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  • Writer's pictureRaz Tsafrir

Mt. Arbel

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

On the north-western part of the Sea of Galilee rises the Arbel cliff some 400 meters high. Its rocks are made of limestone and dolomite and it is considered one of the best ridge climbing sites in Israel. Luckily, the Israel National Trail passes though it so every hiker can simply climb it in 2 hours starting from the Hamam valley below. The way up the cliff is beautiful. The view is breathtaking throughout the climb and if you do it on a day with good weather, the colors below are simply amazing. The fields are green in winter, the Sea is blue and the Golan mountains on the horizon shine in snow white.

Historically, Mt. Arbel is a place where Jews throughout history had proven their bravery and vision. Initially when fighting off King Herod's troops (when he was the ruler of the Galilee, before he became king) they hid in the hundreds of natural karstic caves around the cliff, which they turned into a fortress with hidden passages and water cisterns, and fought till death when Herod's troops used smart tactics to battle them. The caves and parts of the fortress are still here for us to see and admire.

Then after the 2nd Temple destruction and throughout the Roman rule, Arbel was one of the wealthiest villages in Judea as the ancient synagogue on top of the cliff clearly indicates. The synagogues' main entrance is the largest and most luxurious found in Israel, more than 107 ancient synagogues where found so far, and took more than 40 years to built! The vision of the villagers of Arbel remain till this day an important part of Jewish heritage.

Today Mt. Arbel and its surroundings are part of the Arbel Natural Reserve and if you don't like climbing, you can arrive with a car and take a short walk around. The views, as mentioned are worth it.

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