November 30th 2014
When you close your eyes and picture yourself in Israel, among other things, you probably see images of sand dunes and camels. It’s unlikely that you think of Israel as a ski resort destination. But did you know there actually is skiing in Israel? It’s found on Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in the country, which climbs to over 9,000 feet. Mount Hermon is actually a small group of mountains, with three distinct peaks, located in the Golan Heights. At the highest point, you’ll be able to catch rare glimpses of Lebanon, Syria, the Galilee and across northern Israel.
During the winter, Mount Hermon is Israel’s only ski destination, offering trails for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. But the chair lifts operate all year long, taking visitors up the mountain. Both downhill and cross-country ski trails are available. Other winter activities include sledding, snowboarding and simple playing in the snow. Since you’re unlikely to be bringing your own ski equipment to Israel, you’ll be able to rely on the equipment rentals for all members of the family. Lessons for children and adults are also available.
The majority of the snow here doesn’t melt until early summer. In some places on the mountain, there could be remaining snow that just doesn’t melt. Summer hiking opportunities abound. The warmer months are perfect for enjoying amazing displays of rare flowers on the mountaintop. Mount Hermon is also a great bird watching site. Tours led by guides from the Nature Reserves Authority are offered at no cost during the summer, and the Safari HaHermon company offers jeep tours in the area. Even in the summer, it gets cold on the mountain in the evenings, so be prepared.
The Hermon is also laden with both strategic and religious significance. Because of the views offered from here into neighboring nations, the Israeli military maintains a cluster of bases on these peaks. And tradition has it that it was atop the Hermon peak known as Har Habtarim that Abraham stood when God promised him that the Land of Israel would belong to his descendants. The spot is surrounded by mature oak trees and an ancient tomb.
Guest rooms at the foot of the mountain give visitors who want to enjoy all that Mount Hermon offers many options for staying overnight. Check out the hospitality center run by the Druse community in the village of Ein Kinya. Here you can enjoy pita, labaneh (a soft, white, yogurt-like cheese) and coffee prepared in the Druse tradition.