Givat HaMoreh Forest

Givat HaMoreh – general view. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
Givat HaMoreh – general view. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

Givat HaMoreh is a brief isolated mountain ridge that looms above the valleys of Jezreel and Harod, which together surround it on all sides. The ridge is the site of a large KKL-JNF forest that extends over an area of some 10,000 dunam.

In the heart of the forest is a KKL-JNF lookout tower that offers a magnificent panoramic view of Lower Galilee; it is open to the public from May 1st until November 1st. In springtime the Nazareth iris (Iris bismarckiana) comes into flower, together with a whole host of other colorful blooms.

  • How to get there

    The dirt road that leads to the lookout tower can be reached through the Givat HaMoreh neighborhood via a road that branches off from Route no. 65. Drive up Jabotinsky Street (the main street), which changes its name to Connecticut Street. The dirt road branches off to the right about 300 meters after the junction with HaHassidah Street.

  • Recommanded season

    Fall, Winter, Spring.

    Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.
    Last update: March 2015

  • Geographic location-

    Sea of Galilee - the valleys and lower Galilee
  • Area-

  • Target audience-

  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Difficulty-

  • Season-

  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

Projects and Partners Worldwide

The site was developed with contributions from friends of KKL JNF worldwide.

General background

The summit of Givat HaMoreh soars to 517 meters above sea level – higher than Mount Gilboa and only slightly lower than Mount Tabor. Despite its elevation, the hill cannot boast the title of mountain (har in Hebrew). The source of this “disrespect” is the Biblical verse that mentions the site by name in the account of Gideon’s battle against the Midianites: “Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley,” (Judges 7:1).

Although there is almost no doubt about the identification of the site, the origin of the name Moreh is unclear. Some believe it means “high place,” and Givat HaMoreh does indeed tower conspicuously above its surroundings, while others are of the opinion that the name comes from that of a local holy man or seer who could “indicate” (moreh in Hebrew) future events. Another interpretation of the name links it to the yoreh, the first rain of autumn, in accordance with Joel 2:23: “[…] the former rain (Hebrew moreh) and the latter rain in the first month.” Perhaps the holy man who dwelt on the summit of Givat HaMoreh was endowed with rainmaking abilities, or perhaps the name derives from a rainmaking cult that once thrived at the site.

Givat HaMoreh Forest. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
Givat HaMoreh Forest. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

Whatever the truth of the matter may be, it does not end here: Christian travelers from the Middle Ages onwards referred to Givat HaMoreh as “Little Hermon” because of the Biblical verse “[…] Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name,” (Psalms 89:13), while local Arabs call the hill Jabal Dahi after the sheikh who is buried at its summit.

Givat HaMoreh Ridge is an elevated section of hills (horst) that reared up in the course of the geological changes that endowed the site with its varied rock formations. Most of the six-kilometer-long ridge consists of soft chalk rock, which produces rounded slopes. The eastern slope of the ridge, however, is made of hard chalk, which creates a steep and rocky landscape. Considerable areas of Givat HaMoreh are covered with black basalt, and in many places volcanic flows have seeped into cracks in the rock to form dikes.

Hikers looking out at Mount Tabor. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
Hikers looking out at Mount Tabor. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

Even though Givat HaMoreh enjoys comparatively high rainfall (600 mm per year), it is almost completely bare of natural woodland. This is partly because the area was used for long periods as a source of wood and grazing, and partly because the basalt and soft chalk rock of which it is composed render woodland regeneration difficult. Only here and there on the hilltop does the visitor encounter a terebinth (Pistacia palaestina) or a Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides). An interesting feature of this landscape is the proliferation of sumac (Rhus coriaria) and the presence of field elms (Ulmus minor) on the eastern slope not far from Horvat Elef.

A view of Afula and the Jezreel Valley. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
A view of Afula and the Jezreel Valley. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

As we enter the monastery courtyard we are greeted by a stone sculpture of the Prophet Elijah, who is depicted holding a sword in his hand while his foot stamps upon the head of a man. This portrayal represents the climax of Elijah’s struggle against the prophets of the Canaanite god Baal, which, according to tradition, took place at the site where the monastery now stands.

According to the Biblical account, after years of drought, Elijah competed against four hundred of Baal’s prophets, all servants of King Ahab, to see who could make it rain (1 Kings, 18): whichever of them could persuade “his” god to send down rain would be recognized as a true prophet. The contest was organized as follows: each of the two participants built an altar, sacrificed a bullock and prayed to his god to send down fire from heaven and consume the sacrificial animal. Baal’s prophets called upon their god every day, but no response was forthcoming. After they had given up in despair, Elijah poured water on the altar and began to pray. Fire descended from the sky and consumed the sacrifice. Elijah and his followers pursued the prophets of Baal and killed large numbers of them. Before long the sky clouded over and rain descended in torrents.

