Israel’s Gospel Trail
Now there’s something new for Christian pilgrims making the trek to the Holy Land: the Gospel Trail.
The Gospel Trail is a project initiated by the Israeli government, in an attempt to cater more closely to Christian tourists who represent two-thirds of Israel’s tourist trade. The idea was to offer a way for Christians to literally walk in the footsteps of Jesus by creating a well-marked trail with stops taken straight out of the Gospel. The project cost almost $800,000 to complete, but so far it appears to be generating enough income to cover the investment costs.
From Nazareth to Mount Precipice
The Gospel Trail begins in Nazareth, the birthplace of the Christian Savior, where according to Christian tradition Mary first heard from the archangel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Christian Savior. The first stop along the trail is Mount Precipice. Here, an angry mob is said to have attempted to throw the Christian Savior off a precipice in reaction to the iconoclastic words he preached in a Nazareth synagogue. From the top of the Mount, there is a boundless view that comprises all of Galilee from Nazareth down to the fertile green Jezreel Valley.
Next up is Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration – where, according to tradition, the Christian Savior was transfigured and radiated light. A Franciscan church on this site recalls the event by dint of its high-crested ceilings and floors of the purest white marble.
If you’re walking (or riding, or driving) along the Gospel Trail in springtime (highly recommended!), you’ll next find yourself on a meandering trail carpeted with wildflowers: stark red anemones, and pink, white and purple cyclamen. Off to one side you’ll find a marked trail leading to Kafr Kana (Kfar Kana), where the Christian Savior was said to turn water into wine and heal a nobleman’s son.
Back on the main trail, you’ll pass the Horns of Hittim, an extinct volcano crater framed by two peaks that look like horns. From a distance, the site seems to take on the shape of a bull. Here, Saladin defeated the Crusaders in 1187. Some say the Sermon on the Mount took place on this spot.
Magdala – Mount of Beatitudes
Next on the Gospel Trail is Magdala (in Hebrew, “Migdal”), Mary’s home town. Travel north and you’ll hit Tabgha, where a church commemorates the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, in which the Christian Savior was said to have fed 5,000 people with just a handful of provisions. On the way to the final stop on the trail, Capernaum, pilgrims will pass the Mount of Beatitudes, which most Christians believe to be the site of the Christian Savior’s Sermon on the Mount. Wind up in the fishing village of Capernaum, where you’ll see a pretty white Greek Orthodox church topped with multiple pink domes, reminiscent of a plate of cupcakes set amid the leafy verdant greenery.
One of the nice things about the Gospel Trail is the suggestions that help you flesh out your personal itinerary. For instance, you’ll find a suggestion to take a boat trip on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) where the Christian Savior was said to walk on water. Boats can be rented at Capernaum, where you can do a run to Kibbutz Ginosar, the site where archaeologists uncovered a 2,000-year-old fishing boat. There’s a second boat route you can choose that will take you to Tiberias, a town with a history going back to 20 CE.
Gospel Trail: Did You Know?
The 38.5 mile (62-km) Gospel Trail takes an experienced hiker four days to complete. You’ll want to reserve accommodations in guest homes, cottages, or hostels in the towns that dot the trail.