Sunday, August 12, 2012

National Geographic: Israel Trail named one of the Worlds Best Hikes

Doug Schnitzspahn of National Geographic has included the 620 mile Israel trail among the "Holy grail" of hiking trails- one of the 20 best hikes in the world.

The Israel National Trail crosses the entire nation, with its northern end at Dan, near the Lebanese border and extending to Eilat in the south. The trail is marked with three stripes (white, blue, and orange), and takes an average of 45 days to complete.

The terrain is as varied as Israel itself. From the Israel Trail website:
In the north, the trail climbs the ridge above the city of Kiryat Shmona; drops down to the Sea of Galilee and goes back up again; goes up and over Mt. Tabor; and climbs the Carmel ridge near the sea. In between all of those, however, the trail crosses through a lot of farmers’ fields, which can make for quick hiking.

The central section of the trail is somewhat flat, as it stays mostly on the coastal plain. There’s also a long stretch where the trail runs straight and flat along the seashore. But when the INT goes into the rugged hills around Jerusalem, the trail is steep and rugged.

Much of the Negev is rugged as well. Even when there isn’t much altitude gain or loss, the trail often follows wadis, or dry watercourses, that are choked with stones and boulders, making the footing somewhat treacherous. And when there are steep ascents and descents, the trail can get really interesting; in several places in the Eilat Mountains, the only way to proceed is to use metal ladder rungs that have been driven into the faces of sheer rock walls

From National Geographic:

Passing through vast empty desert and winding into kibbutzim, the Israel National Trail (INT) delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of modern Israelis (with opportunities to stop in the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). But beyond the immense sense of history and breaking news, the trail powerfully connects to something that often gets lost in all the headlines—the sublime beauty of the wilderness of the Middle East. The southern end of the trail crosses the harsh and lovely Negev, still populated by wandering Bedouins and long-horned Nubian ibex and filled with wildflowers in spring. There’s not much water to drink along the way, though the trail crosses plenty of wet spots. It dips into the 600-foot-below-sea-level waves of the Sea of Galilee, flanks the baptismal River Jordan, and runs along Mediterranean beaches north of Tel Aviv. The southern terminus ends in the resort town of Eilat on the Red Sea.

Of course, the INT does take hikers to spots that have immense significance in the Judeo-Christian world and beyond. Among these is the sheer climb up the 1,929-foot peak of Mount Tabor, where Barak and 10,000 Israelites defeated Sisear and the Canaanites as recorded in the Bible’s Book of Judges. The heights of Mount Carmel are sacred to Jews and Christians as well as to Ahmadiyya Muslims and followers of the Bahá'í faith. More modern sites, such as the Metzudat Koach memorial, commemorating 28 soldiers who died taking a fort in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, speak to the still ongoing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. But life on the trail is safe and far from current hostilities. In fact, the joy of the trail is meeting the Israelis hiking it and spending some time in small kibbutzim where the local people will take hikers into their homes. On the trail, there is peace and friendship.

And there's an "only in Israel" aspect to this hike, as well.

Read about Israeli Trail Angels- Israelis who offer their homes and their hospitality to hikers free of charge.

The spectacular Israel Trial- now recognized as one of the world best hikes. I'm thinking this counts as yet another "BDS fail".

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