Mount Devora

A challenging route to the summit

  • How to get there

    Drive to Upper Nazareth’s Derekh HaGalil (“Galilee Way”) and, when you reach the end of it, follow the Beit Keshet Scenic Route. Drive along the forest trail for about 4 kilometers and you will arrive at a roundabout from which the dirt road leads towards Mount Deborah. This is where the walking route begins and ends.
  • Geographic location-

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

  • Target audience-

  • Track length-

    5 Km
  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Difficulty-

    Walkers - Medium
  • Level of difficulty-

  • Circular route-

  • Season-

  • Duration-

    1-2 hours
  • Features-

    Landscapes and views
    History and art
    Part of the Israel Trail

    Har Devora (“Mount Deborah”) soars in almost solitary state at the southeastern extremity of the Nazareth Hills. Its geographic location and height (437 meters above sea level) promise wonderful views across the Jezreel Valley, Ksulot Valley, Mount Tabor, the heights of Eastern Galilee and the hills of Lower Galilee.

    The hill’s Arabic name Jabel Sartaba would appear to preserve the ancient Aramaic name of the site Sar Taba (“master of goodness”), which may have been bestowed upon it to ward off injury from an “evil master,” i.e., a dangerous demon seeking to harm human beings.
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

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.

View of Mount Deborah, with Mount Tabor on the horizon. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

En route to Mount Devora

As you drive along the Beit Keshet Scenic Route, after about a kilometer, at a sharp bend in the road, you will notice a conspicuous wall with a rounded top. This is a memorial to Winston Churchill (1874-1965), who steered Britian through WWII as prime minister. The surrounding forest was planted with donations by British Jews who wished to perpetuate Churchill’s memory here. Opposite the wall, KKL-JNF has provided a recreation area that includes exercise equipment.

We are now just three kilometers away from the foot of Mount Deborah. Here it’s best to drive slowly to enjoy the magnificent view, and to stop wherever possible. The route makes its way along the top of the vertical ridge that borders the Jezreel Valley, and the view is spectacular. About halfway along we arrive at a point that affords a simultaneous view of both Mount Devora and Mount Tabor behind it.

Where roads and paths meet

We begin the trail at a roundabout where the Beit Keshet Forest Scenic Route meets up with the road that ascends to the right towards Mount Deborah. The southbound Israel Trail also arrives here, before likewise making its way up to Mount Deborah. An additional trail descends from here into the Nahal Barak gully, which joins up with the hard chalk rocks of the Nazareth Hills slope to form a small canyon clad in Mediterranean woodland. The footpath, which is indicated by red trail markings, makes its way down into Ksulot Valley before arriving at the surfaced road that links Iksal to Daburiyya.

The names Mount Devora and Nahal Barak were not bestowed on these sites at random: they are here to remind us of the events of the battle waged by Barak Ben Avinoam (referred to in the King James Bible as “Barak son of Abinoam”) against the army of Yavin (Jabin), king of Canaan. The Bible relates how Deborah the Prophetess summoned Barak to lead the army of the tribes of Naphtali and Zevulun (Zebulun). In the battle waged at the foot of the Nazareth Hills, the tribes of Israel conquered Yavin’s army, which was commanded by Sisera (Judges 4-5).

The Ascent of Mount Deborah

If you don’t feel inclined to do the walk to the top of Mount Deborah, you can make your way there via a dirt track about two kilometers in length. Otherwise, from the roundabout, we hikers follow the Israel Trail, which climbs to the summit. About 200 meters onwards there is a wicket gate that allows us to pass through a cattle fence.

The path leads us first through a park-like forest of Tabor oak trees, and we walk along a north-facing slope where the humidity is relatively high. As these are precisely the conditions in which we should expect to find Israeli common oaks (Quercus calliprinos), we can only assume that an earlier common oak woodland was destroyed at some stage, allowing the seeds of Tabor oaks, which are plentiful in the area, to dominate the slope.

