December 2016 Update - The third edition of the Israel Trail book is available here. The guide has much better maps than the first edition. A hike profile is included for each day (distance and elevation changes), and there is more information about sites, history and geography. It weighs 265 grams compared to about 550 grams for the first edition as the author used lighter paper. Here is an example of day 23 from the book.

December 2009 Update - There is finally an Israel Trail book in English! Jacob Saar wrote it. It contains 67 topographical maps, 13 road maps, a description of the hike in both north to south and south to north direction. There is a lot of important logistical information such as how to cache water in the desert, contact info of people in the Negev desert who will cache water for you, a list of trail angels, transportation from the airport to the trailhead in Dan or in Eilat, and much more.

Getting this book out there in English is a big deal for those of us who love Israel's land and culture. It seems there are too many books with opinions and analysis of Israel and too few about life and culture. The best way to see Israel is by foot!!

The Israel Trail - Shvil Yisrael in Hebrew - is a cool idea that took a community of hobbyists and professionals 15 years to put together and their work will never end. An Israeli journalist came up with the idea of connecting Israel's many hiking trails into one continuous trail - from the Lebanese border to the Red Sea. In 1994 the first hikers walked all of the Israel Trail and in 1995 President Ezer Weizmann officially inaugurated the trail.

The Hebrew language Israel Trail book splits the trail into 44 parts - most are one day hikes though some in the Negev are two days each. For each part of the trail there is a map, background information so you know the history of where you'll be hiking, useful information so you know where you can get food and water and even a list of bed-and-breakfasts along the way for those who prefer to sleep indoors. Its the "play-by-play" of the entire trail that is the cherry on top. He obviously did the Israel Trail a few times and took great notes. Of course you need the official maps of each area, but Gilat's directions of where to turn at each spot will do the job most of the time. The maps become backup.

900 kilometers from Tel Dan to Eilat - twice the length of Israel! Of course it doesn't go in a straight line - the purpose is to walk along our beautiful country and experience Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel - as never before. The trail stays inside the green line. It evolves over time - since 2000 it skips an Arab village, Taibe, and instead goes all the way into Netanya.

One hundred thousand Israelis do parts of the trail every year. Most hike a few hours of the trail over an afternoon on weekends and holidays. Thousands do at least a day to a few days of the trail and 200-300 complete the entire Israel Trail every year. Israelis are known to be hardcore trekkers in far off places such as India and South America and as the trail gets more popular, more of us catch the bug and want to give it a shot.

I bought camping gear and headed on my way with a few friends..

The Israel Trail begins at Beit Ussishkin, a kibbutz museum close to the border with Lebanon. We met in the morning and set off. After a short hike, we reached the Tel Dan Nature Reserve. We put on our sandals as this part of the trail takes you in the water a bit.

The next part of the trail goes through a few kibbutzim and finally up the hill to Tel Hai. The Tel Hai park ranger greeted us and showed us where we could replenish our water supply. Within an hour of our arrival, two other groups also made it and we shared experiences while stretching our sore muscles. The park ranger joined us for tea after dinner and told us stories about Tel Hai and the northern Galilee into the night. We passed out and everyone slept well.

The next morning we headed home. I did day one of the Israel Trail. A bit of hiking and I know a lot more about Israel thanks to this experience. I'll do it again and again - different parts and for different lengths of time.

If you're interested in Israel, visit my other related pages...
Israel Culture in Israel Israeli Music Hadera Arad Eilat The Negev Kibbutz Ruhama Jerusalem in the Snow Jerusalem during Passover 2009 Aliyah Tips

Kenny Sahr