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Shabbat meals now offered to hikers on Israel National Trail

Tzohar organization that aims to bridge gaps between religious and secular will offer weekend programming for hikers

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

A man and woman walking the Israel Trail. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A man and woman walking the Israel Trail. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Shabbat dinner is coming to the Israel National Trail, the country’s hiking route that spans some 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) from north to south.

Tzohar, the rabbinical organization that aims to bridge gaps between religious and secular Israelis, will offer Shabbat meals, prayers, songs and conversation for hikers.

Hikers traveling along the trail can sign up in advance for a Tzohar Shabbat program. The program will be promoted with signs along the trail, as well as through the Tzohar website, with Shabbat programming held in tents along the way.

The initiative was created in memory of Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, who served as rabbi of the Ohel Ari Synagogue in Ra’anana.

The goal of the program is to allow a diverse group of Israelis to come together in a way that highlights their connection to the land and their Jewish identities, said Ori Shechter, who is directing the initiative.

The Israel National Trail was inaugurated in 1995 by The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, blazing through a variety of Israel’s natural and human landscapes. It takes 30 to 70 days to finish if hiked continuously.

There have long been “trail angels,” local Israelis who offer help and sometimes host passing hikers. The list of trail angels is available through the SPNI website, and updated regularly. Some of the hosts are Shabbat-observant and offer Shabbat hospitality.

Hiking the Israel National Trail has long been a popular phenomenon among bar and bat mitzvah kids, newlyweds and as a pre-army challenge.

In 2012, National Geographic named the Israel National Trail as one of the “holy grails of hikes,” and placed it among the top 20 epic hikes in the world.

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