The tradition that identifies the Horn of Carmel as the scene of the struggle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a very old one. In the 14th century, when an anonymous pupil of the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman) visited the Land of Israel, he described the site as the altar of the Prophet Elijah. Its Arabic name, Al-Muhraka, derives from the verb haraq, which means “to burn,” and thus also hints at the descent of fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice.

Deir al-Muhraka belongs to the Carmelite order of monks. Three sculptures in relief, adjacent to the stairs that ascend to the monastery roof portray the events of the Biblical story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Climbing up to the roof involves a token fee, but the experience should not be missed: the magnificent landscapes of the Jezreel Valley lie below and there are views towards the Galilean Hills and the peak of Mount Hermon.

Sites on Givat HaMoreh

The Givat HaMoreh / Dahi Recreation Area

This large recreation area is situated below the village of Dahi, outside the Givat HaMoreh scenic routes. The site offers a large number of picnic tables shaded by pine trees, and playground facilities for children. Some of the tables are constructed from natural rock. The landscapes of the Jezreel Valley can be glimpsed through gaps between the trees.

How to get there: Drive for around 100 meters from the blue-marked road in the direction of Dahi (about 400 meters from the junction of Connecticut Street and HaHassidah Street) and turn left on to a good dirt road that will lead you to the recreation area some 700 meters further on.
Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

The KKL-JNF lookout tower

To get to the tower we follow the blue-marked woodland scenic route that makes its way through a KKL-JNF pine and eucalyptus grove. Gaps among the trees offer glimpses of Afula and the village of Sulem, which has been identified as the site of the Biblical Shunam. After 1.9 kilometers we arrive at a junction where a red-marked road forks off to the right. We turn left on to a paved road and continue for around 400 meters until we reach the KKL-JNF lookout tower. All along the way are picnic tables constructed entirely from natural rock.

The lookout tower, which is used by KKL-JNF firewatchers in the summertime, is open to the general public at this time of year. As its walls are faced with basalt, it blends in with the local rock. A flight of stairs leads up to the lookout platform that provides a view in every direction and offers some magnificent sights: the Hills of Gilead, Ramot Issachar, the Beit Shean Valley, Mount Gilboa, northern Samaria, the Jezreel valley, Ramat Menashe, Mount Carmel, Givot Alonim, the Nazareth Hills, Mount Tabor and the hills of Upper Galilee. On a clear day, the peak of Mount Hermon is also visible.

The firewatchers’ tower on Givat HaMoreh. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
The firewatchers’ tower on Givat HaMoreh. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

Nabi Dahi

Below the lookout tower stands a small square whitewashed building roofed with a green dome. According to Muslim tradition, this is the tomb of Dihya Ibn Khalifa, also known as Al-Kalbi, who was dispatched to Byzantium by the Prophet Muhammad to try to persuade the emperor to convert to Islam. Tradition relates that Dihya Ibn Khalifa was a military commander in Muhammad’s army.

After he was killed in the battle of the Jezreel Valley his faithful dog is said to have dragged his lifeless body to the top of the hill, and there he was buried. Residents of the village of Dahi bury their dead around his tomb and the fence that surrounds the cemetery prevents visitors from approaching the building.

Dahi is a small village. In its center, not far from the mosque, we can see what was once the heart of the original community, where the ruins of a large impressive vaulted building still visible. In the center of the building is a large courtyard, which gives the site a fortress-like air. According to local tradition, this was where the first residents of Dahi lived after they broke away from the village of Sulem for reasons long forgotten.

The tomb of Nabi Dahi. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
The tomb of Nabi Dahi. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

Givat HaMoreh Nature Reserve

The nature reserve is situated at the center of Givat HaMoreh at the foot of the tall aerial masts that can be seen from almost every spot in the region. The site is famous for the Nazareth iris (Iris bismarckiana), whose large and impressive flowers bloom in clumps from mid-March until mid-April. The contrasting colors displayed by the falls of the iris flower are particularly striking: these three outer petals that hang down below the central parts of the flower are deep purple on a creamy yellowish background with a very dark, almost black, spot in the center. The inner upright petals are pale blue spotted with violet.

The aerial masts can be reached via a vehicle track that ascends from the junction of the blue- and red-marked roads.

From this junction an unmarked dirt road descends in a south-easterly direction and makes its way through the KKL-JNF pine forest until, some 600 meters further on, it brings us to an open area that forms part of the nature reserve. This is the place to look for irises, which are to be found mainly on the south-eastern side of the nature reserve.
A meadow in flower on Givat HaMoreh. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
A meadow in flower on Givat HaMoreh. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik

The Byzantine wine press

This large fine wine press hewn into the rock can be seen at the side of the red-marked footpath some 300 meters to the east of the eastern aerial mast, just before the olive grove. Still visible at the site is the large treading floor from which the freshly pressed grape juice (must) was channeled into a large pit before being collected for fermentation.
The Byzantine wine press on Givat HaMoreh. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik
The Byzantine wine press on Givat HaMoreh. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik