If you are visiting Israel on own or on a Jewish itinerary, it is most likely that you will not visit Mt Tavor. Why? Most of the travel agents and tour operators use cookie cut itineraries, based on your faith and denomination and force you to visit what they think is appropriate for you. When you travel independently you will find that no public transportation reaches Mt Tavor. So.. you will have to hire me to take you to one of the most powerful, beautiful, touching sites our country can offer.
What is so great about Mt Tavor? Its not the highest mountain in Israel, but it has great 360 views , a narrow switchback road reaches the top, ruins of the crusader fortifications can still be seen, and the Basilica of Transfiguration is the gem of the site. You will need to read elsewhere to find the trivia info about this site. I will share why its one of my favorites.
This is a place where anyone and everyone can feel the presence of the Divine. Starts with the climb, the views, the breeze, the trees, the scent in the air. Then you reach the ruins, and you feel that this place was always a place of worship and command. You gaze at the facade of the Basilica , but walk up the stairs of the balcony on your right before entering. Open your bible and read the story of Debora, its in Judges, you should be able to find it yourself. Then look south at Givat HaMore and read about Elisha and the child of the Shunamite woman. Keep reading about Gidon and his battles as you search for Ein Kharod, then read about the defeat of King Saul on Mt Gilboa. If you have time, read about Elijah while you gaze at Gilead , his home town and at Carmel, place that made him famous. All these sites can be seen from the balcony. Now open your New testament and read the Transfiguration. Read it again slowly, Return to the facade of the basilica to gaze at the three tents the architect Berluzzi has placed on top of the three gates. Enter the small chapels on both sides of the entrance (If the doors are closed, you can enter them both from inside the basilica. Check Moses’s chapel, he is holding the Tablets of the law and gazing to the sky… talking to his creator. Enter the chapel on the right, Elijah has just completed his manifestation of his faith, he too is looking to the sky, waiting for the cloud to arrive. The mosaic floor in Elijah’s chapel dates back to Byzantine times. Now enter the main Basilica and face the main Mural: The complete scene of the transfiguration is there: Jesus transfigured, his three disciples are terrified, Elijah and Moses are on his sides conversing , the cloud appears and the voice calling: “This is my beloved son….”
If possible, descend the steps to the main altar maid of 12 stones, like the one Elijah built on Carmel, look for the words in Latin on the arch above the peacocks:”Lord, it is good for us to be here”. The 4 scenes on both sides of the altar are other moments of transfiguration of Jesus. Look down the glass panel on the floor , you will see ruins of both the Byzantine and Crusader churches.
Check the left nave, above the statue of the Blessed Mother, you can see an eye circled by a pyramid, that is the symbol of The Father. On the right nave, above St Francis you can see the dove as the Holy Spirit. With Jesus in the center, you have the Trinity.
Find a peaceful place and contemplate on this moment. All these men and women up on this mountain are at their encounter with G-D. I feel HIS presence here each time I visit, and I hope you will too