL-JNF has planted a forest of Jerusalem pines, stone pines and cypresses, interspersed with carob trees. Cedars grow beside the parking lot.
  • Geographic location-

    Sea of Galilee - the valleys and lower Galilee,northern Israel - Lower Galilee
  • Area-

  • Target audience-

  • Track length-

    1 - 2 hours
  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Difficulty-

  • Season-

  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

Projects and Partners Worldwide

The site was developed with contributions from friends of KKL JNF worldwide.

Mount of Precipice - Walking Trails

The Nazareth Hills block off the northern part of the Jezreel Valley like a fortified wall. Their steep slope is the product of a geological fault that divides the hills from the valley: the hills reared up far above the lowland, and the hard chalk rocks of which they are composed have remained startlingly upright.

At 397 meters above sea level and some 300 meters above the level of the Jezreel Valley, the Mount of Precipice stands out conspicuously from the steep wall of the Nazareth Hills. Its official name is Mount Kedumim (Har Kedumim), perhaps because it overlooks the Kishon River, which is referred to in the Biblical Song of Deborah as the Kedumim River (Nahal Kedumim): “The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river (Hebrew: Nahal Kedumim), the river Kishon,” (Judges 5:21). And if there’s a Kedumim River, why should there not be a mountain of the same name?

The name Mount of Precipice has its origins in Christian tradition, in a story in the New Testament (Luke 4:29-30) that recounts how Jesus angered the congregation of the synagogue in Nazareth when he hinted that he might be the Messiah. The congregants led him out of the city and sought to throw him from the top of the hill, but he managed to evade them and reach safety. After this incident Jesus left Nazareth and began to frequent the area around the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee).

In this article, we propose an excursion along a new trail that leads down the side of the Mount of Precipice and joins a short existing footpath constructed on the hill long ago by KKL-JNF. This new path forms part of the Gospel Trail, which is a total of 62 kilometers in length. It departs from the Mount of Precipice, skirts the foot of the Nazareth Hills, passes through Beit Keshet Forest, descends to the Kinneret via the Horns of Hittin (Karnei Hittin) and finishes its journey at the Christian holy places on the shores of the Kinneret. It was constructed by the Israel Government Tourist Corporation in conjunction with KKL-JNF and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Here we describe the first part of the trail, so that those curious about it can get a little taste of what it is like.

The short route

A disabled-accessible paved path leaves the parking lot and ascends among the trees to the top of the Mount of Precipice. Here KKL-JNF has established the Three Faiths Lookout, with the help of donations from the community of Windsor, Ontario. In the center of the plaza is an olive tree planted by Pope John Paul II to promote peace between adherents of all religions throughout the world. Explanatory signs in English, Hebrew and Arabic offer a description of the site.

The view is magnificent. Below us is the Jezreel Valley, opposite are Mount Gilboa and Givat HaMoreh. We can return to the parking lot by following the surfaced path, but we recommend instead walking eastwards along the trail at the edge of the ridge, which provides a wonderful view. After some 300 meters we arrive at another scenic lookout platform with a stone house at its center. This is the Forester’s House, which was formerly used by KKL-JNF woodsmen working in the area. A short accessible path from the Forester’s House scenic lookout leads back to the parking lot.

The Gospel Trail

The Gospel Trail starts at the Mount of Precipice parking lot, very close to the point of departure of the path to the Three Faiths Lookout. Four basalt stones threaded one above the other on to a single metal post serve as the indicators for this route. Each is marked with an anchor and the words “The Gospel Trail.”

This part of the path, which makes its way through a forest, is bordered with curbstones. After 150 meters the path bends sharply to the right then later to the left, as it makes its way above the deep gully of Nahal Mizra on our right. From here we have a good view of the new Route 60 bridge before it is swallowed up into the tunnel. KKL-JNF has provided an iron railing along the steepest section of the path. In springtime the area is carpeted with flowers, and in late summer it is covered with a veritable forest of sea squills in bloom.

If you are looking for a place to take a break, the carob tree some 700 meters from the start of the footpath offers an excellent spot. A little further on you will see a large hedge of prickly pear cacti. As the path curves round to the left the rocky wall of the Nazareth Hills comes into view, with Mount Tabor at its extremity – a magnificent sight. The sizeable Arab community of Iksal is situated at the foot of Mount Nazareth.

Between the Nazareth Hills, Mount Tabor and Givat HaMoreh lies the Kesullot Valley (Biq‘at Kesullot), which takes its name from the town of Kesullot in the territory allocated to the tribe of Issachar: “And their border was towards Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Sunem,” (Joshua 19:18). In the Biblical description of the land apportioned to the tribe of Zevulun the site is referred to as Kesullot Tavor. The name Kesullot would appear to be partially preserved in the Arabic name Iksal.

Along the way we can see an old quarry and the open mouth of the Kedumim Cave (also known as Qafzeh Cave) in the cliff face to the north of us. This cave is the site of important prehistoric archeological discoveries. Excavations in the area began in 1933 and have continued intermittently ever since. The first groups of archaic homo sapiens were found at the site, and the cave became internationally famous because of the discovery of the remains of twelve human skeletons of both adults and children.

The bodies had been placed in a curled up position, and one of the children was clasping a pair of stag antlers to his chest. Researchers have suggested that the stag had perhaps caused the child’s death. Because of the significance and sensitivity of these ancient artifacts, which provide evidence of human settlement from tens of thousands of years ago, visitors are not permitted to enter the cave.

We continue along the path, which bends sharply and descends to a dirt road inside a KKL-JNF forest. Here we turn right and, after another 100 meters or so, left (note the cairn). Two hundred meters further on, beside a lone pine tree at the junction, we follow the trail that leads into the forest and then takes us to another dirt road. Here we turn right and, after another 70 meters or so, we arrive at Iksal square, which is where our excursion ends.

Our vehicle should be waiting for us here. If it isn’t we can go back the way we came and climb the hill. Don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it sounds.

At the lower end of the footpath work is being carried out by Israel’s public water company Mekorot. While this should not disrupt the footpath route, we recommend exercising caution as you walk along.