In The Gilboa Mountains, The Wildflowers Defy King David’s Curse
A scenic route through the hills is a stepping stone to hikes, overlooks, picnic sites, bike paths, and dozens of breathtaking views that vary with the seasons.
King Saul and his sons Jonathan, Avinadav, and Malchishua all fell on Mount Gilboa in a battle between Israel and the Philistines. The sons were slain; Saul was critically wounded and begged his armor-bearer to run him through with his sword. Terrified, the soldier refused, so Saul “took his own sword and fell on it.” [1 Sam. 31:1-4].
When he heard the news, David wept bitterly. Heartbroken at the loss of his king – and his best friend – he cursed the mountains of Gilboa in the Lament of the Bow: “O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings of grain.” [2 Samuel 1:21].
If you visit the Gilboa in winter or spring, the mountain’s masses of wildflowers seem to belie the curse. Come in summer, however, and you can’t help but feel its effect. For aside from trees planted by the Jewish National Fund, all you find on the Gilboa are dried ferula plants, a few scattered shrubs and the hardy purple globe thistle.
Yet with or without foliage, the Gilboa Mountains — overlooking the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel — are a sight to see. And an excellent road – the JNF’s Gilboa Scenic Route – is a stepping stone to hikes, memorials, overlooks, picnic sites, bike paths, and dozens of breathtaking views that vary with the seasons and your vantage point.
The Scenic Route climbs the Gilboa Ridge, which is 18 kilometers long and juts out from the northern side of the Samarian Mountains. Its proximity to the Syrian African Rift created steep cliffs on the Gilboa’s northern and eastern sides, over the Harod and Beit She’an Valleys, and at their tallest height they reach 650 meters above sea level.