Mount Tabor is located in Lower Galilee, Israel, approximately eleven miles from the Sea of Galilee. It is sphere-shaped and reaches a height of 1,886 feet above sea level and 1476 feet above the nearest town, Kfar Tavor. It is known as a monadnock mountain, which means it is an isolated mountain rising from a flat plain.
Mount Tabor is mentioned for the first time in Joshua 19:22: “the boundary also touches Tabor, Shahazumah, and Beth-shemesh, and its boundary ends at the Jordan—sixteen towns with their villages.” Whilst it is only a brief mention, it helps us understand where the mountain was in relation to Biblical lands. Mount Tabor is located in the northwest section of the Jezreel Plain on the border of the Naphtali and Zebulon lands.
The next time Mount Tabor is mentioned is in the Book of Judges:
Whilst Barak and the Israelites marched to Mount Tabor, the Canaanites were struggling through a muddy terrain after a downpour. The chariots were rendered useless and the soldiers were too slow to escape from the Israelites’ attack. All of the Canaanites bar Sisera were slain but the commander soon met his fate in the tent of Yael the Kenite who killed him with a tent peg to the head.
Mount Tabor became the site of another battle in 55 BC when the Hasmonean dynasty rebelled against Alexander Maccabeus of Judaea. Over 10,000 Jews were killed during the battle and Alexander was forced to flee to Syria. Later, in 66 AD, Mount Tabor became one of the 19 fortified sites during the First Jewish-Roman War.
Battles are not the only thing for which Mount Tabor is famous. Although not mentioned by name, Christian writers believe Mount Tabor to be the location of the transfiguration of Jesus.
During the Crusades of the 11th, 12thand 13thcenturies Mount Tabor’s ownership changed hands many times between the Muslims and the Christians. When the Crusaders were in charge, the Benedictine monks erected a fortified abbey, however, this was later destroyed under Muslim rule and replaced with a fortress.
Another “Battle of Mount Tabor” took place in 1799 during Napoleon Bonaparte’s (1769-1821) Syrian expedition. The French army, which only consisted of 3000 men, fought against the 35,000 strong Ottoman Empire and won.
Today, a Bedouin tribe who are famous for being hospitable and friendly to visitors and pilgrims occupies the mountain. Each year, a 12-kilometre race is held around Mount Tabor and the mountain is also one of the most popular locations for hang gliding in the country.
One of the most popular visitor attractions is the Church of Transfiguration, which was built on the peak of Mount Tabor by the Roman Catholic church of the Franciscan order in the 1920s. The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, used the ruins of buildings built during the crusades as the foundations of the church. The structure consists of three naves, two bell towers and two chapels. Whilst the church was built in honour of Jesus, the chapels are dedicated to Moses and Elijah.
Until the reign of the Ottoman Empire, Mount Tabor was completely covered in trees and plants. Most of these were cut down to make room for buildings or to be used by the charcoal industry. Fortunately, the Jewish National Fund reforested the mountain with trees during the 60s and 70s and Mount Tabor once more flourishes with greenery. Over 400 plant species have been recorded on the mountain, including various oak trees, crocuses, lilies, tulips, orchids and irises.
Due to the range of plants, Mount Tabor has become a suitable habit for many animals. Just for fun, here is a list of a few you may find there:
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon