The Jesus Trail, a hiking trail in the Galilee region of Israel, allows visitors a rare opportunity—to experience the most important historical sites from the life of Jesus.
In fiction, there is a concept known as show vs. tell. Showing with words—engaging readers’ senses by drawing them into the sights and smells and textures of a fictional world. This makes for a much more vivid storytelling experience, one that transcends the page so that the images may come alive. Telling, on the other hand, is just that—a summary of what happened, devoid of life and force and feeling.
The Bible is often called the greatest story ever told, but many only ever experience the story through summary, through removed analysis or vague platitudes. They don’t get to feel the wood of the cross or the rough stone of the ancient Temple, or breathe the fresh air of the Sea of Galilee.
But visiting Israel, and entering the very setting of the Biblical narrative, allows you to experience “showing” at its very best and to experience the real places in which the Biblical story is set.
Jesus is a polarizing figure—an influential false messiah in the Jewish tradition, the son of God for Christians, and a mythological figure or exceptionally wise human being for the atheist—but none can contest His cultural significance. Whether Jesus represents man, messiah, or myth to you, His is a fascinating life, worthy of study. And what better way to learn than through personal experience? Let’s take a look at the main areas of interest the Jesus trail provides—these pieces of history which bring the Biblical story to life.
The Jesus Trail is a 65-kilometer journey that can be completed in 3 to 5 days by the average hiker. The trail passes through towns and villages, giving travelers the opportunity to renew supplies throughout the route, and so it is user-friendly even to inexperienced hikers. Travelers have the option to either hike on their own, or to take a number of guided tours through the region.
The journey begins in Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus and center of Christian pilgrimage. It was here that Jesus read from the scrolls, according to Luke 4:16. In Nazareth, you’ll find the largest church in the Middle East—the Church of the Annunciation— as well as numerous other sites commemorating Biblical events.
Traveling from Nazareth to Cana is a journey of 13.5 kilometers, and brings you to the site of Jesus’ first miracle—the transformation of water into wine, according to the Gospel of John. Cana is the official site of the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. Imagine yourself in the town where the glory of Jesus was revealed to His disciples for the very first time.
From Cana, you’ll travel to Kibbutz Lavi, a distance of 14.4 kilometers of forest ridge with beautiful views of the valley below. A kibbutz is a communal settlement, often a farm, and Kibbutz Lavi is one of the few religious Jewish kibbutzim in the country. There, you can enjoy a swimming pool and kosher buffet.
From there, you’ll hike 16.1 kilometers, ascending the Horns of Hattin, and catching a glimpse of the famous Sea of Galilee, and the tomb of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Finally, you’ll arrive in Moshav Arbel, where you’ll find excellent food and lodgings.
From Moshav Arbel, you’ll travel 16.8 kilometers to your final destination of Capernaum, the village at the north corner of the Sea of Galilee, and the historical seat of Jesus’ ministry. Capernaum features the ruins of the home of Simon Peter, and many other Biblical and archaeological sites of interest. It was here that Jesus also exorcised a possessed man, and healed Peter’s sickly mother-in-law.
There is great value in being able to place the Biblical narrative within its historical and cultural context, and Israel and the Jesus Trail provide this opportunity. To see the actual places in which Jesus moved and lived bestows upon the believer a greater understanding of His life, and a fuller comprehension of all that occured during that unique era in human history. No other experience or education renders such depth in the essential elements of interpreting and understanding the Bible.
There is a particular grace to be gained in hiking the Jesus Trail, a peace that resides not within ruins or walls or relics, but in the spaces between—those lengths of the path which pass through open land and natural splendor. The beauty of the Israeli countryside serves to quiet the busy mind, and encourages contemplation—contemplation which is absolutely necessary.
For many, the sites along the trail are not just sacred, but living, breathing embodiment of that which is most holy—the places where the Son of God lived, died, rose, and ascended into the heavens. Encountering sites of such significance takes time—time that is best taken slowly, at a walking pace rather than with the speed of a rumbling engine. Nature has always been the place where we have shed the trappings and distractions of modern life in favor of uninterrupted thought. Even Jesus sought the remote places of this land in order to commune with God the Father.
Whatever reasons you might have for visiting Israel, and for walking in the footsteps of Jesus, the Jesus Trail is an enlightening journey through history and natural beauty. The mission of the Jesus Trail team is to “provide the best possible hiking routes between locations that are significant to the Biblical story of Jesus in the Galilee region of Israel,” and they do so without regard to race, theology, creed, gender, age, or disability. All are welcome to explore and gain new understanding of the life of Jesus, not only through the land, but through the people and the cultures which now inhabit it.
Come experience Israel and the Jesus Trail, and immerse yourself in history, culture, and spirituality.