It was my great fortune to make the acquaintance of both Jacob Saar and Dany Gaspar, two of the leading advocates for the Israel National Trail.
Left: Dany Gaspar leads a group near the Sea of Galilee.
Dany Gaspar is a legend in the Israeli hiking community. As the former coordinator of the Israel Trails Committee (ITC) at a time when the trail was being developed, he was personally responsible for determining many of the pathways the trail would take. He walked the mountains, the desert, the coastline, and the open fields of Israel in his quest to provide a trail that would be both challenging and inclusive of the country's diverse landscapes.
With his extensive background in Israel and in many other countries of the world, Gaspar is uniquely qualified to lead groups in Israel. After his work with the Field Schools (operated by the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel) and his leadership of the Israel Trails Committee, Gaspar made the decision to create his own company and become a full-time guide for seven months out of the year. The other months he spends doing preparation for the upcoming season, and visiting trails in other areas such as South America and Europe.
Jacob Saar is a one-man encyclopedia on the details of the Israel National Trail. He has published the leading guidebook (see below) used by almost all serious INT hikers. (The book is available in English and Hebrew.) Saar continually updates the book, and as an added bonus, provides online updates (see forum link below) to the guide's contents. This is a feature not found with many hiking guides.
Saar has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and has published over 30 scientific and technical papers. Jacob lived in Israel almost his entire life (he spent three years at Northwestern University in Illinois doing postdoctoral research) and has hiked all over Israel since he was young. In 2005 he thru-hiked the INT for the first time and since then has completed his second INT hike. He is hiking the trail for the 3rd time with his granddaughters and 4th time on his own or with friends.
He has authored the Hebrew guide "Shvil Israel" (INT) and the newly published guide (in Hebrew): "Long trails of Israel." In 2011 he published the Jesus Trail guide in both English and German.
In addition to this abundance of help for INT hikers, Saar maintains an "online forum for questions and answers, a forum which is becoming a place for hikers to exchange ideas. This process is in the formative stages, and as more English-speaking hikers hit the trail, the forum will grow in importance.
If you are planning to hike the INT, we recommend that you purchase this book: