To begin with, Mount Gilboa is a ridge overlooking the Jezreel Valley in the Lower Galilee region; and one of Israel’s most beautiful spots. Also known as the Mountains of Gilboa; and Jebel Faqqua in Arabic; Mount Gilboa is named for the springs that bubble from the rock and feed vast tracts of colorful wildflowers that grow on the mountainside. Furthermore, this spectacular region is best experienced from February to April when the flowers bloom into a riot of color and fragrance. It’s also a popular destination for visitors who come to picnic; hiking; biking and soak up the scenery.
Mount Gilboa Historical and Religious Significance
According to the Old Testament; Mount Gilboa is a place of tragedy and triumph. For example, Israel’s King Saul battled the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, lost his life; along with his three sons. On hearing about the tragedy; King David cursed the mountains.
Also, several other battles took place on and around Mount Gilboa. For example, a minor battle between Sultan Saladin and the army of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1183. And the Battle of Ain Jalut was fought at the foot of Mount Gilboa in 1260 and saw the Muslim Mamluks conquering the Mongols. In fact, this battle is marking the end of the Asian push into the west.
Exploring Mount Gilboa
Furthermore, the best way to experience Mount Gilboa is by driving the Gilboa Scenic Road; which follows the ridges of the mountain and has many lovely lookout points with incredible scenic views. The road begins near the town of Afula and climbs into the Gilboa Mountains with amazing views of the surrounding Syrian African Rift Valley; which is part of the Great Rift Valley.
Also, the Gilboa Scenic Road passes several peaks which are named after famous Biblical characters and historical events, including Mount Shaul (Saul) and Givat Hamoreh; where the Philistines camped before going into battle with Saul; Mount Tabor; the Heights of Issachar; and the Upper Jezreel Valley (also known by Christians as the Valley of the Armageddon).
Mount Gilboa’s beautiful landscapes offer a wealth of recreational pursuits to enjoy from hiking and mountain biking to paragliding off the cliffs of Mount Shaul. The main recreation area in Mount Gilboa is Kefef Shaul (Saul’s Shoulder) which has playgrounds, plenty of shady picnic spots; and trails leading to lookouts with unfettered views. This is a wonderful place to stop for a lunch break on a guided tour of Mount Gilboa.
Furthermore, the Vinya Overlook is a must-visit for the incredible views of the valley; and the Ein Harod kibbutz and if you are feeling energetic; a hiking trail for advanced hikers leads to a spring called Ein Hasamal and a picturesque hidden valley.
Flora and Fauna
Set on the Gilboa Scenic Road; the Gilboa Iris Nature Reserve is well worth visiting to see the awe-inspiring array of wildflowers and blooms; including the purple Gilboa iris. In fact, the reserve is home to more than 170 other species of plants; shrubs; and trees; as well as a diverse range of animal species. In the cooler months; the reserve bursts into bloom and is simply spectacular.