The 850km Israel Bike Trail runs from north to south from Mount Hermon to Almog Beach, Eilat. It is generally based on the Israel National Trail. The trail winds its way through the countryside, passing areas of great natural beauty and sites sacred to the great religions. The INT serves as the backbone for many of other marked trails, an integrated nation-wide network, designed to foster nature conservation and to preserve the special character of each geographical region.
The sixth section of the IBT is 37km from Har Tavor to Harduf. From wherever Har Tavor (Mount Tabor) is viewed, it never fails to impress. Its as though some giant fist has tried to force itself up from the depths of the Earth to mold the crust into a mound of perfect proportions. This object of devotion in times past still has a mystique attached to it , an allure to approach and climb to the summit, and climb it we must ! The question is, when to attempt it. Probably at the beginning of this mountain bike ride , early in the morning, when the weather is cool, the legs are fresh, and the tourist buses have not yet appeared on the (very) narrow twisting road.
The 400 meter climb to the summit is one of the great Israel cycling challenges. The start is in the village of Dabburiya, and after about twenty switch -backs of road , the finish is at the (aptly named) Church of the Transfiguration. Nobody is quite the same again ! After visiting the church and its surroundings , the road is the only way back down again, and it should be negotiated with the utmost care.
The mountain bike ride resumes with a steady climb from Dabburiya northwards around the lower slopes of Har Devorah to the village of Ein Mahil, on the crest of one of the ridges that run from west to east in the Galilee.
The Israel National Trail was intended to connect together the various communities and nationalities spread out over its course . The bike trail too covers this diversity as it meanders from a Christian holy site, into the villages of Arab Galillee with mosques and minaret to the development areas of nearby Jewish Upper Nazereth that obstruct the trail over Har Yonah.
The arab village of Mashad is built on a hill opposite Har Yonah and the route winds its way up past the mosque of Nebi Yunes, the reputed burial place of Jonah the Prophet. The village is a suitable place for a refreshment break, and whether it be a bowl of humus or an ice-cream, the magnificent views to the Netufa Valley and onwards to the sea can only whet the appetite further.
The exit from Mashad is the start of a glorious descent past the ancient site of Gath-Hepher (the birth place of Jonah) into pine forest and then a superb grassy single-track into the valley below Hosha ya following INT markings. This leads on to Tsipori National Park, one of the major attractions of the region, and a site worthy of an extensive stop-over. The ampitheatre, tunnels, ancient resevoirs, and most stunning of all, the mosaic floors, must take precedence even over cycling !
After Tsipori there is still some good riding to get in as we climb in the late afternoon sunshine into the wooded area of nearby Yaar Hasollelim Nature Reserve. Here the trail is on little used grassy tracks in woods of pine and oak which eventually lead down to a gas station on the main highway. Reluctantly, we have no choice but to mountain bike ride on the highway about a kilometer to Hamovil Junction, from where thankfully we leave the trucks and fumes behind and climb into the hills near Moshav Alon Hagalil. This section is fun till the very end as the trail winds through pine woods, streams, and then Beduin farms The finish is at kibbutz Harduf, with its organic vegetarian restaurant, and a great location to sit after the days efforts and reflect on what has certainly been a mountain bike ride to remember.