Holy Mount Tabor - Place of the Transfiguration
The legendary Mount Tabor is visible from afar, it stands out sharply against the background of the surrounding landscape, stately and illogically rising to the sky at 588 meters among the low hills, like a solitary round cone, like the navel of the earth. Its slopes are covered with lush green plants: olives and oaks, oleander and hazel, jasmine and wild roses, and sometimes the mountain is covered with a variety of variegated flowers. A narrow road winds along an almost flat summit, on which tourists and pilgrims walk and ride cars who want to see the place where one of the greatest biblical miracles happened, because Favor is the mountain of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
Mount Tabor is located in the north of Israel, in the Lower Galilee, on the very edge of the Jezreel Valley. The holy city of Nazareth, the birthplace of the Savior, is located 7 km west of Tabor. The city of Tiberias, standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, 15 km to the east. From Jerusalem to Tabor - 90 km, from Tel Aviv —85 km, from Netanya - 65 km, from Haifa - 35 km.
How to get there?
The easiest way to get to Favor is by private or rented car, which can be rented in any major city. The main thing is to do it on a weekday, since on Saturday and Sunday tenant companies may not work. Regular buses to these places go bad and uncomfortable: either passing near the mountain at night, or stopping too far from it. From Tiberias or Nazareth you can get at a reasonable price by taxi.
The best option for the majority of holidaymakers is group guided tours, which are arranged by travel agencies from major Israeli cities. The tour can be ordered in advance on the Internet by selecting the desired date and time, at the same time it will be possible to learn in detail about the trip program and better prepare for it.
Because of the narrow road buses route to Favor closed, they disembark passengers at the foot of the mountain. Then you can use minibuses and taxis with Arab drivers, or take a walk. There are two hiking routes, 5 and 3 kilometers long. Both are rich in breathtaking views and wonderful nature.
Scientists still argue about the origin of the name of the mountain.According to the main version, the word "Favor" comes from the Hebrew word "Tavor", meaning "navel," an obvious hint at the shape and separate location of the hill. Mount Tabor went down in history long before Christian times. The fact is that it was located near the most important trade route from Egypt to Mesopotamia through Damascus. The one who owned this commanding heights controlled the Great Sea Route. Not surprisingly, for the Favor was a constant struggle.
One of the sad pages of the Jewish people is connected with the mountain. During the period of the Judean Wars, fleeing from the Roman legions, the Galilean Jews, under the leadership of Josephus, created powerful fortifications on the mountain with imposing walls and deep moats. The Romans failed to conquer the defenders of Favor by force, tripled the siege for several days, and then promised to pardon the defenders if they lay down their arms. Warriors suffering from thirst agreed, but were deceived and for the edification of other opponents of the Empire were cruelly executed - crucified on crosses along the road leading from Tabor.
Mount Tabor: Transfiguration
But the main event that occurred here was another.Of course, this is the Transfiguration of God on Mount Tabor. Although skeptics doubt that the Savior revealed his divine nature precisely on this mountain, true believers are sure of this. Thousands of pilgrims seek to climb the mountain and worship the place where almost twenty centuries ago, shortly before his death, the Son of God rose on the cross with three disciples: Peter and the brothers John and Jacob.
At the top of Tabor, during prayer, the future apostles witnessed the Transfiguration of their teacher into God. His clothes and face were shone with a miraculous light, and then the great prophets of the past appeared: Elijah and Moses. Miracle to the depths of the soul shook the disciples and gave them the strength that allowed them to preserve their dignity and not lose their faith during the torments of the cross and the unbearable suffering of the Savior.
After the death and Ascension of Christ, more and more people turned to a new, saving religion. The message of the Transfiguration spread among the first Christians, and Mount Tabor became their place of worship for the Almighty. Gradually, Christianity was gaining strength and attracted not only the poor, suffering strata of the population, but also influential, rich patrons.Such were the first Christian ruler - Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena, who deeply and as a woman recklessly believed in Christ.
For works on the spread and protection of Christianity, the queen was subsequently canonized. It was she who led the crowned son to Christ's faith, she defended the clergy from the persecutions of the pagans, at her behest temples were built. By the will of Queen Helena, at Holy Tabor, the Mount of Transfiguration, the first temple appeared at the beginning of the 4th century, thanks to which the interest of pilgrims to this place increased significantly. By the 9th century, there were already four temples and a monastery on the mountain.
But prosperity did not last long. In the eleventh century, the era of the Crusades began. Palestine became the site of bloody religious wars. Mount Favor has once again become a key strategic height. Dark days have come for Christian churches. They collapsed, rose from the ruins and again indulged in ruin.
In 1099 the army of the crusader Tancred captured the mountain. A fortress was placed on it, and then a Catholic church. In 1113, the Saracens destroyed all Christian buildings and killed priests and monks.A few years later, the monks returned and began to restore the monastery and the temples of the Cathedral of Favor, but in 1187 the Muslim forces of the brilliant Sultan Saladin again conquered the mountain. Then Mount Tabor passed from hand to hand several times until the crusaders suffered a final defeat in the Holy Lands. In 1263, on the orders of Sultan Beibars, temples and monasteries were completely dug out, and Christians left the Mount of Transfiguration for several centuries.
New life of Mount Tabor
Until the 17th century, only a few pilgrims climbed the mountain, but in 1631 the Druze emir graciously allowed the Franciscan monks to begin excavations at the site of the destroyed temples. It became the starting point of a new life for a holy place. True, in order to finally return to the Mount of Transfiguration, it took Christians another two centuries. And first, in 1862, an Orthodox monastery appeared here thanks to the efforts of the modest Moldavian priest, Archimandrite Irinarch, and in 1924 a monumental Catholic basilica began to operate on the top of Tabor.
