Last night, which was Friday, I was sitting in my favorite watering hole in Haifa The Kapiot Restaurant. I was sipping on a vodka and diet coke and overheard the couple next to me speak in a deep southern accent about their home in Atlanta Georgia. They brought up the fact that Atlanta is an urban area but the areas north of them are somewhat mountainous and offer plenty of hiking and fishing. Myra asked her husband and everyone in the cafe if Israel has trails and wildlife.”We are both outdoors people”, she explained. They are here in Haifa for a one month seminar at The University of Haifa. I reassured them that Israel has lots of outdoor activities.The school adjoins a large wildlife reserve and nature center. “You can walk to the east end of the school and hike for hours”, I told her with glee.

I am a former Coloradan now living in Israel. I still have my passion for the outdoors, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many Israelis share the same passion. Israel has an abundant amount of trails, outdoors scenery, nature reserves, and wildlife. The Northern part of the country is mountainous and filled with greenery, while the south is desert.

The Israel National Trail is a hiking path that crosses the entire country of Israel. The Northern end of the trail begins at the Lebanese border, and the Southern end of the trail is at Eilat. The total length of the trail is 940 km (580 miles). The level of difficulty varies in different parts of the trail. It is the highlight of nature activities for citizens and visitors. 

Hikers can seek help from “trail angels” who offer short term shelter. There are lawns for sleeping bags, couches to sleep on, a room with a shower, or a pickup from the trail. For example, at Kibbutz Yagur, a soldier leaves the key to her room for hikers who need a place to sleep, and a farmer in Hadera forest offers sleeping quarters in exchange for a day’s work. As a matter of fact, recently I met four hikers from Holland who were hosted by an Israeli family in the Northern end of the trail. They were wildly enthusiastic about the trek, and the warm reception by their new Israeli friends.

Hikers among this glorious trail pass among others these four historic sites- Mount Tabor, Tzipory Stream, Mount Carmel, and the Judean Mountains. The trail takes hikers up the Tabor and around the monasteries on its peak, near the remains of ancient walls, corner towers, caves, exposed antiquities, spring blossoms and of course, views to any direction from the sides of the mountain. Along the trail are streams of flowing water, like the Tzipori Stream, with improvised water pumps and a castle named “The Monks Mill” (Takhanat HaNezirim) and the remains of another impressive gristmill at the Alil ruins (Khurbat Alil). Mount Carmel has a special appeal to me. It is claimed that Elijah the Prophet lived his nomadic life in the area. I love to study the Biblical history of this region. Elijah is revered by Christians, Jews, Muslims, and our Druze friends. 

I live in the Mount Carmel region. This is mountain range that overlooks the sea. Hikers on the trail can take a break and enjoy the sea. There are many dirt trails that lead in and out of the mountain. The area is abundant with trees and other greenery, and many types of wild-life. Near Atlit there are Neanderthal caves, ancient olive oil presses, and wonderful beaches to visit, like Tantura. There are spots in which you can rent dirt bikes, and leave them at designated spots along the trail.

Shayarot Range at the Judean Mountains offers a view down to the Coastal Plain and up to the Judean Mountains, hundreds of kilometers of mountain dirt tracks, walking routes, caves, and an abundance of flowers in the spring.

I might still suggest, for those of you who are avid hikers and campers to bring high quality equipment. It is still amazing to me that you can have so much diversity in a 580 mile radius. In many countries the experience of history is usually embodied in museum settings, here you can do this while enjoying the outdoors. Public transportation is adequate enough that you can start your hike at almost any spot along the trail. It is important to tell the readers that temperatures can get very high in the summer, and it is rainy and windy in the winter. I therefore try to do most of my hiking during the spring and fall.Many parts of the trail cross urban areas for those who prefer the comforts of a hotel for their sleep needs. 

It is important to note that the Green Line is respected through the whole length of the trail. People from all over the world enjoy sharing this experience. This is a pleasant and surprising part of life in Israel that I wanted to share with the readers.

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