Mount Tabor - The Summit Trail

Mount Tabor is not the highest mountain in Galilee, but none can compete with it in beauty.



Geographic location: Sea of Galilee, the valleys and lower Galilee
Difficulty: Easy
Target audience: All
Season: All
Track length: 2 km
Duration: 1-2 hours
Track type: Walking path

Identity Card

Tabor oaks on the Mount Tabor trail. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik



Geographic location: Northern Lower Galilee

• Features: Flowers, Landscapes and scenic lookouts, History and art, Part of the Israel Trail

How to get there: Drive north along the highway from Afula to the Golani Junction (Route no. 65) and before you reach Kfar Tavor, between markers 56 and 57, turn northwards on to Route no. 7266, cross through the village of Daburiyya, and continue on until you reach the terminal, i.e., the bus parking lot. The narrow road to the top of the hill ascends from here.

If you are coming from the direction of Golani Junction (Route no. 65), make your way to the terminal via the village of Shibli, then follow the road to the top of the hill as described above.

A song for the road: “On the Tabor Trail I walked alone / I heard hoofbeats behind me.” BeDerekh HaTavor (“On the Tabor Trail”) by Binyamin Avigal and Shlomo Weissfisch

Mount Tabor is not the highest mountain in Galilee, but none can compete with it in beauty. Its rounded summit (567 meters above sea level) towers alone above the Jezreel Valley, detached from the surrounding hills and inspiring awe today just as it did in the past. Small wonder that the Bible mentions Mount Tabor in the same breath as Mount Hermon.

Mount Tabor is clad in both planted forest and native woodland, and the impressive ruins of an ancient fortress and two churches can still be seen on its summit. This combination.

 
Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.
 
 
 

Flora and fauna

The upper parts of Mount Tabor are covered mainly with natural woodland in which Tabor oak trees (Quercus ithaburensis) predominate. As members of this variety of oak grow at a comparatively large distance from one another, they create an open woodland that leaves room for brightly colored seasonal plants to flourish and bloom in winter, when the trees have shed their leaves. Hence we find meadow saffron (Colchicum stevenii), bunchflower daffodil (Narcissus tazetta, also known as bunch-flowered narcissus) Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), Egyptian campion (Silene aegyptiaca), crown anemone (Anemone coronaria, also known as poppy anemone), branched asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus), yellow asphodel (Asphodeline lutea), Persian buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus) and different varieties of crocus.


Significant areas of Mount Tabor, and its lower slopes in particular, are covered with forests of Jerusalem pine (Pinus halepensis, also known as Aleppo pine). At the top of the hill and on its southern slopes, pines planted in the 1930s, during the British Mandate, are still growing. KKL-JNF planted the rest of the hillsides in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mount Tabor is encircled by three villages. The large community of Daburiyya, at the foot of its western slope, bears a name that retains the sound of that of the Biblical Levite city of Daberath (Davrat) in the territory of the tribe of Issachar. At the base of the hill to the north and south lie the Bedouin communities of Arab al-Shibli and Umm al-Ghanam, which, with a combined population of around 5,000 residents, constitute a single shared regional council.

As the communities around Mount Tabor are constantly growing and spreading, the hill’s importance as an ecological corridor between central and eastern Galilee is vital to the free movement of animals in the region – and, indeed, to their very existence.
 
 

Human history on Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor’s imposing appearance may well have sanctified it in ancient times, though so far no evidence of early worship has been found at the site. There are, however, impressive remains of a mighty fortress apparently first established during the Hellenistic Period. In Roman times, according to the historian Josephus (Yosef Ben Matityahu), a sturdy fortress was built at the top of the hill, and a fortress of note stood there in the Middle Ages, too.

Christian tradition regards Mount Tabor as the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus, a highly significant event in Christianity in which Jesus’ face and clothes are said to have shone with radiant light after he ascended a mountain together with his disciples Peter, James and John. Although the Christian sources do not mention the mountain by name, tradition very early identified Mount Tabor as the site of the Transfiguration and churches were established at its summit.

