Arbel, a moshav and also a mountain in Northern Israel, offers stunning views over the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) from this sheer cliff face. It offers views of Mount Hernon in the Golan Heights and trails to a cave-fortress. It is also the site of ruins of an ancient synagogue.
The majestic views from atop the Mount Arbel are reasons already to ascend the slopes — whether by foot or by car, alone. As well as the breathtaking landscapes of Israel’s tranquil Galilee region, people can view the Horns of Hittin, where Saladin battled with and defeated the Crusaders in 1187.
Into the slopes of Mount Arbel, you can see caves which once served as hideouts for the Jews who fought against the Romans and Greeks. During the 17th century, the caves were extended by the Druze. However, the original caves are estimated to date back to the Second Temple period. In 38 BCE, the Jewish partisans of Antigonus II who were against Herod in his conquest of the land, sought refuge from the caves that dotted the steep cliffs of Mount Arbel, but could not escape death. The Roman historian Josephus wrote about this incident.
Hiking at Mount Arbel
Hiking at Mount Arbel is one of the popular things to do in the area. The ascent to the mountain’s summit from the south is included in the Israel National Trail, while the ascent from the west is included in the Jesus Trail; the trails converge briefly at the peak.
Mount Arbel is also a nature reserve and national park, so naturally, you can also see information about the other shorter trails which is accessible to hikers to all ages and skill level. Guided tours are also available.
Arbel is a rite of passage for Israeli children. There are a series of walks on the cliff tops, some circular and easy. But the real challenge is the descent – no equipment is needed but it is not suitable for children under eight years old.
Mount Arbel has a 110-meter vertical drop, which makes it an ideal site for the more intrepid and adventurous hikers who would like to do base jumping.
Arbel is notable for the ruins of an ancient synagogue, one of the oldest in the world. They still can be seen today. This synagogue holds a special interest because it is the only synagogue in the world wherein the ark does not face Jerusalem. The door of the synagogue, still standing, was carved form a massive natural outcropping of limestone
The big snag with Arbel is that another vehicle is needed at the bottom and the round trip by road is quite lengthly – but it is worth the effort.
See Arbel Park for more details.