Rachel Neiman
February 14, 2014

“Well this is it,” a friend posted on Facebook. “I’m off tomorrow – and ‘off the grid’ for much of the next two months. Will post occasional updates.” His notification was accompanied by an map of the Israel Trail and a slew of envious “Likes”.

Inaugurated in 1995, the Israel National Trail (INT) is a 1,009 km (620 mile) trail that crosses the entire country from North to South. In 2012, National Geographic named the INT one of the “holy grails of hikes” and placed it among the top 20 epic hikes in the world .

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel – SPNI’s Trail Committee plans trail routes, marks the trails, and maintains trail signage for the entire length of the INT with markers that look like this…

Photo credit: Dov Greenblat for SPNI

And this…

Photo credit: Dov Greenblat for SPNI

And this…

Photo credit: Dov Greenblat for SPNI

There are many ways to hike the Israel Trail, from day trips to the full 2 month long trek where hikers sleep outdoors or at guesthouses along the way. There are also good people who provide food and shelter out of a sense of kinship. SPNI notes that, “The biggest blessing here comes in the form of ‘trail angels’ along the Israel National Trail who give a helping hand and often offer a place to stay free of charge to passing hikers.”

For the less adventurous, there are Bed & Breakfast guesthouses (“zimmers” in the local parlance) along the trail. One of the newest is a unique Jewish-Arab crowd-funded enterprise: Juha’s Guesthouse in the village of Jisr az-Zarqa, the only Arab village in Israel located on the Mediterranean coastline.

Juha’s Guesthouse was the brainchild of Ahmad Juha, an Israeli Arab entrepreneur and Jisr az-Zarqa local, and Neta Hanien, a Jewish woman, lawyer, backpacker, and SCUBA instructor from nearby Aviel. Their joint mission, which was launched on crowd-funding site Headstart.co.il, was to found a unique guesthouse that would fulfill both Juha’s dream of improving his village’s livelihood and Hanien’s ideal of benefiting the community of backpackers through a socially responsible enterprise.

Funding was very successful — the project was oversubscribed by 154% — and as of last month, Juha’s Guesthouse, which is part of ILH-Israel network of hostels, was up and running.

This and many other stories can be found along the trail but to sum it up in 90 seconds, enjoy this stop motion video documenting the trip taken by friends Ben Wellingstein and Leonid Rezinsky as they hiked the 1009 km from Eilat to Kibbutz Dan.

For more information about the Israel National Trail, visit the SPNI website and IsraelTrail.net, an English-language not-for-profit website whose purpose is to create a reference for non-Hebrew speakers wishing to hike the Israel National Trail.

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