10 Awe-In­spir­ing Full-Moon Hikes in Is­rael

Con­nect to the won­ders of na­ture by hik­ing in the light of the moon against Is­rael’s many ma­jes­tic back­drops

The Jewish Voice - - TRAVEL - By: Jes­sica Halfin (IS­RAEL 21C)

Night hik­ing in Is­rael when the moon is full has many ad­van­tages and ro­man­tic qual­i­ties, the most ba­sic of which is the con­ve­nient com­bi­na­tion of cooler night­time tem­per­a­tures and max­i­mum vis­i­bil­ity. Is­rael is blessed with many ma­jes­tic back­drops — the bright white lime­stone of the Judean Desert or the shim­mer­ing wa­ters of the Sea of Galilee — that find their shine quite lit­er­ally in full moon­light.

Set­ting out af­ter dark coaxes us out of our com­fort zone and forces us to hone our in­stincts. Noth­ing con­nects you to the won­ders of the uni­verse quite like that howl­ing wolf or that an­cient land­scape un­der the vast night sky. It is a kind of na­ture ther­apy.

Here are ISRAEL21c's top 10 places to hike when the moon is full. Be­fore at­tempt­ing any hikes in Is­rael, es­pe­cially at night, it is ad­vised to study the trail map to learn the spe­cific de­tails of what to ex­pect along the way. And be sure to check out Wild Trails' five es­sen­tial tips for en­joy­able and safe night­time hik­ing.

1. Na­hal Havarim

Lo­cated just south of breath­tak­ing Midreshet Ben-Gu­rion in the Sde Boker area is one of three of­fi­cial Is­raeli na­ture re­serves open to vis­i­tors for night hik­ing. The Havarim Stream hike com­bines the Judean Desert rolling hills and val­leys with an air of mys­tery that plays off the unique ecosys­tem of plants and an­i­mals. The hike starts off at the re­mains of an an­cient Na­batean well. This rel­a­tively short hike of 3 kilo­me­ters (1.8 miles) will re­ally give you a sense of what this spec­tac­u­lar area has to offer.

Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion: Park at the Ben-Gu­rion Field School at the sign that reads “Na­hal Havarim.” Start the hike at the blue trail marker.

2. Daliat el-Carmel to Habonim Beach

This hike takes you from the north­ern Carmel Moun­tain Druze vil­lage of Daliat el-Carmel down the moun­tain, along an an­cient route, through vil­lages and even ba­nana fields un­til you reach the Habonim Beach na­ture re­serve. Habonim is con­sid­ered one of Is­rael's most beau­ti­ful Mediter­ranean beaches, known for its seashells and abun­dant wildlife. It is rec­om­mended to start the 16km jour­ney af­ter a leisurely evening meal of Druze fare, hike into the early morn­ing hours, and then rest on the beach un­til the sun comes up.

Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion: Start the hike by pick­ing up the red trail (a dirt Jeep path) in the south­west cor­ner of Daliat el-Carmel next to the town's trash dis­posal area, and then fol­low it down the moun­tain to­ward the sea.

3. Haifa to Atlit

For an eas­ier Carmel-area beach hike op­tion: Start at Haifa's Stu­dent Beach, and walk south along this hid­den shore­line un­til you reach the “Shayetet 13” Is­rael Navy Seal base in the town of Atlit. The sandy hike is a 10km (6.2-mile) wa­ter­front path, from which you can ad­mire the waves and the abun­dant moon­light re­flect­ing off the Mediter­ranean wa­ters. At the fin­ish you will catch a view of the fa­mous 13th cen­tury Cru­sader fortress in­side the base at the edge of the coastal penin­sula.

4. Na­hal Prat­simSodom Moun­tain

Walk along this ex­traor­di­nar­ily pow­dery marl­stone rock 8km (5-mile) route at the base of Mount Sodom above the Dead Sea, where the bi­b­li­cal story of Sodom and Ge­mor­rah is said to have taken place. Hike along the river bed in the canyon that weaves be­tween the tow­er­ing plateaus above, and even­tu­ally ar­rive to what is af­fec­tion­ately known as the “Flour Cave.”

Two things are cer­tain: 1) Ex­pect a butt-full of white chalky pow­der, and 2) this is a hike that is strictly for­bid­den on rainy days, but ut­terly fan­tas­tic for a full-moon night­time ac­tiv­ity.

Ad­di­tional In­for­ma­tion: Start the lin­ear hike at the Neot Pools in the Na­hal Zo­har Val­ley next to Highway 90. The hike fin­ishes at the night park­ing lot at the exit of the Prat­sim Stream.

