Israel’s Jesus Trail blends history and stunning views

Imagine going on a hike and being able to step back in time, visiting places you’d only read about. It’s an itinerary ripped not from a history book – but from the Bible. The “Jesus Trail,” a hiking trail in Israel, attracts thousands of tourists from around the world every year, especially during the holiday season. CBS News correspondent Seth Doane laced up his shoes to embark on an adventure of biblical proportions.

Many of the places mentioned in the Bible can actually be seen from the trail, like the Sea of Galilee. The River Jordan runs into it and in the distance is the Mount of Beatitudes, where it’s said Jesus delivered his most famous sermon.

Mark Gordon – a spiritual outdoorsman – introduced Doane to the breathtaking 40-mile trail which winds through northeastern Israel, drawing about 3,000 hikers annually.

“Because all of this happened pretty much around the Sea of Galilee, it’s where he walked on water… where he performed many miracles,” Gordon said. “Basically the trail is meant to connect the sites relevant to the journey of Jesus.”

Gordon works for Abraham Tours, which sees interest from a range of visitors.

“You have religious people – for them it’s a pilgrimage, it’s a spiritual journey. And also we have hikers that, they just like to come see the nature and see this land and this country, which is not something usual,” Gordon said.

Dan Dragland, from Sacramento, is traversing Israel partly on the Jesus Trail.  

“It’s a good mixture of terrain, so it’s some flats and some peaks,” Dragland said. “There’s a lot more history on the Jesus Trail than on your average trek. Most places, it’s just the vistas. With the Jesus Trail it’s the views and the historical sites.”

One of those sites includes the ancient ruins of a synagogue that Gordon said dates back to the time of Jesus.

Unlike another trail created by Israel’s government, which avoids Arab villages, the Jesus Trail takes travelers though sites significant to various religions, including the town of Cana, where Jesus is said to have turned water into wine. A modern church marks the spot where Christians believe that miracle took place. Not far away is a mosque.

“Just to make the hiking package work – it depends on Muslims, Jewish and Christians working together, cooperating, providing services. It doesn’t matter if they cook your food, give you a place to stay, transfer your luggage,” Gordon said.

Suraida Shomar-Nasser is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who owns an inn in Nazareth where many begin their hike.

“In Israel we are Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, Jews – our religions are Christianity, Islam, Judaism. So it’s kind of trying to taste from each of these cultures and this you can find it on the trail,” she said.

For hiker Dan Dragland, it offers something special: “There’s the tour bus view of the world, then there’s the actual walking view of the world.”

He adds, “It also causes you to appreciate the vistas a lot more than when you’re hiking – because every view you see – you have to earn.”

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