Today I hiked at Sartava, in the Shomron. To the casual observer, this humble mountain would be just your average, run of the mill mountaintop. But not to me.
Sartava has a rich history. In ancient times, Jews in Israel faced quite a task when it came to determining the changing months. Each month, watchmen ascended to various mountaintops at night to search for the new moon. After witnessing the signal from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the watchmen at Sartava lit a beacon to pass word of the moon’s arrival to the rest of the nation.
So, while I hike at Sartava, I’ll be walking in the footsteps of our predecessors. Sartava is one of a great many hikes in Israel that’s a lot more than a typical outdoor adventure.
In Gush Etzion near Jerusalem, we can walk the paths that Abraham, our forefather, traveled. He, and countless Jews after him, followed the Path of the Patriarchs from Hebron and Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Over the years, the ancient road became so well used, that ritual baths were built alongside, in preparation for entry into the Holy City. Those ritual baths are still there today.
Further North, we can visit the Prat Stream, where Jeremiah the prophet wandered. A trip to this desert oasis is more than an encounter with lush greenery and waterfalls. It’s a chance to experience the same sights and sounds that Jeremiah witnessed, as he set out on his holy missions.
In Israel’s Galilee region, Tavor Stream and Tavor Mountain are impressive attractions in the springtime. Besides being my favorite late winter hike in Israel, Nahal Tavor also sits at the foot of Mount Tavor, mentioned in the Bible during the story of Devorah and Barak’s great battle with Sisera.
As I hike in the area around Mount Tavor, I like to imagine the small Jewish battalion, watching as a great storm unleashed its fury on the river below. Sisera’s massive legions of chariots couldn’t continue in such conditions. The chariots’ wheels got stuck in the muddy waters and the Canaanites lost the battle.
Azeka, the Carmel Mountains, Adulam, Arugot, and more: these modern-day places all still echo with our very own history. Hiking through Israel may be a beautiful outdoor adventure, but it’s also a way to connect with stories of our past.