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Hitchhiking Israel solo: Trespassing and Mount of Beatitudes (part 4)

July 17, 2012

Israel and Palestine

Welcome to part 4 of my solo female Middle Eastern road trip! Today, whilst hitchhiking Israel, I finally get lost. In the end, I did find my way by hitchhiking once more, but still! Quite surprising it took me this long, given to how directionally-challenged I am. I know, I know — how would someone with no sense of direction whatsoever embark on such a solo journey, hitchhiking nonetheless, through the Middle East? I guess the only answer I can give you is that my thirst for adventure is insatiable.

Want to start reading about my hitchhiking Israel adventures from the beginning?

Part 1: Cairo to Jerusalem
Part 2: Solo female in Northern Israel
Part 3: Kibbutz Couchsurfing and hitchhiking Israel: Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee hitchhiking Israel solo

Sea of Galilee and Tiberias region, where I extensively hitchhiked in Israel

Photo: Steve Conger

Hitchhiking Israel solo: And then I got lost

After some cycling around the Sea of Galilee and bonding with my host and his neighbors whilst kibbutz Couchsurfing at Ashdot Ya’akov Ihud, it was time to head out and explored the area further. Gilad went to school as I explored Tiberias deeper. First stop: Mount of Beatitudes.

As usual, I had to hitchhike out of the kibbutz for several kilometers before I could take a bus. Buses didn’t make it to Mount of Beatitudes anyway

This I did not know back then.

And so I pressed on, hitchhiking Israel once more, another wonderful experience. Then, I took the bus to the furthest stop possible, the closest to the site. “Ah, that’s not too bad of a hike!” I cheered as I marveled at the beautiful landscape and expansive Sea of Galilee views. It only took a few steps for me to get distracted. Then the road became a dirt road, the dirt road became a maze, and suddenly I found myself trespassing into a private plantation, with no way out and no other soul in sight.

At that point, the more I walked the further the Mount of Beatitudes seem to be, right up there with the road I came from, in the horizon. After an hour in the situation, under the scorching sun with no water available, I cried for the first time in Israel.

“What the heck were you thinking, María?! This is borderline desert! You idiot!”

Hitchhiking Israel solo, Tiberias tractor

Simone Baldini, Flickr

As I was busy insulting myself, I missed two workers in the field… Until a third one noticed my big hair and came to my rescue. “Do you need any help, Ms.?” Said the polite, handsome dark man. “Yes, please. How do I get back to the main road?!” The man responded: “You shouldn’t be in this area by yourself! Did you lose your tour group?” To what I answered: “No, sir. I hitchhiked here from Ein Hathelet. The man was amazed and shocked: “Brave girl,” he responded in disbelief. “Hop on” he said as he turned on his tractor.

As he dropped me off the main road, he said “I recommend you to go back to the bus stop you came from. Mount of Beatitudes is further than you think, too long of a away to come back here even if you make it up there. It’s much better if you come here with a group. ” Then, he disappeared into his plantation and went back to work. Poor chap, he didn’t even have a clue about how stubborn I am.

Hitchhiking Israel solo: Take two

After deliberating for about 10 min. in the middle of the main road, I couldn’t decide what to do. I did not want to give up; yet, what the farmer said wasn’t very comforting either. But before I could change my mind, a car was finally in sight. My reaction was to automatically raise my hand, as my gut feeling gave me an instant green light: “This is it, Maria! It’s this one or no one!” And just guess who the driver happened to be?

A freakin’ registered tour guide. With Christian pilgrimages specialty. Such is my luck.

I told him my story and he couldn’t stop laughing. “The farmer is right, but look at what your stubbornness got you!” Touché. For the next dozens of kilometers, the tour guide told me all kinds of stories about the road we were on and the surrounding area. Then, once we finally made it to Mount of Beatitudes, he also gave me a short intro about the place. Before leaving though, Mr. tour guide inquired: “Oh and Maria, when will you be done?” “I beg your pardon, sir?” I responded, a bit suspicious at his question. “Oh, I’m running some errands a couple of kilometers from here, but have to come down this road again. I figured you could use a ride back to the closest bus stop to Tiberias? How about we meet here in about an hour or two?”

Oh Israel, you never cease to amaze me.

Hitchhiking Israel solo, Tiberias green view

Tiberias green view: Away from the Galilee (Simone Baldini, Flickr)

Mount of Beatitudes and Church of the Multiplication

Mount of Beatitudes is a hill between Capernaum and Ginosar where Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is commemorated. The actual location in which this speech was delivered is unknown, yet this spot has been venerated for close to 1,600 years.

Churches on-site include a Byzantine one that was used between the 4th and 7th centuries and a Roman Catholic Franciscan Chapel that was built in 1938. Additionally, one may still see the remains of a cistern and monastery (Wikipedia).

