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Mount Tabor - its Biblical associations and views from the summit

A hike on the summit of Mount Tabor provides exceptional views of the Jezreel Valley and surrounding mountains. Mount Tabor is mentioned in the Bible as the site of the battle between the Jewish general Barak and the Canaanite general Sisera. This Jewish victory succeeded in permanently breaking Canaanite control over the Israelites. Mount Tabor is also meaningful to Christians as the site of the transfiguration of Jesus and it has been a place of Christian pilgrimage since Byzantine times. Two churches/monasteries are on the summit - the Catholic Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration, which can be visited, and the St. Elias Greek Orthodox Monastery, which is only open to the public on special days.



Time: Just over one hour.

Distance: 3 Km.

Type of hike: Circular.

Difficulty: An easy hike suitable for families.

Directions: Enter “Mount Tabor” into Waze. This will take you through the Arab town of Daburiyya and up a winding road to a parking lot for the entrance to the churches.

Public transport::"Enter "Mount Tabor" into Waze and click on “Church of the Transfiguration." From the Har Tabor terminus it is a 2.0 Km/25-minute walk.


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About Mount Tabor


At 460 meters above the Jezreel Valley, Mount Tabor is not that high compared to other mountains in the Galilee, but its spherical shape protrudes from the Jezreel Valley and it can be readily seen and identified from as far away as the Golan Heights. It is surrounded at its base by three Arab villages - Daburiyya on its western aspect, and the Bedouin villages of Shibli and Umm al-Ghanam on its southern and eastern aspects. The Catholic Franciscan monastery with its impressive basilica is on the southeast side of the summit, while the Greek Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration is on its north-eastern aspect.


Mount Tabor has historical significance because of its prominence and strategic position adjacent to the confluence of two important highways, the Via Maris passing east-west along the Jezreel Valley and a Galilee north-south road.


Mount Tabor is first mentioned in the Book of Judges as the border between the three tribes Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali (Joshua 19:22). It is also where Barak, the commander of the Israelite forces, defeated Sisera, the commander of the forces of King Jabin of the Canaanite city of Hazor, following 20 years of oppression.


The prophetess Deborah urged Barak to assemble 10,000 men to fight the Canaanites - “And she said to him [Barak]: ‘Indeed the Lord God of Israel commanded: ‘Go and draw toward Mount Tabor, and take with you 10,000 men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun and I shall draw to you to the Brook of Kishron, Sisera, the chieftain of Jabin’s army with his chariots and his multitude, and I will give him into your hand” (Judges 4:6-7).


The Israelite forces gathered on Mount Tabor and the Canaanite forces gathered to the south of the mountain. During the battle, a fierce rainstorm sent a flood along “Nahal Kishon” which discomforted Sisera’s forces and his 900 iron chariots. (Judges 5:21).


It is now evident that this verse is describing an occurrence with Nahal Tabor and not Nahal Kishon (nahal is Hebrew for a stream). Nahal Tabor flows to the east of Mount Tabor and has tributaries from around it. Flooding from heavy rainfall leading to deep mud at the base of the mountain has even been described in the modern period. As a result of his monumental victory, Barak succeeded in permanently removing the threat posed by the Canaanites and their strongest city of Hazor. The verse “When the Israelites became stronger, they imposed tribute on the Canaanites” (Judges 17:13) would have been sometime in the aftermath of this battle.


Mount Tabor was one of 19 sites in the Galilee fortified by Josef ben Matityahu (better known at Josephus Flavius) during the Great Revolt against Rome. This war broke out in the Galilee in 66 CE and Josephus, who was the commander for the Galilee and Golan, realized that Mount Tabor would likely be attacked. He therefore built a wall on top of the mountain to protect the many people gathered there. A Jewish war party was also sent out against the Romans, but was defeated. Some of the rebels fled to Jerusalem, while others in the fort surrendered when they ran out of water. After subjugating the rebellious centers in the Galilee, the Romans turned their attention to Jerusalem. which flows to the east and has tributaries around Mount Tabor,


Mount Tabor has significance to Christians as the site by tradition of the transfiguration of Jesus. The New Testament relates that “After six days 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. … While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!' (Matthew 17:1-3,5).


Mount Tabor was identified as this “high mountain” as early as the 3rd century CE. By the 4th century it was considered a holy place and had become a pilgrimage site and by the 6th century three churches were built on its summit. At that time, there was no road to the top and pilgrims had to ascend the thousands of steps (now 4,300) to reach the churches. Later, the Crusaders fortified a monastery on the summit. In 1212, the Muslim Ayyubids built a massive fortress on the mountain top. The Mamluke sultan subsequently destroyed it to prevent it being used against him. Remains of this fortress can still be seen.


Nowadays, the mountain top is shared by the Franciscan Fathers on its southern aspect and Greek Orthodox monks on its northern aspect. The Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration was built in 1924 on the site of a Crusader church. Some of the ruins of this previous church were incorporated into the present building. Two towers in the façade of the church were built to commemorate Moses and Elijah on the foundations of two medieval chapels. In one chapel is a fresco of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and in the other Elijah confronting the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. The church is open to the public every day from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., except between noon and 2.00 p.m. on Saturday. It is closed Good Friday and Holy Saturday. For information call 04-662 0720.


St. Elias Greek Orthodox Monastery is not usually open to the public except on special days. Within their monastery is the Cave of Malchizedek, commemorating the meeting between Abraham and Malchizedek as told in the Book of Genesis. The church and monastery are built over a Crusader church and monastery.

The views from the summit are magnificent. Below you on all sides is the Jezreel Valley. Mount Gilboa and the Samarian mountains are to the south, Mount Carmel to the west, the Upper and Lower Galilee to the north, the Gilead to the west, and the Golan Heights to the northwest.


As was the case for a lot of the country, Mount Tabor was deforested during the late Ottoman period when trees were used for making charcoal for the railways. It has since been reforested, particularly with Tabor Oak towards the summit and Jerusalem Pine on the lower slopes. Both these trees are indigenous to this country. 


  • The black-marked trail starts by the side of the parking lot. You will be going round the summit in an anti-clockwise direction. Hence, continue along this path, which is on the west side of the mountain.


To the north-west, you will see the city of Nazareth rising from the Jezreel Valley onto the foothills of the mountains of the Lower Galilee.


  • After some distance, on the southern aspect of the trail, you will meet a red trail on your right. If you wish, you can descend along this trail a short distance to an observation point. Below you are the Bedouin villages of Shibli and Umm al-Ghanam.


  • About halfway along the trail, on the east side of the mountain, you will come to a junction with a blue trail descending on your right. You should continue on the black-marked trail. Shortly after this junction is the corner of a medieval fortress, with the ruins of a corner tower and moat hewn into the rock.

  • Shortly before the entrance to the churches and the parking lot are the ruins of a Crusader stronghold.

Greek Orthodox compound.jpeg
Fortress from Crusader times.jpeg

View of the basilica of the Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration from the path.

Ruins of the corner tower of a Crusader or Mamluke fortress seen from the path.

Map of the Summit Trail on Mount Tabor

To follow your location on your smart phone, click on Click on the black box with a cross at the top left of the map and it should change color to green. It is not necessary to download the free app unless you wish to.


View of Nazareth from the Summit Trail

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