Mount Tabor is a steep and near perfect dome-shaped mountain rising steeply at the northeast of the Jezreel Valley in the lower Galilee region. The summit is a bit under 1,900 feet above sea level, but because it’s a “lonely” mountain surrounded by low valleys and because of its unique dome shape, it can be easily identified from many observation points across northern Israel.
In addition to its unique geographical features, the mountain is deeply rooted in Israel’s history. In ancient times, it witnessed the famous biblical battle between the Israelis, led by Barak and Devora the Prophet, against Canaanite forces commanded by Sisera. Mount Tabor is mentioned seven times in the Old Testament. Years later, it was, according to Matthew 17 in the New Testament, the location of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Due to its religious significance, several churches were built on its summit over the years. Two of them are still standing today.
The Franciscan Transfiguration church, which is part of a monastery complex, was built in the beginning of the 20th century over the ruins of ancient Byzantine and Crusader churches. The ceiling features an impressive mosaic depicting the central theme of the church: the transfiguration of Jesus before Peter, James, and John. Northwest of the Franciscan monastery stands The Greek-Orthodox Church of St. Elias. It was also built in the beginning of the 20th century. The church interior is beautifully decorated, but unfortunately, it is closed to the public.
The mountain’s slopes and summit are also a natural gem, covered with thick Mediterranean forest and filled with colorful wildflowers during the spring. On the summit, there is a roughly 1.2-mile hiking trail that encircles the churchyard, providing amazing views of northern Israel.
Know Before You Go
The Franciscan Transfiguration Church is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.