Mount Hermon

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Mount Hermon

Every year in December as the rains begin, people in Israel wait to hear the weather report for the announcement “Sheleg yored b’Hermon” (snow is falling on the Hermon). Being the highest peak in the region, Mt. Hermon is one of the ridges in what is called the Anti-Lebanon Mountain range. (For those who are curious about the name, it has nothing to do with being pro- or anti-Lebanon; rather it’s from the Greek word meaning “opposite.”) It is the only ski lodge in the region, perhaps unsurprisingly considering that this is a Mediterranean desert country. The Hermon also has the dubious honor of being the only permanent UN-manned post in the world.

Once the news is out that the snow is falling, the ski lodge begins preparing in earnest for the droves soon to arrive. The lower ridge is made ready for the “beginners” who swoosh down the hill on plastic sleds while the “pros” head for the ski lift and the real thing.

The Hermon was important in the Jewish narrative long before anyone even dreamed that skiing would become a sport; it is claimed that it was on this peak that Abraham was promised the land for his people by God. The mountain is cited in dozens of biblical references over the centuries, Old and New Testament including the Epic of Gilgamesh, The Book of Enoch, Deuteronomy, Psalms and so on. Of course Bethsaida, at the foot of the Hermon, is just one of the many references to the Hermon in the Christian narrative as recorded according to Matthew and Mark as where Jesus underwent the transfiguration.

In more recent times the Hermon has come to be called “the eyes of the nation,” since its height serves as the primary strategic early warning system for the country. Control by Israel was taken in the 1967 war and lost for two weeks during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel captured more land that it had lost. This section of Syrian land was returned at the end of that episode, traumatic for so many Israelis, soldiers and civilians alike. The war was so traumatic that it resulted in the resignation of Israel’s prime minister at the time, Golda Meir.

On the brighter side, there are a number of additional sites to draw the visitor to the Hermon area, including the Banias spring and nature reserve and nearby Druze villages where authentic restaurants provide great meals featuring Druze cuisine. Nimrod’s Fortress from the Crusader period is another interesting stop for people on their way to or from the Mount Hermon peak.

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