In 1844, on the summit of Tabor, a quiet monk settled - Archimandrite Irinarch, who quickly became famous among the local population and pilgrims for his earnest faith and responsiveness.Irinarch did not refuse anyone blessing, confession, spiritual help. For asceticism and wisdom, the priest won the respect even of Muslims.
The archimandrite lived a calm, bright life: he prayed, served with the disciple prayers for pilgrims in the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church, but then decided, with God's help, to build a new church on these ruins. It would seem that an exorbitant task for two people, but Irinarkh was not afraid.
At first, things went slowly, the builders did not have enough strength and money, but gradually wealthy pilgrims and wealthy residents of Galilee began to provide material assistance. Then the news of the amazing monk reached Jerusalem, the patriarchs of the Orthodox churches (Greek and Russian) found the necessary funds for the completion of the temple.
In 1862, on the day of the Transfiguration of Christ, the church was consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cyril. Archimandrite Irinarkh did not live to see this day, but his merits are invaluable. A memorial plate is installed in the temple, which tells about the contribution of a modest, but active monk and that he was laid to rest beside his brainchild.
The final appearance of the Orthodox church took in 1911.Today on Tabor there is a nunnery and a temple of the Transfiguration, attracting with its painted arches, the stone on which Christ stood at the time of the Transfiguration, and the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary called the Unfading Light and having an amazing story.
The icon was fished out into the sea, it was sealed in a bottle and represented the image of the Mother of God on thin paper rolled into a tube. A plain, mysterious icon miraculously began to help seriously ill people who have practically lost hope of recovery. Therefore, the icon is plastered with photographs and plates with the names of patients who need the help of the Virgin Mary, as well as hung with jewels in gratitude for deliverance from the illness.
On the territory of the monastery there are symbolic tombs that the disciples of Christ, shocked by a miracle, wanted to build, for a teacher and two prophets who had come down from heaven. Near the temple waiting for tourists a small cave, in which, according to legends, lived a mysterious hermit king Melchizedek.
The descent of the clouds on Mount Tabor
Every year on August 18, a day before the beginning of the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, many pilgrims begin to flock to the Orthodox Cathedral of Favor. They all want to witness an inexplicable phenomenon.For many years, during the festive service, a strange cloud suddenly descends on the Orthodox church and monastery of Mount Tabor, in which sparks, stars and flashes flash from time to time.
As a rule, in August the weather in Galilee is dry and cloudless, sometimes there are no clouds in the sky, the more incredible is this phenomenon. Scientists have tried many times to unravel the mystery of the cloud on Mount Tabor, or to debunk it as a myth, but were forced to admit that the phenomenon does exist, and there is no rational explanation for it. Another interesting nuance: the fertile cloud descends only on an Orthodox church, approaching the Catholic basilica, it disappears. Moreover, when Catholics celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor two weeks earlier, a cloud does not appear.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Orthodox believers from many countries come here. With anxious waiting, they defend a few hours of night liturgy, after which they become accomplices in the miracle of Mount Tabor. The air suddenly thickens, candles and people lose their clear outlines, as if falling into a strip of heavy fog. The worshipers are covered with religious reverence, priests and pilgrims begin to read in unison prayers for the glory of God.They are probably partly experiencing emotions similar to the feelings of the three apostles, who saw the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.
The next day, Favor again basks in the greenery and sunlight that pours from the cloudless sky. And exactly one year later, a mysterious cloud again descends on the temple in order to strengthen the Faith of the people present in it and to witness the special role of the Mount of Transfiguration in God's providence.
To get into the possession of the Catholic monastery and the basilica, you must first overcome the plateau of Tabor, which looks like a wonderful park, pass an Orthodox monastery, and then pass through the ancient gates of the Winds. The basilica admires the beauty of architecture and state of the size. It is considered the best work of the famous Italian - Antonio Barluzzi, who created more than two dozen churches and chapels in Palestine.
The basilica was built in the Byzantine style with interweaving of elements of Syrian architecture in the place of the ruins of a Catholic church of the Crusader times. She has a beautiful appearance with its two-towered facade, and the interior, in which the original stroke is two chapels located in the towers and dedicated to the prophets Elijah and Moses.
Mosaic images of the interior, according to the Catholic custom, are devoted to the stages of the Savior's Cross, but the dominant place is occupied by mosaics with scenes of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The monastery of the Transfiguration of Our Lord is open to visitors, on its territory there is a beautiful chapel and a well, in the place of which, according to the assurances of the monks, Christ ordered the disciples to keep silent about the seen miracle.
Israel is a compact country with an excellent transport infrastructure, which allows you to reach Tabor quickly and comfortably, so it is often included in excursion programs. Every year, thousands of tourists visit the Mount of Transfiguration, wishing to walk on the slopes along which the Savior walked, to look at the place where He first transformed before people.
Favor is a kind of model of religious tolerance and peace: here Catholic and Orthodox monks, Jews and Muslims get along without conflicts. Locals, both Arabs and Jews, love to organize picnics and holidays on the mountain. The nuns of the Orthodox monastery are famous for their hospitality: they treat those who wish for free with tea, juice, coffee, and pastries.In addition to temples, there are souvenir shops and cafes for tourists.
And of course, Favor is an exotic, diverse, vibrant nature, parks and gardens, as well as unforgettable views of the Galilee. They open as they climb a mountain, but they are especially good from the observation deck located on the basilica.