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Mount Tabor

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Mount Tabor, in the Galilee, is one of the sites proffered as the place where Jesus was transfigured. The Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration stands at the top of the mountain and is open to visitors. Mount Tabor is also the place where Deborah and Sisera fought a battle as recounted in the Book of Judges.

 

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Highlights of Mount Tabor in the Holy Land


The 500-meter high Mount Tabor can be seen from miles and offers sweeping views of the Jezreel Valley. The Church of the Transfiguration was built in 1924, but still contains vestiges of the Crusader and Byzantine churches built on the same spot including a 12th-century tomb, 12th-century chapel, a mosaic floor and a three-aisled basilica with four bays. A rock, said to be the very site of the Transfiguration, has been preserved.


Franciscan friars live next on the mountain in a monastery established in 1873. A modest Eastern Orthodox church built in 1862 also stands atop Mount Tabor.

 

At the foot of Mount Gilboa is the Bedouin village of Shibli, well worth visiting. The village contains a museum featuring the millennia old Bedouin culture, the original culture of all the Semitic tribes of the Middle East. There one can also be acquainted with Bedouin food and hospitality and it is an outing also suitable for children.

 

Background of Mount Tabor in the Holy Land

 

Traditionally considered the site of the transfiguration, Mount Tabor was also an important tribal border in Israel in the Old Testament. Deborah routed Israel's enemy here as well. The Church of St. Melchizedek was built in honor of a 4th-century tradition in which Melchizedek spent seven years as a hermit on Mount Tabor before meeting and blessing Abraham.

 

History of Mount Tabor in the Holy Land

 

Mount Tabor was used through the generations for its strategic importance. In the Book of Judges, the Bible recounts how Deborah chose Barak to lead the charge against Sisera and his army (Judges 4). Later, military forts stood atop the mount during the Hasmonean period, the Jewish Revolt and likely in Jesus’ day as well.


In 348, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem decided that he preferred Mt. Tabor to Mt. Hermon as the site of the Transfiguration, and within years a church was built on the site. In 570, three basilicas were recorded as being seen on Mount Tabor in 570.


Mount Tabor was an important sacred site in the Crusader period, but it was eventually conquered by Salah al-Din in 1187. The Muslims built walls and fortifications across the entire plateau of Mount Tabor although pilgrims continued to visit the church, which survived intact.


During the Ottoman era, the Franciscans were granted permission to live atop Mount Tabor in 1631. The Franciscans rediscovered the ruined Crusader church in 1858 and began its reconstruction. In 1924, the present church, which stands over the 12th century church, was completed.

 

Mount Tabor in the Bible

 

Tabor is most widely known in the Bible for its possible connection to the Transfiguration. Many Christians consider Tabor to be the mountain on which Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John as recorded in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36. Other possible mountains are two closer to Caesarea-Philippi, Mount Panium in Banias and Mount Hermon. However, Tabor was also mentioned in the Old Testament:


“Deborah sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, 'The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: “Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.'" Judges 4:6-7


“You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.” Psalm 89:12


“'As surely as I live,' declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty, 'one will come who is like Tabor among the mountains, like Carmel by the sea.'” Jeremiah 46:18


“Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!' When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. 'Get up,' he said. 'Don't be afraid.' When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.'” Matthew 17:1-9

 

Travelujah Tips

 

The Church of Transfiguration is open, free of charge, Sunday to Friday. Modest dress required.


Buses are no longer permitted to drive to the top of Mount Tabor and the site is accessible only by walking or biking a winding narrow road on the north side. Walkers can use 4,300 steps built in the 4th century AD for Christian pilgrims.

 

 

Nearby Places of Interest

 

 

Mt. Gilboa

 

 

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