jonathan bloom : photographer
Shelly & Hagar, at Mitzpe Ramon.
"I’ve learned not to forgo an experience because of the instinct to hurry along to the next destination. I allow myself to take breaks, to enjoy the view and to spend some time with the people I meet along the way.” Hagar
Hal LaCroix from the U.S. at Mount Amasa
“I thought this would be a good way of getting to know Israel and to become a part of Ilana’s family. Actually, hiking the Trail is part of my conversion to Judaism.”
Alfred, Racheli & Shirin – Christian, Jewish & Moslem Scout leaders, in Jisr A-Zarkr.
“We decided to take seriously the joke about the Christian, the Muslim & the Jew.” Alfred
Former cadets from the Acco Naval Officers School, class of 1966, in Dvira Forest.
”One of our group was right next to David on the Trail…[when David fell and was paralysed from the neck down]…, and since then he’s been unable to continue. He’s still traumatised from David’s accident. We’re all carrying the fear that it could happen to any of us, but you go on and you forget.“ Amos
Yankele Saar, with granddaughters Libby and Shir, in the Pura nature reserve.
“I Googled “The Israel National Trail” and found a site listing 1500 trails worldwide. The entry for the INT was: “The Israel Trail is very difficult to hike, there is no information available.” That’s the point where my life changed…I sat down and wrote a guidebook to the Trail in English.”
Moti & Eyal, Beit Gubrin.
”The subject of the meaning of life cropped up on one of our last hikes. If you accept the two dominant scientific theories of the last 200 years – The Big Bang, and The Theory of Evolution – then planet earth is not the centre of the universe, only a marginal, insignificant planet; and man is not the crown of creation, only another link in the chain of evolution. The question, “What is the meaning of life for man?” , is no different to asking, “What is the meaning of life for an Amoeba? “ Moti
Beni & Sonya from Switzerland, in Nahal Gvanim, Ramon Crater.
“We didn’t want to wait until we retire. In life, you never know what’s waiting for you around the corner.“ Sonya
Kelli Stein from Washington DC, by the Jordan River.
“A man in a pick-up truck stopped next to me and asked if I was hiking alone. Naively, I answered, “Sure, it’s wonderful!”...then I realised how stupid I had been.”
Guy & Alon, father and son, in Nahal Barak.
“Neither of us are athletic, but that hasn’t stopped us from doing a single section of the Trail. If we can do it, anybody can. Only once did we need to be rescued.” Guy
Dany Gaspar, veteran guide, Ein Akev spring.
“I once had a very old hiker who died before he finished the entire Trail. On his gravestone was a map of the Trail, marked with the areas which he had hiked, and those he had not yet completed. “
Ilan Safrai, Gaash Beach.
“At first, I thought I would be occupied by deep thoughts about life along the way, but no – I’ve simply enjoyed the moment.”
Jonathan Gross from Germany, in Ein Karem, Jerusalem.
“Life becomes very precious in the desert. You begin to cherish every flower.”
Julia from Slovakia and Klaus from Germany, by the Palmach Ascent.
“On our second night…four missiles were fired on Eilat from Sinai. Three were intercepted by ‘Iron Dome’, but the fourth went in the direction of the mountains. In the mountains there are no people, so there’s no need to intercept the missile. It exploded less than one kilometre from our tents.” Klaus.
Gal, Ran, Eddie & Yisrael at the end of the Trail in Eilat, on Coral Beach.
"It's tough, you're tired, sweating, hungry and in pain. All of you is concentrated into something extremely physical, and for those few hours, the other things in your life that are bothering you simply don't exist. I will miss this." Eddie
Gal & Shanit at the settlement of Tzukim in the Arava desert.
“…actually, I’m scared. Not of scorpions or falling from a cliff, but scared that one day I’ll wake up and no longer be excited by all of this. I want to continue to be passionate about the landscape, the challenge and the people that I meet.” Gal
Aviv & Hagai next to Sde Dov Airport, Tel Aviv
“The Trail taught me that everything works out in the end…you just need to maintain your optimism.” Aviv
Monica & John from Canada's Yukon Territory, in the Carmel Mountains.
“For 19 years we fed and took care of a pack of 24 Huskies, but the kids grew up, we wanted to travel, and it’s hard to find a dog sitter for 24 dogs.” Monica
Oren Pieck hiking through Nahal Amud.
“You get up in the morning and you know where you need to go. You don’t have to deal with the questions and doubts that overwhelm you in day to day life…on the Trail, the path has already been laid out.”
Noga, Vered & Yahaloma, by the ruins of Nebi Yosha Mosque.
“A terrifying dog stood between us and the path – I could see death staring me in the face …I yelled for someone to get the tear gas out of my pack. Noga, cool as a cucumber, told us to be calm and stay still, then she explains to the dog that everything’s ok, we just want to pass. The dog turned back and we passed.” Vered
Leora & Linda, hiking with 'Walk About Love', near Sea of Galilee.
“In [our group] a harmony exists between people who are very different from each other, because the challenge of the Trail brings us together. You meet people in their most raw state, so strong connections are formed. The trail tests your ability to reach out to another.” Leora
Paty Vilallon at the top of Mount Tabor.
“As a traveller, there is an emotional price to pay, because I have to be alone. Here, it’s Friday evening and I’m going to be sleeping in a Bedoiun camp with strangers. It’s not easy, but on balance, I prefer it like this, without doubt. I can no longer live any other way –I see a bird in a cage and have an anxiety attack.”
Tal, Dana, Arad & Yaara by the Hasbani River.
“We gossiped…a lot. About everybody. About each other, about friends and about people we don’t even know – and we haven’t even run out of what to gossip about. We didn’t discuss the meaning of life.” Tal
The Israel National Trail passes through the entire country, from Kibbutz Dan, near the Lebanese border in the North, to Eilat on the Red Sea coast in the South – a hike of more than 1,000km across a vastly changing landscape. It has been listed in National Geographic's 20 most "epic trails". The Trail takes an average of 45-60 days to complete if walked continuously, though many divide the hike into sections, completing the trail over the course of several years. The Trail attracts a unique range of hikers, from within Israel and from abroad, all searching for something else: recently released IDF soldiers exploring their country; visitors from northern climates lured by the desert; Christian pilgrims coming to walk the land of the Bible; professionals taking time out to work through a mid-life crisis; senior citizens taking on what might be their last major project, and friends spending some rare, uninterrupted time together.
The Hebrew word for ‘Trail’ or ‘Path’ is ‘Shvil’ and those who walk the Trail are nicknamed “Shvilistim”.