In the late 19th century Franciscan monks founded a monastery and hostel at the top of Mount Tabor. The Church of the Transfiguration, the sight of which greets all those who make their way to the summit, was built in 1924 to a plan drawn up by the famous Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, on a site where a 12-century Crusader church had stood earlier, some of whose ruins were incorporated into the new building. To the north of the church, beneath the floor of the great hall that once served as the refectory of the Crusader monastery, a small grotto was found, with crosses and Greek inscriptions on its walls. The site would appear to have been used in the Byzantine period as a burial cave for monks who had lived on Mount Tabor.

Barluzzi originally roofed the nave with translucent alabaster panels designed to let in as much light as possible, in remembrance of the mysterious light of the Transfiguration, but these were unable to withstand the rain and winds of the hilltop and the building was later roofed with copper. In the apse is a fine mosaic that depicts Jesus’ transfiguration before the eyes of his disciples. He is shown standing between Moses and Elijah, who respectively represent Law and Prophecy. The two towers in the church’s façade stand on the foundations of two mediaeval chapels. The chapel on the left is dedicated to Moses, whom it depicts bearing the tablets of the law on Mount Sinai. The second chapel portrays Elijah confronting the Prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

The summit trail

The parking lot adjacent to the Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration is the departure point for the short dirt path that passes by the moat of the mediaeval fortress and, a hundred meters further on, meets up with a path indicated by black trail markings. The pine trees that grow here were planted during the British Mandate, and they lean over crookedly, borne down by the winds and the weight of years. Here we turn left. The path takes us past the back of the Church of the Transfiguration and the southeastern corner of the mediaeval fortress. The moat and the remains of the wall are clearly visible. The ruined buildings and cisterns outside the fortress may have belonged to the Jewish fort that stood here at the time of the revolt against the Romans.

Opposite the Church of the Transfiguration we pass by a red-marked path that leads eastwards down the mountain to the highway from Afula to Kfar Tavor (Route no. 65). Here we find ourselves in the middle of a park-like forest of Tabor oaks that offers a magnificent view of Lower and Eastern Galilee, the Jezreel Valley, Nahal Tavor (“Tabor Stream”), Mount Gilboa and the Mountains of Gilad on the far side of the River Jordan.

Now the summit path crosses the eastern side of the top of the mountain, passing by a blue-marked trail that leads down towards Gazit Junction. Our route takes us to the northwestern corner of the mediaeval fortress, where we can observe the very impressive ruins of the corner tower and the moat hewn into the rock. Even more impressive, however, is the wonderful view of the heights of Lower and Eastern Galilee before they plunge down into Yavne’el Valley and the gully of Nahal Tavor. Kibbutz Beit Keshet and Kadoorie Agricultural High School are displayed as if in the palm of a hand, as are the expanses all the way to Mount Hermon.

A little further on we can see on the left the mouth of a cave hewn into the rock and decorated with a man-made arch. At some point in the past it may have served as a dwelling for monks. In wintertime meadow saffron, grape hyacinth, crocus, anemone and asphodel bloom gaily at the sides of the path, and in spring the Persian lily (Fritillaria persica) comes into flower.

The path passes through the northern part of the summit, below the Greek Orthodox church, before turning left to its southern side. Here we come to an arched gateway that leads into a courtyard at the back of which the Chapel of Melchizedek (Malki-Zedek) is hewn into the rock. This chapel belongs to the Greek church, and its gates are usually kept locked. According to Orthodox tradition, this is the Biblical Valley of Shaveh (Emeq Shaveh), where Abraham met Melchizedek, King of Salem (Genesis 14:17-18).

From here it’s just a short distance to the Gate of the Wind, through which the road leads to the parking lot. This gate was built over a hundred years ago, and some of the stones used in its construction were taken from the fortress. We are now very close to the parking lot.

Length of route:  Two kilometers. Signposting: Black trail markings.

Suitability for motor vehicles: The narrow road that winds its serpentine way up to the summit can be negotiated in a private car, but not by buses or trucks. Groups of visitors who arrive in large vehicles should park at the Tabor Terminal between the villages of Shibli and Daburiyya, and engage one of the taxis waiting at the foot of the hill to take them to the summit.

Opening hours at the Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration
Sunday to Thursday: 8.00-11.45 and 14.00-17.00.
Saturdays and holidays: Until 11.30.
The Greek Orthodox church is not open to the public.