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 two 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) and 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 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tel: 04-6760444
Marzipan museum visiting hours: Sunday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays and holiday eves 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays and holidays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 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 Israel's 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 fourth 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.
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Publication date: October 9, 2012