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From the Horns of Hattin to Mt. Arbel

Duration:  Day
Difficulty:  Experts, 13 Kilometres
Seasons:  Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter
Topographic Map Number:  2 - Upper Galilee
Properties:  For Families, Part of INT, For experienced hikers,
Coordinates:  (1971, 12477) / (35.4957, 32.822)
Rating:  8.5
Updated at:  22/1/2013
Region:  Lower Galilee & Gilboa
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The page in Hebrew: 
מקרני חיטים לארבל



Two beautiful and impressive historical sites sit almost shoulder to shoulder above the Sea of Galilee. The first is within the crater of an inactive volcano where an important and decisive battle was fought between the armies of the Crusaders and Saladin; and the other is on a breathtaking cliff where the rebels waged their great battle against Herod. It’s hard to imagine how sites which are so soothing with their beautiful landscapes have been the scene of such harsh battles.

There are two suggestions for doing this itinerary:

  1. Walking its entire length as described below. In this case you will have to walk about 13 km [8 miles]. Your starting point will be at the Horns of Hattin [1] and it ends at Hamam [8].
  2. You can divide it into two shorter 3.5-km [2 miles] hikes. The first starts at the Horns of Hattin [1] and ends at Nabi Shu’ayb [4], and the other begins on the head of the Arbel cliff [7] and descends down the cliff to Hamam [8] or to the Migdal Junction [9]. These two itineraries are not linked together and can be completed independently. The first one is a non-circular itinerary, while the other can be accomplished on a circular trail with one vehicle, for those of you who don’t mind a little climb. 

How to Get There

From the Golani Junction continue via Route 77 to Tiberias until you reach a narrow road with a blue marking that diverges left (north) a little before the 74th kilometer stone, and a short distance  after the Golani Industrial Zone [1]. Continue with this off-road until reaching a small monument [2] (made by  a minor Christian sect called the “Church of God of Prophecy”, which claims that Jesus preached the Sermon on this Mount and not on Mount of Beatitudes as is commonly believed, but here on the Horns of Hattin) on the southern slope of the Horns of Hattin. Climb from the site of the monument along the blue-marked trail to the head of an inactive volcano called – the Horns of Hattin [3].


The Horns of Hattin

The name of this inactive volcano derives from its two horn-like peaks. It is recommended to locate its crater and from there to look out over the Galilee, the Sea of Galilee, the Golan, and Gilad. The surrounding fields were used on July 4, 1187, as the backdrop for one of the most crucial fights of the Kingdom of Jerusalem between the Crusader warriors and Saladin’s army. Arriving here from the north, from Tzippori, the Crusader Army was optimally decked in all the best European equipment – a heavy suit of armor. Being that it was  a terribly hot day and that the Crusader warriors were encased in heavy armor they could hardly breathe and their horses were unable to move. In contrast the Muslim Army had arrived from the east, from Zemach, dressed appropriately for the weather with airy and comfortable clothes. The battle that took place here resulted in the defeat of the Crusaders who were not prepared for the terrain and the weather; a decisive defeat it was, and most of them ran to the head of the Mount where they surrounded to Saladin’s warriors. That was the beginning of the end of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

At the top of the mountain are relics from a prehistoric settlement. And right now you can enjoy the wild hyacinth and bladder senna which are rare in this area.   

Continue on the blue-marked trail north and descend the slope to the Tomb of Nabi Shu’ayb [4].


The7 Tomb of Nabi Shu’ayb

Nabi Shu’ayb is the Druze name of the prophet Jethro, Moses' father-in-law. Based on medieval tradition he was buried at Kfar Hattin (Hattya) which is mentioned in the Talmud. According to other tradition, he was the first gentile to join the Israeli nation. Stories about him, his wisdom, and piety are common in the Koran and actually he is sanctified as a holy man by Jews, Muslims and Druze.  However, the latter see him as the greatest of all prophets. The right to maintain this place was endorsed to the Druze by the second president of Israel, Itzhak Ben Zvi, and ever since then they celebrate the holiday of Al Nabi Shu’ayb here on April 24 – 27. As is evident from the pictures – this site is highly impressive.

For those of you who have decided to divide the itinerary into two, here is where the first itinerary ends and also where the second vehicle should be directed to.

For the others, continue on the road that goes down to Kfar Zeitim [5], a moshav that was established by Yemenite emigrants in the 1950s.  Exit from here east to the Arbel community [6] and then to Arbel Mountain [7] and follow the road that exists from the Arbel community, marked in red on the footpath marking system map.


The Arbel

 The settlement of Arbel,   which is one of the most ancient in Israel, is mentioned in the Bible: “as Shalman spoiled Beth-Arbel in the day of Battle" (Hosea: 10:14); during the Period of the Second Temple Arbel was among the places that rebelled against the Greeks: “and they camped in Masaloth which is in Arabella” (Maacabees 1: 9, 2). With Herod's  ascent to the throne in 40 BC and with the onset of the rebellion against him, Jewish rebels built fortifications on the cliff, and fought against Herod’s army from here (Antiquities: 17, 17; Wars of the Jews: 1, 17). After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Yeshua Family, a cleric family, moved to live here; however, today the inhabitants of Moshav Arbel work mainly in agriculture and tourism.

