Mount Arbel rises 181 meters above sea level towering over the Lower Galilee near Tiberias. From the mount’s high cliffs there are views as far as Mt. Hermon, the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. The views from Mount Arbel are breathtaking. On the slopes of the mount are four villages – Arbel, Mitzpa, Hiftim and Zeitim plus the Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve. Visitors to the mount can hike to the summit along the Israel National Trail on the south flank or approach from the west on the Jesus Trail. On the south side there is a 400m drop from the cliffs where metal handholds have been driven into the rock for climbing. Mt. Arbel has Israel’s only approved base jumping site from the cliff’s 110m vertical drop.
The Caves of Mt. Arbel
As you follow the Jesus Trail you will pass cave dwellings that were inhabited by Jews during the Second Temple Period (530BC-70AD). Famed Roman historical Josephus wrote of how in the 1st century Herod the Great defeated the last Jewish Hasmonean rebels who had taken refuge in the cliffs of Arbel. Josephus also wrote of fortified walls built around the caves for added protection. He describes how the steep cliffs prevented a conventional attach and instead Roman soldiers were lowered over the cliffs in baskets to reach the caves. They then reached in and pulled out the rebels throwing them to their deaths. Later during the Ottoman era Druze expanded the caves to create the cave fortress of Qal’at Ibn Ma’an.
Mount Arbel Synagogue
The ruins of an ancient synagogue are preserved on the slopes of Mt. Arbel. It is thought to be one of the oldest synagogues in the world. The synagogue entrance has survived and was carved out of one solid piece of limestone decorated with intricate floral carvings. You can see the place in the rock where a mezuzah would have been attached and parts of the columns that would have supported a second floor. The synagogue is unique in not facing Jerusalem like all other synagogues in the world.