Hitchhiking Israel solo, Mount of Beatitudes Catholic chapel

Catholic chapel on Mount of Beatitudes (Jean & Nathalie, Flickr)

Hitchhiking in Israel, Mount of Beatitudes view

View from Mount of Beatitudes (Steve Conger, Flickr)

To my surprise, the Church of the Multiplication was nearby. And guess what happened? Yet another tour guide gave me a ride from Mt. of Beatitudes to Tabgha and back, just in time to meet up with the first tour guide that picked me up after the plantation trespassing incident. Seems like the tourism board got a memo that I was hitchhiking Israel and needed some vol.

In case you don’t know: The Church of the Multiplication sits on the remains of two earlier churches, still housing restored 5th century mosaics. Here, one of Jesus Christ’s most popular miracles is commemorated: “The Multiplication.” According to the Bible, Jesus multiplied a handful of loaves of bread and fishes to feed his disciples and thousands of his followers one fine day about two millennia ago.

Hitchhiking in Israel, Church of Multiplication mosaics

Church of the Multiplication mosaics and “original rock,” where some believe this miracle happened (Seetheholyland, Flickr)

Hitchhiking Israel solo, Church of the Multiplication

The church (Father Maurer, Flickr)

Hitchhiking in Israel, Tabgha mosaics

More Tabgha mosaics inside the Church (Seetheholyland, Flickr)

There, I spent about two hours soaking in the solemnity of the site. I prayed inside the chapel, marveled at the gorgeous views from the expansive balconies, and wondered what living there 2000 years ago would have been like. I breathed deeply and thanked my Lord for affording me the opportunity to see and experience such beautiful things.

I am blessed.

Hitchhiking Israel solo, Sea of Galilee angel statue

Look of an angel: Sea of Galilee (Chris Hoare, Flickr)

Would you go hitchhiking Israel solo? Tell me about a crazy travel adventure of yours


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13 Responses to “Hitchhiking Israel solo: Trespassing and Mount of Beatitudes (part 4)”

  1. Sabina Says:

    I love this post! I was fortunate enough to live in Tiberias for nine months earlier this year and last year and just loved every minute of it. I lived on the top of a mountain outside of the downtown area with a gorgeous view of the Sea of Galilee. Hitchhiking to the sights is actually a great way to see them as, like you said, there is not much bus service which stops at these areas except for tour buses. Hitchiking in Israel is such a great experience – it’s so safe, unlike the U.S. where I live, where it’s illegal. I’m looking forward to reading your other posts :)


    • Maria Laborde Says:

      I miss hitchhiking so much. I met such interesting people during this epic journey solo throughout the Middle East–it is one of those trips I remember dearly and keep close to my heart. It was the absolute opposite of what the news say, and I LOVED THAT! I love debunking myths and showing people that there is more kindness in the world than what your news anchor makes you believe.

      And ah, yes, LOVED Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. As you said, so peaceful. Also, all the sites, religious/historical importance aside, are simply breathtaking. I would go back in a heartbeat.


  2. Cathy Sweeney Says:

    No, I guess I don’t have the level of bravery you do to hitchhike Israel solo. But I do admire you for doing it and somewhat envy the wonderful experiences you’ve had. I can certainly relate to getting lost! Very interesting about the Mount of Beatitudes and Church of the Multiplication, too.


    • Maria Laborde Says:

      In this area of Israel, hitchhiking is common so I wasn’t hesitant. I’m sure others who wouldn’t do it elsewhere, would feel comfortable hitchhiking there. Or not. Either way, there are always great rewards when one takes risks, no? ;)

      Glad you liked the little blurbs about the background of the Mount of Beatitudes and Church of the Multiplication


  3. walkingon travels Says:

    Well if you are going to get lost, you sure picked a gorgeous place to do it. Not sure I am courageous enough to hitchhike my way around any country, but I sure do admire you for doing it. I really am missing out on an awesome experience though. Hmmm…think I could hitchhike with 2 kids tagging along? ;-)


    • Maria Laborde Says:

      I’ve seen whole families hitchhike! It just depends on the culture of the place you are visiting. In this area of Israel, hitchhiking is common so I wasn’t hesitant about lifting my hand :)


  4. InsideJourneys Says:

    I agree with some of the previous comments: it takes courage to hitchhike solo. Bravo to you!
    I’m directionally challenged as well so this made me smile. And when family and friends laugh at me for getting lost, I tell them it’s the best way to discover new things — get off the beaten path.


  5. Emme Rogers Says:

    That angel is absolutely beautiful!


  6. jenny@atasteoftravel Says:

    I’m not a hitchhiker but I admire you for doing it. You certainly were very lucky with your lifts on this occasion. I love the mosaics inside the church at Tabgha. They remind me of those we saw in Sicily


    • Maria Laborde Says:

      Every time I’ve hitchhiked, I’ve had great experiences. Once you do it in an area where locals do it, it’s a safe bet. The plantation though…lol. I didn’t know the bus stop was so far away. But then again, I’m so happy I didn’t know! ;)

      These mosaics were common in Christian churches at the time. I’ve seen quite a bit in Europe, but not the ones in Sicily. Another reason I should visit :)


  7. On Board Says:

    What a great account of your travels through Israel! You’re quite brave to do it on your own–especially considering your troubles with directions!


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