It is recommended to find the old synagogue of the settlement which is located on its northern outskirts, on the edge of the cliff that horizontally reaches the Arbel Stream. The synagogue was built around the 3rd Century AD. It was built after the basilica model with a nave and two apses, and its two-stories rose up to 15 meters. The entrance faces the east and it was fully hewed from one monolith stone. Its floor was covered with mosaic, and yet, today the building is deserted. Continue from the synagogue with the road that stretches along the edge of the cliff to the top; this road is also drivable for cars.


The Arbel Lookout

This point on the head of the Arbel Mountain [7] is also the starting point for those of you who decide to split the itinerary. Arbel is one of the most beautiful mountains in Israel: a combination of an acute cliff, a subterranean hiding system, and a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan. The Arbel cliff surges to a height of 400 m above the Sea of Galilee (about 200 m above sea level) and provides views of the entire area. Enjoy the northern view that encompasses the landscapes of the Ginosar Valley, north of the Sea of Galilee, the Meron Mountains, Tsfat, and the Golan Heights and the Hermon.

In June 18, 2002, not far from this point, Sergeant Roi Dror, a Duvdevan warrior (one of the elite units of the IDF), was killed during training. To commemorate his memory his family and friends built a new lookout in 2003 from which a new trail descends and reaches the Gdud HaAvodah campsite (that was named after Yosef Trumpeldor) and is located on the rim of the Sea of Galilee [10]; however it is not yet marked on the footpath map system]. [Click to visit a web site that commemorates Roy Dror].

When hiking in this area you have the choice either to go down this path or to continue on the red one that heads off from the Carob Tree Lookout to the bottom of the cliff through the Arbel Fortress. I recommend the red-marked trail that passes through this unique fortress.

On your way down use the poles that were lodged in the rocks and the ropes which stretch along them. Depending on the season, along the  way you will come across Maltese cross ricotias, cyclamens, hyacinths, and tulips. After completing the descent, continue east along the red-marked trail to the fortress.


The Arbel Fortress

Its building– there are many caves in the Arbel cliff, some are natural, and others are man-made. During the time of the Second Temple some were adjusted for fortification purposes: linking tunnels were dug, passages were built and parapets were erected. Some of the caves were turned into water reservoirs. The system was constructed on three levels  . The combination of natural caves, an acute slope, fortifications and linking tunnels imparted a need for strength and control to defend the paths that lead here.

The famous battles between Herod's Army and the Zealots who fortified themselves in the fortress was told by Josephus Flavius in his book, Wars of the Jews. The Herodian Army tried using a few methods to occupy the fort, the last one being dropping down the soldiers in baskets tied with ropes (a prehistoric type of rappelling…) and pushing them off the head of the cliff to the entrance to the fortress. The soldiers reached the opening in the fortress wall, pushed the rebels away with lances or pulled them out with hooks and threw them to the precipice. The current fortress is actually a relic of a fort built by Ali-a-Din in the 17th Century above the ruins of the ancient fortress.

After visiting the fortress you can either climb up to the car that waits in the car park or continue with the red-marked trail to the Hamam Bedouin Village [8] at the foot of Mount Nitai or alternatively go back a bit and then choose the blue-marked trail that leads to the Migdal Junction [9].Decide where to leave the second car depending on this final decision. 

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Ms - 10/4/2013 19:16

 
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Between Mount Arbel and Mount Nitai
Between Mount Arbel and Mount Nitai

Photo By: Yochai Corem
Between Mount Arbel and Mount Nitai


view from the Arbel Cliff - Photo By: Yochai Corem

The Nitai Mountain
The Nitai Mountain

Photo By: Yochai Corem
The Nitai Mountain


The Horns of Hattin
The Horns of Hattin

Photo By: Yochai Corem
The Horns of Hattin


Nabi Shu’ayb
Nabi Shu’ayb

Photo By: Yochai Corem
Nabi Shu’ayb


The ancient synagogue at Arbel
The ancient synagogue at Arbel

Photo By: Yochai Corem
The ancient synagogue at Arbel


The Arbel Fortress
The Arbel Fortress

Photo By: Yochai Corem
The Arbel Fortress


The Arbel Fortress
The Arbel Fortress

Photo By: Yochai Corem
The Arbel Fortress


Ancient tombs near the ancient Jewish settlement of Arbel
Ancient tombs near the ancient Jewish settlement of Arbel

Photo By: Yochai Corem
Ancient tombs near the ancient Jewish settlement of Arbel


Descending from the Arbel cliff with ladders and poles
Descending from the Arbel cliff with ladders and poles

Photo By: Yochai Corem
Descending from the Arbel cliff with ladders and poles