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Hermon: Hazori to Hula

Golan: Devora &  Gilbon

Golan: Nahal Meitzar

Galilee: Nahal Kziv

Galilee: Nahal Amud

Galilee: Nahal Rosh Pina

Galilee: Ramat Adamit

Coast: Dor to Caesarea

Judean Hills: Ela Valley

Judean Desert: Masada

Judean Desert: Peres

Negev: Mount Zaror

Negev: Hatira Coxcomb

Negev: Ramon Ridge

Negev: Hatzra Ascent

Negev: Nekarot Hike

Negev: Ada Canyon

Arava: Barak Canyon

Arava: Maok & Nekarot

Eilat: Israel Trail Finale

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Sermon Valley

The exact spot where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount is not known. But the mountain above Tabgha offers some surprising options.

Start the hike at the entrance to the Vered Hagalil horse ranch. Continue along the main road eastward for a few hundred meters until you reach the fence around the Domus Galilee seminary. Take the track on the left side of the road that leads through the pine trees along the fence. Follow the track south, until it emerges from the trees and you reach the fence around Vered Hagalil.

You are now standing above a large valley, with a dirt road running down its center, the Church of the Beatitudes in the far distance and the Sea of Galilee is below you. A little way down the slope in front of you grow a few ancient Atlantic Pistachio trees. Make your way carefully down the slope toward the trees. You will soon discover that each one of them (and if you lift up your eyes you will see quite a few more dotting the valley) grows out of a mound of stones. These are Chalcolithic graves; these huge structures were left untouched by the inhabitants of this area for thousands of years (hence the ancient trees). The Arabic name for this area is "the woods of the blessed trees," an interesting referral to the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.

After examining the ancient ruins, make your way down the slope to the track that runs along the middle of the valley. The track runs along a high voltage electric power line that is difficult to miss. The valley itself was the site of the sermon that Pope Paul II delivered in September 2000 to thousands of people.

As you walk through the valley, you will probably spot the small herd of gazelles that lives in it, perhaps as they daintily run and jump away from you. The rocks are home to colonies of rock rabbits (hyrax), which live under large piles of rocks. You usually can spot the rabbits serving as lookouts as they stand guard on a high rock above the colony. They warn the others of danger with a high-pitched whistle.

From the track, there are two possible ways to continue. One is to follow the track to the northeast (left) until it reaches a junction with a track that leads east to a prominent hill with a water tower standing at its top. From the hill, there is an interesting view of Nahal Corazim and the ancient town of Corazim, which Jesus knew well. From the water tower, make your way south along the ridge above the valley and slowly descend the slope back into the valley.

For those who don't have the time (or energy) to walk up the hill, walk along the dirt track along the high voltage power line to the same intersection that leads to the hill. But this time, take the track to your right that leads directly down the valley. This is an ancient track that was in use for generations. Along the way, you pass some strange basalt stones with dozens of holes in regular lines carved in them.

The track that you are following will eventually lead you to the road to the Church of the Beatitudes. The entrance to the church is now through a new parking lot to the east. After visiting  the church, return to the approach road to the church (outside the gate) and follow it south to its end. From here, take the dirt track down the slope towards the Sea of Galilee.

The track will lead you to a small plateau overlooking the road around the Sea of Galilee. This is called the Eremos Heights and was mentioned by a fourth century pilgrim named Egiria as the site of the Sermon on  the Mount. If you explore the small plateau a little more carefully, you will discover a few basalt altars with inscriptions on them and, on the other side of the acacia tree growing on the plateau, a few carved stones with an explanation of the Sermon on the Mount and a carved face of Jesus peeking out of a nearby bush. A dozen or so flat stones stand upright in the grass around the acacia. These are tombstones marking the graves of a Moslem cemetery.

A hiking path leads from the main basalt altar on the plateau down the steep side of the slope to a cave. The cave, which is called the Eremos Cave, has benches around its walls and crosses carved into it. This, according to some, is the site of the Sermon on the Mount. Follow the path to the bottom of the slope, cross the road (very carefully), and walk down the pavement and steps on the other side leading to the shore. At the beginning of the pavement, inside a round structure, is the Spring of Job. (Walk to the other side of it to see the spring!) The water is warm and local tradition places Job's attempts to heal his leprosy here. Follow the steps to the shores of the lake. You will be surprised to find a wonderful little waterfall hidden in the foliage. (The waterfall is actually the end of a pipe leading the waters of the seven springs of Tabgha to the lake.) In front of you is a little bay called the Cove of Saint Peter. This is the end of the hike.

 

 


The Eremos Altar.


The Eremos Cave.


The waterfall at Peter's Cove.


Tree and ancient grave.

Useful Information: 

Length:  6 km.

Difficulty: Relatively easy. Paths are not marked.

Pickup point: Arrange to be picked up at Tabgha.

Suggested time: Winter or Spring. It is better to go in the morning as in the afternoon the sun will be in your eyes.

Equipment: Water, hat, and walking shoes.

Map: Upper Galilee or Golan (In Hebrew).


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ERETZ Magazine 2016