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Monday, 16 September 2013

Standing On King Saul’s Shoulder

TABOR.05Last week we visited Mount Tabor in the Lower Galilee and I am still marvelling at the hair-pinned road  running rings round its precipitous sides and  the gracious churches nestling like  two shining cherries on top. The trip up there, even on a hot, dry day in a small modern car was quite unnerving. How many lives, I mused, had been ended or otherwise ruined while making this mount into an international monument?

Tabor was first celebrated as the site of the battle between the Canaanites and Israelite Judge Deborah with her general Barak. Later it was marked as the location of the ‘Transfiguration of Jesus’ where he is said to have been bathed in light before meeting and speaking to the incarnations of the prophets Moses and Elijah. TABOR.03

Thus Tabor developed as a favourite Christian pilgrimage spot and while I suspect there are few Jewish visitors to the summit, we were impressed, not just by the Catholic church’s aura of shaded, soothing serenity but by its side chapels named for the two prophets from the Hebrew bible.

Our outing stemmed from English language bible studies and a wish to see the places where some of the famous incidents occurred.

 So we travelled on to 'Mount Gilboa’, the ridge of hills where King Saul, Israel’s first monarch, and his son Jonathan died fighting the  Philistines.

GILBOA.01After a picnic at the side of an unseasonably quiet Gilboa Scenic Road we found ourselves at Mount Shaul and then ‘Katef Shaul’ (Saul’s Shoulder) whose suitably majestic outlook affords a panoramic view over the Jezreel Valley.

This is captured perfectly in the video clip I’ve posted below from the 1960 movie Exodus. This shows how little the site’s topography has altered during the intervening fifty-three years, although  Paul Newman died in 2008 and his co-star, Eva Marie Saint is now aged 89.


 But I digress! Our final stop of the day was at Gan HaShlosha – ‘The Park of the Three’ – whose famed spring waters maintain a constant, year-round temperature of 28 degrees Celsius.

However, the park’s modern image as a mini paradise of leisured cross community harmony belies its dark past: during the Arab revolt of the 1930s  three Jewish men who were surveying land on the banks of the River Jordan  were killed when their car hit a road mine near the Arab village of Samaria. The park is named in their memory. It is to the eternal credit of the Israeli authorities that now it seems to attract even more Arabs than Jews.   GAN.02






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