Mount Tabor (or Tavor) -Like the summit of Mount Carmel, near Haifa, where the Prophet Elijah challenged the Canaanite prophets of Baal, the summit of Mount Tabor is believed to have been a Canaanite “high place,” or altar, from at least the 2nd millennium b.c. The defeat of the Canaanites at such a prominent sanctuary (the mountain stands 540m or 1,772 ft. above sea level, making it the tallest of the Lower Galilee Mountains) must have had a stunning psychological effect.

Mount Tabor certainly played a crucial role in the life of Jesus Christ. Just 9.6km (6 miles) southeast of Nazareth, it must have been a dominant feature of the landscape Jesus knew in his childhood. At the summit stands the Basilica of the Transfiguration, which marks the traditional site where Jesus was transfigured as he spoke to Moses and Elijah in the presence of three of his disciples (Luke 9:28–36). The current Basilica was built in the 1920s over the ruins of long-destroyed Crusader and Byzantine churches (visitors can still go into the grottoes of the Crusader church). Also on the mount is the Church of Elias (Elijah), built in 1911 by the Greek Orthodox community. From here on a clear day you can see the Sea of Galilee, Mount Hermon, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Yizreel Valley. At this dramatic mountain, in the period of the Judges (ca. 1150 b.c.), the Prophet Deborah and her general, Barak, led the Israelite tribes to victory over the Canaanite general Sisera of Hazor (Judg. 4:12–16).

At the base of the mountain, in the Arabic village of Shibli, you’ll find the 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; Shibli also hosts a number of Bedouin-style restaurants, good for an afternoon break.

Mount Tabor is accessible from Nazareth by Egged bus, private car or taxi. Although it looks close, the way is circuitous. If you’re driving from the northern part of Nazareth, take Rte. 754 to Rte. 77; from Rte. 77 at the Golani Junction, turn south onto Rte. 65 to Mount Tabor. From southern Nazareth, take Rte. 60 to Afula; at Afula take Rte. 65 to Mount Tabor. If you are driving or walking, the road up Mount Tabor becomes increasingly steep the higher you ascend, with absolutely hair-raising hairpin turns. Beware of vehicles in front of you conking out and rolling downhill. The descent can seem even more horrific, but the view from the summit is magnificent.

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