Mount Tabor (also spelled Mount Tavor) sticks out like the proverbial “sore thumb” above the Jezreel Valley – you can’t miss it as you drive along route 65 heading north. According to Wikipedia, this type of mountain is called a monadnock. I know very little about geology so I can't validate this, but it's a really cool word so I thought I'd add it for your general knowledge!
Mount Tabor is 588m (approx. 1,900 feet) above sea level and the views across the Jezreel Valley are awesome. From the top, you can see across to the Gilboa Mountains to the east, the Carmel Mountains to the west, the Golan Heights to the north and you may even be able to make out the snow-capped Mount Hermon on a clear day.
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Not surprisingly, this was one of the high points where beacons were burned to announce the start of the Jewish months and festivals in ancient times along with Sfat (Safed) and Rosh Pina.
The Via Maris, which was once the direct trade route to Damascus, passed by the base of Mount Tabor making it strategically important and many battles for supremacy took place on and around the mountain during the Crusader period.
At the end of the 18th century, Napoleon’s troops battled against the Moslem Mamluks in the valley below.
During the War of Independence, in 1948, the Israeli "Haganah" forces occupied the mountain and forced out the Bedouin tribe who lived there. Some members of the tribe – the clan of Shibli – collaborated with them and so were allowed to stay. They established the village of Shibli at the base of the mountain, known today as Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam.
The mountain is traditionally believed by Christians to be the place of the Transfiguration of Jesus when He spoke to Moses and Elijah. It is not clear if the “high mountain” referred to in the New Testament is in fact Mount Tabor or the Hermon Mountain on the border with Lebanon. Either way, it is still considered to be a holy site because pilgrims have visited its summit for hundreds of years and there have been churches and monasteries there from as early as the 5th century.
Today, you can visit the Church of the Transfiguration which was built in the early 20th century. There is an Eastern Orthodox wing and a Roman Catholic wing as well as a monastery.
Hiking: You can follow marked trails on the mountain. Mount Tabor is part of the Israel National Trail (Shvil Israel) which will take you up to the monastery at the peak of the mountain and down by a different route - look out for the orange, white and blue markings. There is also a circular route about 200m from the top with a nearby carpark. This is an easier 2.5km (approx. 1.5 miles) trail and makes a pleasant two-hour hike.
The flowers and blossoms make Spring and Autumn the best times of year to go, but the mountain is covered with trees and foliage which gives some welcome shade if you're hiking in the hot weather.
Cycling: There are many trails for cycling on and around Mount Tabor. If you want to stay overnight, there is a unique hotel especially for cyclists called the HooHa Cyclists’ House in nearby Kfar Tavor. The hotel offers accommodation for groups, couples or individuals – a must for all cycling enthusiasts!
Hang gliding and paragliding: This is a perfect place for these extreme sports - take off near the top of the mountain and look down on the patchwork of fields in the Jezreel Valley below.
Running: There's a local marathon around the base of the mountain which takes place every April.
Kfar Tavor is a moshava (a rural settlement) situated near the base of Mount Tavor - hence its name. It was founded in 1901 by settlers from the first Aliyah and was originally called Mescha after a nearby Arab village.
With the help of the Rothschild Foundation, vineyards were planted, producing high-quality grapes for wine-making. Pick up some excellent local wines at the Tabor Winery, which was established in 1999.
While you’re there, don’t miss the marzipan museum where you can buy marzipan in all different shapes and colours – or join one of the workshops for all the family.
In the HaMayesdim (the founders) area of the town you can see some of the original buildings which have been restored.
Other cool things to see and do in the area:
Gilboa Ski - Artificial ski slope and other attractions.
Hot air ballooning - Watch the sunrise over the Jezreel Valley.
Makom B'Sejera - Kosher restaurant for foodies.
Dag Dagan - Great Israeli restaurant for all the family.
Hemdatya - Green lodging for eco-tourists.
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