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Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor is a steep round hill on the north-east side of Jezreel valley. Mount Tabor is located 9KM east of Nazareth, at the north-east corner of the Yizrael (Jezreel) Valley. It is 613M above sea level, and 460M above the valley, visible from the whole area. It is not an extinct volcano, although it does look like one.


It played an important role in the biblical history, and tradition links it to the Transfiguration of Jesus. The hill is strategically located on the main north-south ancient road, and was an important fortress during the First and Second Temple, Greek, Roman and Crusaders times. It had a prime location in the ancient times, and there were several roads that crossed it: Via Maris (Yizreel valley to Sea of Galilee), lower to upper Galilee, Jordan valley (via Tabor creek), and Beit Shean via Ein Dor and around the Moreh hill.

Biblical References


According to Matthew 17:1-13 (and Mk 9:2, Lk 9:28), Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, and John on the "mountain". There are several candidates, such as Hermon (the tallest in Israel) and Tabor. Both are also referred as high mountains; see Psalms above ("Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name"). Tabor is closer to the center of Jesus activities, and also it is referred as "the mountain" in other texts. According to old traditions, Tabor is the holy mountain, and is called "the mount of Transfiguration".


"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.


And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
And his disciples asked him, saying, why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.


Then the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist".
History
Due to its strategic importance, Mount Tabor has often been surmounted by a fortress. Tabor was first occupied by a Seleucid fortress in the 3rd century BC. It was later refortified in 66 AD by Josephus during the First Jewish Revolt, but fell to Roman Emperor Vespasian in 67.


In 348, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that he preferred Mt. Tabor to Mt. Hermon as the site of the Transfiguration, and by the end of the 4th century there was a church on the site. By 570, three Byzantine churches are recorded as standing on Mt. Tabor, or perhaps one large church with chapels dedicated to Christ, Moses and Elijah. By the 7th century, there was a fortified Monastery of the Transfiguration associated with Armenian monks atop Mt. Tabor. A Greek bishop is mentioned in the 9th century.


Mount Tabor was an important sacred site in the Crusader period, and many hermits lived in cells on the mountain slopes. A Latin abbot was appointed to the monastery soon after 1099 and the Greek Orthodox monastery was put to us as a Benedictine house under a bishop in 1103-28. The three Byzantine churches or chapels were still standing at this time.


Islamic forces raided the monastery in 1113, but it was re-established by 1115. At some point in the 12th century, the old Byzantine triple church was replaced with a Romanesque basilica with three aisles, six bays and three apses. It enclosed the sacred rock that was believed to be the very site of the Transfiguration. Stretching north and south of the church were the extensive buildings of a Benedictine monastery, including a chapel and a small bath house.


In 1183, part of Salah al-Din's army climbed Mount Tabor and sacked the Greek monastery, but failed to take the larger fortified Latin monastery until 1187. Beginning in 1212, Ayyubid leaders al-Adil and later al-Mu'azzam Isa built massive walls and fortifications across the entire high plateau of Mount Tabor in order to guard the road to Acre. The wall was defended by 13 towers and a rock-cut ditch. But after a nearly-successful Crusader attack in 1217, al-Mu'azzam demolished the fortifications.


Throughout this period, the Basilica of the Transfiguration seems to have survived intact and pilgrims continued to visit it. Mount Tabor was back in Frankish hands from 1229 to 1241. In 1255, it was granted to the Hospitallers, but in 1263, Baybars destroyed the church and the mountain became a royal hunting park for the Mamluks.
In the 14th century, local Christians are recorded as decking the ruined churches atop Mount Tabor with flags at the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6), a custom that continued for many centuries.


In 1631, Fakhr al-Din granted the Franciscans permission to live atop Mount Tabor, and this permission was confirmed by the Ottoman government on various occasions in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Franciscans mainly used rooms of the ruined castle bath house until they rediscovered the ruined Crusader church in 1858 and began reconstruction. In 1924, the present church, which stands over the 12th century church, was completed



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