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Many Christians traveling on a Holy Land tour are so busy being shuttled on and off buses they often miss the unique experiences and special sites revered by locals and seasoned travelers alike.
The area around Mt. Tabor is a perfect example.
With its fantastic views and important Franciscan and Greek Orthodox shrines situated at its summit over 500 meters above sea level, Mt. Tabor is considered a ‘must see' site for Christians coming on a Holy Land pilgrimage seeking to visit the site where many believe Jesus was transfigured as he spoke to Moses and Elijah in the presence of three of his disciples (Luke 9:28-36).
However, what first time tour leaders and many travelers don't often know is that the brief visit to the shrines at the top of Mount Tabor can eat up at least 2 hours or more. Why? Because tour buses are not allowed to travel up the narrow road to the peak and passengers must disembark at the bottom and be shuttled up by eager taxi drivers waiting for the next fare. Should you be there when it is busy, this procedure can take a significant amount of time. Factor in the obligatory shopping experience on site (you'll get a taxi faster if you buy more) the visit can extend to a few hours.
So, perhaps you are interested in an alternative?
What to see around Mt. Tabor
The area surrounding Mt. Tabor has much to offer and is revered by locals for its many sites, geography, culture, wine and more.
The nearby village of Kfar Tabor is a small agricultural moshav (community) just five minutes from Mount Tabor, founded in 1901 by 28 farming families with the support of Baron Rothschild, the great philanthropist who helped found a number of pre-state communities, including Rosh Pina, Zichron Yaacov and others. For years the small village was home to the Hashomer movement and a small museum in the village traces this movement and its early participants. The museum documents the residents realized a dream and created a homeland.
Kfar Tabor Museum - (04) 676-5844
The Tabor Winery is situated in Kfar Tabor and offers a story of rebirth. Kfar Tavor's farmers for years grew grapes for the wineries of Israel in the hopes that one day they might have their own production facility. The dream finally came true in 1999 when a few families decided to create their own winery. Their wine became quickly successful and now produces 1.5 million bottles. The winery offers on site visits and wine tasting while the adjacent Marzipan museum includes a film depicting the marzipan - making process. Visitors can enjoy the unique display of marzipan on premises as well as the adjacent store. Marzipan workshops, suitable for all ages are also available.
Kfar Tabor Winery - Open Sunday through Thursday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. Tel 04-6760444
Marzipan Museum Visiting hours: Sun - Thu 09:00 - 17:00 Fridays and holiday eves 09:00 - 16:00 Saturday & holidays 10:00 - 17:00 Tel: 04/677-2111;
Next to Kfar Tabor is the Circassian community of Kfar Cama, which is a worthy stop for travelers. The Circassian Museum is situated in a traditional basalt home and offers insight into their unique culture including their traditions and lifestyle and their contributions to the state of Israel. A village tour can include wonderful lunch hospitality as well as a tour of the historic homes and stories of the original settlers. . Unlike other Moslems, the Circassians serve in Israel's Defense Forces. Originally Christians, they converted to Islam when they encountered the Tatars and Turks along the silk route. Their original name, however, is Adigai, which means noble. The Circassians were exiled to Ottoman Turkish areas after the war against the Russian Empire.
Kfar Cama - For tours of the Circassian Museum, Kfar Kama and special Circassian cultural events
At the village of Shibli, located at the base of Mount Tabor, you'll find a very modest but charming Center of Bedouin Heritage (tel. 04/676-7875). It's open Saturday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm; admission is NIS 12 ($3/£1.50).
Kibbutz Ein Dor is the site of the Biblical town of Ein Dor, and consequently a lot of ancient activity occurred there. The kibbutz's archaeology museum displays significant pre-historic findings alongside many changing exhibitions and activities, ancient handicrafts which passed from the world, creation in natural materials, and more. Much of the exhibition is suitable for children as well as adults.
Kibbutz Ein Dor Archaeology Museum - 04-677-0333
If the biblical foods grown in Israel are of interest the area of Mt. Tabor is rich in agriculture. Reuven Birgir is one of Israel's foremost experts in growing olive and almond trees, and a key figure in Israels olive oil industry. In his farm in Kfar Kish, adjacent to Kfar Tabor, he grows olives, almonds and wine grapes.
Birger's Farm, Kfar Kish, 050-499-1519, 077-524-0093
Walking along the Gospel Trail to Mt. Tabor
For interested walkers, the Gospel Trail runs 62 kilometers from Mt. of Precipice to Capernaum and travels by Mt. Tabor. Those that wish can take the side trail to the summit reachable by the 4,300 steps that were carved in the 4th century for Christian pilgrims. For more on walking the trail click here.
Where to Stay around Mt. Tabor
For large groups, Kibbutz Lavi offers an ambiance not found in your typical hotel. Along with comfortable rooms, good food and friendly service, groups will have an opportunity to learn up close about kibbutz life and can tour the community with a kibbutz member. For those seeking a more intimate experience the bed and breakfast owned by Nili Bar, Barbakfar, in Moshav Sharona, lies only 3 kilometers from Mt. Tabor.
If you are seeking to create a rich and unique itinerary for yourself, take the time to explore the area around Mt. Tabor. Between the history, culture, and food, it provides an upfront and personal experience that can't help but deepen the connection to Israel and its people.
This season's excavations at Tel Hazor National Park in the Upper Galilee conducted by Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) uncovered 14 large pithoi-style storage jugs filled with 3,300-year-old burnt wheat. The jugs were located inside a storage room in a monumental, palace-like building from the Canaanite period (2,000-3,000 BCE), INPA said on Monday.
