Footsteps of the Christian Savior
Christian pilgrims are flocking to the Gospel Trail, a 38.5-mile (62-km) hike that runs all the way from Nazareth down to Capernaum and includes many of the sites where the Christian Savior is said to have walked.
Knowing that you are standing and walking on the same ground where the Christian Savior once stood and walked is an unbelievable experience. You can get a taste of this from visting the holy sites in Israel and the Old City in Jerusalem, but there is nothing like the Gospel Trial for a Christian pilgrim.
In the Steps of the Christian Savior
The Gospel Trail takes the faithful through a series of Jewish and Arab villages, ending up where according to tradition the Christian Savior lived and fished: Capernaum. Predictions by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism are that during its first year alone, the Trail may see as many as 200,000 Christian pilgrims. This is no surprise since about 58% of the 2.8 million tourists who arrived in Israel during 2011 were Christians.
To walk in the steps of the Christian Savior, you can get a map of the Gospel Trail here. Parts of the trail are wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly, including Mount Precipice, Beit Keshet Forest and Tabgha Promenade. You can walk, bike, horseback ride, drive, or roller blade the Trail.
Christian Holy Sites
Whichever method you choose to traverse the Gospel Trail, you’ll be impressed. Planning and researching this Trail took more than ten years and cost close to $800,000. The Israeli government subsidized two-thirds of the cost, while the Jewish National Fund covered the remainder. According to Stas Misezhnikov, Israel’s Minister of Tourism at the time, the Gospel Trail is creating a landmark that honors Christian history and assists in making Christians feel at home.
Pilgrammage to the Holy Land
While Christian pilgrims have continually made the trip to explore the Holy Land, little was done to mark the areas where the Christian Savior made his presence known in the Galilee during his brief lifetime. There were some markers along hiking trails, but these were in Hebrew and thus of little to no use for Christian tourists.
But in the year 2008, two enterprising Israelis, David Landis and Maoz Inon, created a different trail, one that is 40 miles long (64.3 km), plotting the path of the Christian Savior beginning in Nazareth and ending at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The two entrepreneurs offer tours of the region as well as the first hiking guidebook for the Galilee written in English. Realizing that pilgrims might need to rest along the way, Inon even opened a hostel for backpackers in the city of Nazareth.
Compared to the Gospel Trail, Landis and Inon’s trail is shorter, enters more populated centers including Christian, Muslim and Jewish ones, and has been established longer. Christians can decide which Trail experience they prefer.
The Gospel Trail was developed independently with government backing, money and research and covers over 38.5 miles (62 kms) of signposted trails and roads. The trail begins at Mount Precipice and winds through the Jezreel Valley and the Beit Keshet Oak Reserve, on to Mount Arbel, then to Magdala, Tabgha, and Capernaum. A handbook on the trail is available here.
Off the Beaten Track
There are also offshoots of the trail that take you to other Biblical sites of interest, including Mount Tabor with its Church of the Transfiguration, Kafr Kanna, the Horns of Hittim and the Mount of Beatitudes.
At the conclusion of the Gospel Trail at Capernaum, hikers can continue the experience by going to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), where there will soon be a special dock for looking out upon the waters, and quiet nooks for solitude, reflection, and prayer.
Footsteps of the Christian Savior: Did You Know?
Mary Magdalene’s home Midgal, Tabgha, Mount of Beatitudes, and Capernaum are all located on the northwestern shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).