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Mount Tabor

TABOR, MOUNT (Heb. תָּבוֹר), a dome-shaped mountain in the N.E. part of the Jezreel Valley, N. of the Afulah-Tiberias road. The peak rises approximately 1,750 ft. (563 m.) above sea level and approximately 1,500 ft. (c. 500 m.) above the surrounding plain. The mountain is 2 mi. (3⅓ km.) wide. It stands out in the plain in an isolated position and can be seen from a distance, giving rise to its renown. It is formed of stratified limestone, with a base of Lower Cretaceous in the west and Neogene in the south and east. Near the road on the eastern side of the hill, a stratum of Pleistocene basalt overlaps the Neogene limestone; the beginning of Naḥal Tabor passes along the division line between these strata. The mountain was once covered by an oak forest, of which only parts remain.

The name Tabor appears to be derived from Phoenician and recalls the name of the Semitic god known in Greek as Zeus Atabyrios (the Greek name of Tabor is Itabyrion). A cave near the top of the mountain may have been the original sanctuary of this god. This sanctuary was revived in Israelite times, calling forth the wrath of the prophet Hosea (5:1). Mt. Tabor may be the holy mountain mentioned in the Blessing of Moses (Deut. 33:19). A conspicuous landmark, Mr. Tabor served as a boundary point between the territories of the tribes of Zebulun (Josh. 19:22), Naphtali, and Issachar. There Barak collected the forces of the northern tribes at Deborah's command; when the forces of Sisera approached the hill from the south, the Israelites rushed down the slopes and routed the enemy (Judg. 4). Mt. Tabor is mentioned as a place reached by the Midianites in Gideon's time (Judg. 8:18), but this may refer to Chesulloth-Tabor, which was probably a levitical town (I Chron. 6:62). The mountain is singled out for its beauty in Psalms 89:13, where it is mentioned together with Mt. Hermon, and in Jeremiah 46:18, where it is described as outstanding among mountains and comparable to Mt. Carmel by the sea.

In post-biblical times, Mt. Tabor, called Itabyrion (Gr. ʾ Αταβύριον or ʾ Ιταβύριον), served as a Hellenistic fortress and probably the capital of Galilee. It was taken by Antiochus III in 218 B.C.E. (Polybius 5:70, 9). In 66 C.E. Josephus fortified Mt. Tabor, which was later captured by Vespasian (Jos., Life, 188; Wars, 2:573; 4:54–61, where the given height of 30 stades (Gr. Λ; c. 16,650 ft.) should be corrected to 4 stades (Gr. Δ; c. 2,220 ft.)). Christian tradition, started by Cyril of Jerusalem (PG, 33:744), located the transfiguration of Jesus on Mt. Tabor (Matt. 17:1, et al.) and consequently a basilica was built there in the Byzantine period. A Benedictine community settled there in 1100 and remained on the site until 1187. The Arabs built a fortress on the hill (Ar. Jebel al-Tūr) which was dismantled in 1218. The Hospitalers held Mt. Tabor from 1255 to 1263. In 1873 the Franciscans began to rebuild the basilica on the old foundations and their church was consecrated in 1924. Near the basilica is a Greek Orthodox monastery. Remains of an earlier (Jewish?) wall are also visible.

Jewish settlements were first founded in the region of the Tabor in 1901 with the establishment of Kefar *Tavor. The region was captured by the Israel army during the War of Independence in a battle lasting from May 10 to May 15, 1948.


G. Dalman, Sacred Sites and Ways (1930), index; Abel, Geog; 1 (1933), 353ff.; Alt, in: ZDPV, 64 (1941), 91–96; P. Barnabe (Meistermann), La Montagne de la Galilée … (1901); K. Kopp, The Holy Places of the Gospels (1963), S.V. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. JudaeaPalaestina. Maps and Gazetteer (1994), 246–47, S.V. "Thabor Mons"; D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. A Corpus. vol. 2: L–Z (excluding Tyre) (1998), 63–85.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.