"Hatzor flourished during the Middle Canaanite period (1,750 BCE) and during the Israelite period, and generated the biggest fortified complex in Israel during this period," said Dr. Zvika Tsuk, chief archeologist of the INPA. Professor Amnon Ben-Tor of Hebrew University said the jugs were destroyed around the 13th century BCE, a period which coincided with the biblical account of Joshua's capture of Hazor. According to Joshua chapter 11, Hazor was the only city in the Land of Israel destroyed by fire during the conquest.
For further information about visiting Tel Hazor:
From either north or south: exit the Rosh Pina-Kiryat Shmona road (no. 90) toward Ayelet HaShahar. Tel Hazor is located on the east side of the Road 90.
April-September 8 A.M-5 P.M.
October-March 8 A.M.-4 P.M.
Fridays and holiday eves 8 A.M. 3 P.M.
Last entry one hour before above closing hour.
If you wish to include Tel Hazor in your Holy Land tour, please contact Travelujah.
The Christmas holiday spirit has arrived to the Galilee early this year.
Vered Hagalil, a lovely 30 unit upscale guesthouse located five minutes from the Mt. of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, is offering the best holiday present. Stay one night and get one night free including a full, cooked to order breakfast, throughout the month of December, for stays on Saturday through Wednesday nights only, excluding the nights of Hanukah which fall on December 21 through 28, 2011. So, after you've spent Christmas in Bethlehem and/or Jerusalem, plan a trip to the Galilee and include the Vered Hagalil in your stay.
Within a five minute drive, you can see many of the major Galilee sites including Capernaum, Tabgha, Peters Primacy, Domus Galilee, Korazin and of course, the Mt. of Beatitudes.
The special applies to new reservations only and those interested should email Vered Hagalil directly and let them know that you were referred by Travelujah.
Its possible that this special may also be extended through the first couple weeks of January so make sure you ask when you email tali and firstname.lastname@example.org or call 04-693-5785
A secret pleasure on any Holy Land tour is discovering a place which is largely overlooked by the crowds but offers a unique atmosphere or experience not found anywhere else. Nazareth is certainly significant for any traveler seeking follow in the footsteps of Jesus and, of course, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a favorite stop for most Christian travelers; but have you ever heard of Nahal Amud? If the answer is, "what the heck is nahal amud," then you are like virtually every other tourist to the Holy Land (and even many native Israelis). And that's a shame, because Nahal Amud is one of the most beautiful places in the Galilee and in all of Israel. It is a great a place to meditate in nature and to experience the holy land in much the same way Jesus experienced it.
Part of the Israel Trail
Nahal Amud is actually part of the larger Israel Trail, a national trail that runs from north to south, beginning in the upper Galilee and ending in the mountains just north of the southern port city of Eilat. The Israel trail is rather long and those who do hike the entire trail typically take more than a month to do so. However, if you just want to "get your feet wet," both literally and figuratively, then Nahal Amud, with its variety of trail options ranging from a couple hours to a couple days is a great place to start.
So What Is Nahal Amud Anyway?
Nahal Amud is 15 mile long nature trail that runs from the base of Mt. Meron (the second largest mountain in Israel) between the Galilean mountains southeast to the Sea of Galilee. With its flowing streams, waterfalls and natural pools (in the upper part), combined with its ancient flour mill, fig trees and Neanderthal caves, it is a favored hike by Israelis who have heard of it from friends or family since it usually doesn't make it into the popular guide books. Unlike many other Israel parks, Nahal Amud is not that crowded, and thats only because to visit the nature reserve and enjoy its natural water pools one must be able to walk somewhat of a distance.
Experience the History
However, for the Christian tourist, some of the things that will be most exciting are the fact that there are a number of running streams where one can swim or even baptize themselves in waters that Jesus himself may well have traveled through. There are also a number of caves carved into the mountainside which aside from being the ancient home for Neanderthals some 70,000 years ago, may well have been used by ancient Jews or Christians as hiding places when they were running from the Romans.
Come for the Quiet
The thing that I loved the most however was the peaceful quiet of the place. Located less than an hour's drive from Nazareth and about 30 minutes from Tiberias, Nahal Amud is the perfect place to simply get out of the city and away from the tourists. Set in a valley between the mountains the shorter 3 - 4 hour upper hike involves a steep walking path down into the canyon as well as back up at the conclusion or the mostly circular route.
Stay for the Beauty
The area is also alive with wild flowers and tall cliffs which rival some of the great national parks in the United States. While certainly not as big and nowhere near as famous, the beauty of the place truly shows God's greatness in providing a place of unparalleled beauty. The truth is though that words really fail to capture the majesty of the place. You have the streams where you can dip and you have the trees and caves, but put them all together and it defies simple words to describe what the place looks like.
Those who drive to Nahal Amud can take one of two entrances to the trail. It starts out near the mystical city of Safed and ends near the city of Tiberias, about 25KM (about 15 miles) away. You don't have to hike the whole trail though. When I went, we did just a portion of the trail in an afternoon. And the best part is, unlike many other more frequented areas, this place is not the least bit crowded.
There are actually several entrances to Nahal Amud. I entered from Route 8077, which is a small side road on the way to Kibutz Hibikuk. From that entrance, there is no proper parking (we simply parked along the side of the road) and the entrance is merely a small fenced off entryway which is free to enter. Those feeling a bit less adventurous may choose to go in from the other side of the trail, which is an official park of the State of Israel. There is a small entrance fee to get in, however that part of the park may feel a bit more "civilized" for those who want an easier trek. It has a proper washrooms, maps and other necessary supplies for purchase.
Nahal Amud is located 10 minutes from Safed, the city widely known for its Kabbalistic origins and about 25 minutes from Tiberias and can easily be combined with an afternoon in either city or a visit to the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth or in Haifa, which are popular sites for tourists as well. Anumber of small kibbutzim (collective farms) in the area which often have boutique shops, wineries and or farmers markets open to purchase locally produced products.