This hidden gem of a national park is arguably one of the most important biblical sites in the history of Israel.
Known in the time of Joshua as “the head of all those kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10), Tel Hazor is located in the eastern part of the Upper Galilee region. The 200-acre tel (archaeological mound made of layers of civilizations) is the largest archaeological site in northern Israel. Consisting of two parts, the Upper City (Acropolis), and the Lower City, Hazor is 11 times larger than the Old City of Jerusalem!
Hazor is saturated in biblical history, and it’s a draw for any serious student of the Scriptures. Starting as a Canaanite stronghold, Hazor quickly came under Israelite control when it was conquered and burned by Joshua (Joshua 11:1-11) in his victory over the Canaanites at Lake Merom. Later, the city would be gifted to the tribe of Naphtali (Joshua 19:35-39), but eventually returned to Canaanite rule. Hazor was also mentioned in the story of the prophetess Deborah and the Israelite general Barak, who delivered Israel from the oppression of Jabin, the King of Canaan (Judges 4 and 5). Under Solomon’s rule, Hazor became one of his famous chariot cities, along with Jerusalem, Megiddo, and Gezer.
What to see at Tel Hazor:
Today, visitors to the site can see remnants of walls and gates when Hazor was fortified by Solomon (1 Kings 9:15) to control the Via Maris (“way of the sea”), one of the most important trade routes in ancient Israel.
A water system, constructed by the Israelites a century after the reign of Solomon, still stands. Extending 40 meters deep into the tel, the shaft reaches the water table below, and ends at a wide tunnel, providing a water source within the city walls.
West of Solomon’s gate is a royal Canaanite palace encased in basalt, complete with a large courtyard. Excavators have found several clay tablets and bronze statues.
In addition, the ruins of a 9th-century Israelite citadel can be seen on the western side of the upper city.
Just north of the upper city across the Hazor valley, the lower city contains elements of a Canaanite settlement, including a temple with statues, and remains of tombs, pits, and gates.
For a site that is not often included on tour programs, Tel Hazor is easily accessible and has a well-appointed museum. If you’re planning to spend several hours there, it is recommended you hire a guide. Tel Hazor holds a rich and colorful history, one definitely worth exploring.