Mount Tabor is located on the edge of the Jezreel Valley in the Lower Galilee region of Israel. The mount is 500 meters high, is 18km from the Sea of Galilee and holds a strategic position along the Via Maris route from north to south across the country. Mount Tabor also holds Biblical significance and features a few times in the Bible. The mountain is first mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Joshua as the point where the territory of the tribes Zebulon, Issachar and Naphtali meet. In Judges 4:6-7 the Israelite judge Deborah lures Sisera, the leader of the Jabin army together with his troops into the valley and then has Barak ambush the Jabin army with the forces of Naphtali and Zebulon. Mount Tabor is mentioned in Psalms 89:12 and in Jeremiah 46:18 it is implied that Mount Tabor is one of the greatest mountains. However the mountain is best known from the Biblical story known as the Transfiguration of Jesus.
The Transfiguration on Mount Tabor
Although the name of the mountain is not specified in the Biblical story of the transfiguration Mount Tabor is the traditional location of this wondrous event. Jesus ascended Mount Tabor together with Peter, James and John there he began to glow with a bright light surrounding him. Moses and Elijah appeared and began to converse with Jesus to the amazement of the on looking disciples. It was here that G_d first referred to Jesus as his son when he said “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Jesus asked the disciples not to tell of what they had heard and witnessed until the “Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The Christian significance of Mount Tabor brought pilgrims to the site starting in the 4th century and by the 6th century there were three churches on the mountain, another church and a monastery were added in the 8th century. Until the 13th century the mount exchanged hands several times between Christians, Crusaders and the Muslim rulers. Fortifications were built and buildings destroyed, the mountain continued to be a strategic stronghold for fighting armies and the religious structures fell into disrepair. In 1101 Crusaders rebuilt the destroyed church and established an abbey on the mount. In modern history Mount Tabor continued to be a site where battles and skirmishes frequently occurred, until the establishment of the State of Israel when the mount was firmly in Israeli territory and finally found peace.
Visiting Mount Tabor Today
Today there are two monasteries on the peak shared by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Remains of the 13th century fortress walls can be seen and visitors enter the Roman Catholic section of a peak through the fortress Gate of Winds.
Church of the Transfiguration (Church of the Savior or Franciscan Basilica)
In 1924 this church was built on the site of ancient Crusader and Byzantine churches but you can still see a 12th century wall tomb and historic mosaic floor from the earlier structures. Two bell towers flank the basilica façade. Above the central altar is a mosaic depicting the transfiguration.
Church and Monastery of Saint Elias
This church and monastery was constructed in 1845 and dedicated to Elijah. Some of the elements from an earlier 12th century church can still be seen. The large church features three aisles with frescos from 1912. Ruins of other historic structures can be seen across the mountain top with ruined cisterns, chapels and quarries.
Church of Saint Melchizedek
This church celebrates the tradition of religious hermits who made the mount their home. The church is on the northwestern side of the peak. Melchizedek was thought to have been a 4th century hermit who spent seven years on the mount.