Israel National Trail
The Israel National Trail (INT, Hebrew: Shvil Yisra'el) is a hiking path that was inaugurated in 1995. The trail crosses the entire country of Israel. Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border in the far north of the country, and it extends to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea, a length of about 620 miles or 1,000 kilometers. The INT has been listed in National Geographic's 20 most "epic trails.", see more on this below.
The trail takes an average of 45-60 days to complete by foot , so most people – 6 out of 10 according to statistics compiled in 2010 – don't complete the entire trail. Recognizing this, the planners divided it into smaller sections that can be hiked separately. Some sections can be completed in day trips or over the weekend. Some sections can also be done with off-road vehicles.
INT is the brainchild of Ori Dvir, hiker, educator and one of the founder of The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). The INT is marked, managed and maintained by SPNI's trail committee which also blazes, marks and maintains the 15,000 kilometers of hiking trails all over Israel. The INT was officially inaugurated by then President of Israel, Ezer Weizmann in 1994. One of its purposes is to give Israelis a way to experience the entire breadth of the land firsthand. The various sections of the trail have been added progressively during this development.
In 2003 a portion of the trail in central Israel was diverted to run along the coast. The reasons for the change were the development of Highway 6 (a long highway in central Israel, cutting the country north to south), avoiding the security risk of walking along the Green Line (where there are many Arab vilages) and the desire to add to the trail sections with city and sea views.
Because the southern section of the trail passes through many isolated areas, hikers cache supplies of food and water at designated points on the trail before beginning the hike or pay for supplies to be delivered.
Hikers can seek help from "trail angels" along the trail who give a helping hand and often offer a place to stay free of charge or for a small fee to thru-hikers. About 120 "trail angles" were registered in mid 2013 with the SPNI.
Hiking the INT has become a popular phenomenon among Bar Mitzvah kids, newlyweds hike it for their honeymoon or anniversary, and before the army many young Israelis hike the Israel Trail. Many young Israelis hike the Israel trail after completing major milestones in their lives.
In 2012, National Geographic magazine included the trail on its best hiking trail list. It was praised as follows: "Passing through vast empty deserts and winding into kibbutzim, the Israel National Trail (INT) delves intot he grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the every day lives of modern Israelis (with opportunities to stop in the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). But beyond the immense sense of history and breaking news, the trail powerfully connects to something that often gets lost in all the headlines- the sublime beautify of the wilderness of the Middle East. The southern end of the trail crosses the harsh and lovely Negev, still populated by wantering Bedouins and long-horned Nubian ibex and willed with wildflowers in the spring. There's not much water to drink along the way, though the trail crosses plenty of wet spots. It dips into the 600-foot-below-sea-level waves of the Sea of Galilee, flanks the baptismal River Jordan, and runs along Mediterranean beaches north of Tel Aviv. Teh soutehrn terminus ends in teh resort town of Eilat on the Red Sea.
Life on the trail is safe and far from current hostilities. In face, the joy of the trail lis meeting the Israelis hiking it and spending some time in small kibbutzim where the local people will take hikers into their homes. On the trail, there is peace and friendship".
[sources: wikipedia and SPNI].
The stamp sheet dedicated to INT, containing 10 stamps, was published in 2013. Designers: David Ben-Hador and Ishai Oron. The stamp tabs depict the trail's marking sign of white-blue-red stripes.