Up there with trails in Nepal, the American Southwest, and Antarctica, the Israel Trail was recently named by National Geographic as one of the World’s Best Epic Trails. How did National Geographic pick these routes? They took as their criteria not only hikes which in themselves were exceptionally beautiful from a natural perspective and challenging from a hiking perspective, but also connect to the heritage of the area.
It seems that Israel cannot get out of the headlines – even in the area of adventure.
The Israel Trail was inaugurated in 1994 by President Ezer Weitzman. It was the initiative of Ori Dvir, who headed the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, in an effort to make Israel accessible to Israelis and those who wanted to connect in a different way to the Heritage of the Land of Israel.
I have hiked all over Israel and done sections of the Israel Trail both on foot and by jeep. Israel offers a plethora of hiking which is available through maintained, marked trails.
Walking the land is a part of Israeli culture. When I grew up, the few school trips we took were usually to government institutional buildings (the capitol or courthouse) or to museums. In Israel, school kids are taken on many hikes as part of their education – getting familiar with the country with your feet is seen as intrinsically important.
The truth is, this piece of land has been walked a lot. Throughout the ages, not only has it served as a land bridge between Africa, Asia and Europe, but also in and of itself, has been a destination of pilgrims. Early man moved up the current Dead Sea rift from Africa. Once the Superpowers of Egypt and Mesopotamia were established, Israel was on the main highway – the “toll road rest stop” of the ancient world.
Abraham is the first one to make Israel his destination and not just a stop on the way to somewhere else. Jewish, Christian, and Arab pilgrims have arrived throughout the years. Jewish pilgrims ascended on the 3 pilgrimage festivals – Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. (Incidentally, the Hebrew word for these holidays is linguistically linked to the pilgrims’ main mode of transportation – their feet.) Crusaders arrived to make the roads and sites in Israel safe for their pilgrims. Muslims built inns, bath houses, fountains, and markets to serve the incoming faithful.
So, next time you are looking for a good hiking adventure, think ISRAEL! National Geographic did…. When you are planning your Israel hiking adventure, look me up and I would be happy to show you some of the gems offered by Israel’s epic hikes.