5. Parsat NekarotMakht­esh Ra­mon

This 7km (4.3-mile) cir­cu­lar route al­lows you along the Sa­ha­ronim Creek bed and up one of the Ra­mon crater's rock plateaus (de­pend­ing on the path you choose). This awe-in­spir­ing Negev Desert crater is the largest of its kind in the world, stretch­ing 40km long and 500 me­ters deep. Hik­ing just a small por­tion at night show­cases the won­der of the starry night sky in this re­mote area. Fos­silized seashells can be found in the creek-bed floor, re­mind­ing you that once upon a time this was the bot­tom of a vast ocean.

Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion: This hike takes two to four hours, and picks up the Is­rael Na­tional Trail (Shvil Yis­rael) as it en­ters the Sa­ha­ronim Creek bed. To start the trail, veer off Route 40 be­tween kilo­me­ter 86 and 87, and drive to­wards the Be'erot park­ing lot on a dirt path with red mark­ers. Con­tinue driv­ing for an ad­di­tional 4km (2.5 miles) un­til you reach the Ein Sa­ha­ronim park­ing lot (also called Matzad Mechila).

6. Tel Achziv to Rosh Hanikra

Start­ing just north of Na­hariya, this easy 6km (3.7mile) night hike fol­lows the rocky beach all the way from the an­cient set­tle­ment of Achziv, north to the sea caves of Rosh Hanikra, along the beach prom­e­nade and paths. Through­out the trail you will dis­cover coves, la­goons and ti­dal pools as well as dis­tant is­lands to ad­mire.

This is a breed­ing ground for sea tur­tles dur­ing the spring and sum­mer months, so stay on the prom­e­nade dur­ing those sea­sons. Oth­er­wise let the moon be your spot­light as you travel along this path to the spec­tac­u­lar end­point along the Is­raeli-Le­banese bor­der.

7. Na­hal Ki­dod, Arad

A jump­ing-off point into the wilder­ness of the Judean Desert, this short night hike starts in the Rotem neigh­bor­hood of Arad and de­scends downward to the Ki­dod River bed. Along the way you will pass boul­ders, an an­cient cis­tern, wa­ter­falls and caves be­fore as­cend­ing the Moav look­out for a view of the cascading light over the hills be­low and the low­est point on earth — the Dead Sea. The 7km (4.3-mile) hike takes two to four hours, and will have you falling in love with the hilly desert ter­rain.

Ad­di­tional In­for­ma­tion: For this hike, fol­low the green trail. Find the de­tailed map here.

8. Mitzpe Tiberias to Yar­denit

Sec­tion 8 on the Is­rael Na­tional Trail, which is iden­ti­fi­able by its or­ange, white and blue-striped mark­ers, this hike starts with a view of the moon shin­ing over the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kin­neret) and ends with a brisk swim in the Jor­dan River. A cleans­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that will give you an in­ti­mate sense of the North, it is a lovely 12km (7.4-mile) hike over main roads, which makes it pleas­ant for a bright night.

Ad­di­tional In­for­ma­tion: This hike starts on Route 77 at the en­trance to Tiberias Il­lit, and ends next to Kib­butz Kin­neret at the Yar­denit bap­tismal site.

9. Havarei Masada

At the base of Masada, where King Herod built his desert fortress into the moun­tain­side, lies the nat­u­ral won­der of Havarei Masada. This Judean Desert trail is made up of lime­stone rocks, as de­noted in the name, and con­tains twists, turns, crevices and nat­u­ral struc­tures for one to scale and ex­plore in the shin­ing moon­light.

Like an ob­sta­cle course, made from the lake wa­ters that used to flood the area thou­sands of years ago, it is a ver­i­ta­ble play­ground for kids and adults of all ages, made even more ac­ces­si­ble by the ease and straight­for­ward na­ture of the hike.

Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion: This hike starts out­side Masada Na­tional Park in the park­ing area off Highway 90. Walk the black trail to the end and back for a cir­cu­lar hike of 4km (2.5 miles).

10. Monthly full-moon night run in Zarzir, Jezreel Val­ley

This monthly com­mu­nal night walk/run in the North­ern Jezreel Val­ley, when the full moon hangs big in the night sky, starts at the junc­tion of the Zarzir Be­douin vil­lage. It is a laid­back yet up­beat ex­pe­ri­ence with choices of 15km, 10km or 6km tracks, put on by the lo­cal run­ning store Run­Way, owned by run­ning en­thu­si­ast Doron Shal­mon.

To join in the sup­port­ive com­mu­nity of run­ners, visit the store's Face­book page and RSVP to the month's sched­uled event.

Is­raelis camp­ing un­der a full moon near Sde Boker. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90

Na­hal Prat­sim in the Sodom Moun­tains - Photo by Jes­sica Halfin

Na­hal Havarim in the win­ter time. Photo by Jes­sica Halfin

The sun sets on Habonim Beach. Photo by Nicky Kelvin/Flash90

Haifa beach photo by Jes­sica Halfin.

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