Abraham the patriarch would appreciate the Israel Trail. After all, the biblical father of the nation was the first to “walk the length and breadth of the land” (Gen. 13:17). Little could Abraham imagine that the concept would someday morph into the 1,000-kilometer trail sponsored, blazed and signposted by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel or that last year National Geographic would name it one of the top 20 hikes in the world.
And you can be a part of it. If you’ve got the Israel-hiking bug, don’t let the time constraints of your organized tour limit you – tack on a few extra days for the Israel Trail, the way you would for beach time in Eilat or family time with your Israeli relatives.
First, pick a segment of the trail that runs through a part of the country you’ve always dreamed of experiencing through the soles of your feet, rather than through a bus or car window. Take those relatives along. They’ll thank you for it, and return the favor by helping you navigate. The Israel Trail map is still in Hebrew only, although SPNI is looking forward to the day when an English version is available.
If you’re on an extended stay in Israel, consider doing the trail the way many Israelis do – over a series of weekends (at 50 kilometers a weekend, that'll take you about a year and a half). Or conquer it all in one (approximately) 45-day blitz.
The Israel Trail is purportedly the only trail in the world that goes from one end of a country to the other. But it’s definitely the only such trail that comes within visiting distance of two of the world’s most famous cities – Jerusalem and Nazareth. In fact, the designers of the trail made sure that you’ll find its distinctive orange, blue and white markings linking the most important sacred places to Jews, Christians, Druse and Muslims.
Not to mention that it goes right through Tel Aviv and ends (or begins) in Eilat –Israel’s best-known cities for fun, nightlife and contemporary culture. And while the main trail spans the length of the country, its branches – 6,000 miles of them – extend in every direction, so you can curate your own Israel Trail experience.
The trail is also an unforgettable way to meet Israelis, not only your fellow hikers, but also the generous “trail angels” who open their homes and couches for passing hikers.
A fun souvenir of your Israel Trail experience is the Israel Trail “passport,” which you can obtain from SPNI. You can have the passport stamped at 22 stops along the trail, such as national parks, homes of “trail angels” and SPNI field schools, another option for overnight accommodations along the trail.
If an Israel trip is in your near future, ask your travel planner for recommendations of tour guides who are Israel Trail experts.