However, if we look closely enough, we can nonetheless observe here and there small specimens of common oak. In winter and springtime wildflowers, including bee orchids and other orchid species, bloom in profusion, and throughout the year Syrian marjoram (Origanum syriacum), thorny burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum), spiny hawthorn (Crataegus azarolus) and mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus) are greatly in evidence.

Two hundred and fifty meters further on we come to a copse of Jerusalem pines (Pinus halepensis) that KKL-JNF has planted on the hillside, and directly afterwards we arrive at a woodland path where we turn right and then immediately left, following the Israel Trail markings. Here we climb for about half a kilometer until we come to a dirt road, which we also cross. The appearance of Canary Island pines (Pinus canariensis) indicates that we are nearing the summit, which is entirely ringed by a broad dirt road. When we arrive, we shall have successfully negotiated an altitude gain of around 140 meters.

The Elizabeth and Philip monument

At the top of the hill, in the center of a paved plaza, stands a large monument whose inscription declares it to have been erected to mark the silver wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and her husband Prince Philip. The surrounding forest was planted thanks to donations from Jewish communities in Britain, in honor of the anniversary of the royal couple who were married in 1947.

To the south of the monument, in the shade of the forest trees, KKL-JNF has provided a picnic site that includes disabled-accessible tables. Two benches to the east of the monument offer a view of Mount Tabor.

The way back

We continue to follow the Israel Trail down the broad dirt road that serves cars climbing to the summit. After about 150 meters we arrive at a red-marked trail that descends to the left. Those looking for a shortcut should follow this trail to the foot of Mount Deborah.

We, however, continue to follow the Israel Trail down the dirt track for another 800 meters before turning left on to another dirt road that is in poor condition. This road leads us through the heart of a KKL-JNF conifer forest, and we walk on in this way for about a kilometer until we come to yet another dirt road, indicated by black trail markings, which leads down to the right in the direction of Daburiyya. A few more steps straight on and we find ourselves back on the Beit Keshet Forest Scenic Route, which we follow westward (to the left) for about 1.1 kilometers in order to return to our vehicles. Along the way, however, we have the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with three sites that feature notable trees and bushes.

Pine trees that date back to the British Mandate

At the spot where we meet up with the Scenic Route, on its southern side, is a small grove of Jerusalem pines and stone pines (Pinus pinea). In 1926 the British Mandate authorities declared Mount Devora to be a woodland nature reserve, and this declaration was followed by appropriate action: that same year the British began to plant trees in the area, a few of which still survive beside the Scenic Route. These are the oldest planted trees in Beit Keshet Forest (most of this woodland’s older trees dried up in the wake of the arid winters of 1978-79 and 1998-99). A KKL-JNF sign relates the trees’ history.

Jerusalem thorn

About 150 meters from the pine trees, adjacent to a young olive grove, we can observe two small spiny bushes. As they are growing at the side of the road, they are covered in dust raised by the passing cars that speed heedlessly by. However, these two unassuming bushes are specimens of the Jerusalem thorn (Paliurus spina-christi), which grows in Israel only very rarely.

The Jerusalem thorn bush slightly resembles the jujube tree (Ziziphus spina-christi), which similarly bears vicious thorns and shiny leaves in which three veins are prominent. However, all doubts as to the identity of the bushes vanish when we contemplate the Jerusalem thorn’s disc-shaped fruit, which has a diameter of around 2.5 centimeters and in no way resembles the tiny “apples” of the jujube.

The Jerusalem thorn grows in only a few places in Israel: between the Dan and Snir rivers, beside the community of Hararit and in the Mount Tir‘an region. Recently it was also found in the Nahal Yiftahel gully. It grows widely in the Balkans and in areas where natural woodland has been destroyed.

The cedars

Close by the Jerusalem thorn bushes a dirt track indicated by red trail markings branches westward off the Beit Keshet Scenic Route and makes its way up to Mount Devora. Two hundred meters from the Scenic Route is a small plot of cedars planted by KKL-JNF. The Lower Galilee region is not one of the cedar’s natural habitats, but these trees are doing fine nonetheless and are slowly making themselves at home.

Now that we’ve seen all the above, we can continue along the Scenic Route back to our waiting vehicles.