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Jezreel Valley *

Agriculture in the Jezreel Valley Photo: טל עוז

The Jezreel Valley is a large fertile plain and inland valley in the Northern District of Israel. It is bordered to the north by the highlands of the Lower Galilee region, to the south by the Samarian highlands, to the west and northwest by the Mount Carmel range, and to the east by the Jordan Valley, with Mount Gilboa marking its southern extent. 

Tel Megiddo

Tel Megiddo about 30 km south-east of Haifa. Megiddo is known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance, especially under its Greek name Armageddon. During the Bronze Age, Megiddo was an important Canaanite city-state and during the Iron Age, a royal city in the Kingdom of Israel. Megiddo drew much of its importance from its strategic location at the northern end of the narrow pass of Wadi Ara, which passes through the Carmel Ridge overlooking the Jezreel Valley from the west. Excavations have unearthed 26 layers of ruins since the Chalcolithic phase. The site is now protected as Megiddo National Park and is a World Heritage Site.

Late Bronze Age city gate
Photo: Golf Bravo

Jezreel

Jezreel was an ancient city’ within the northern Kingdom of Israel, and fortress within the boundaries of the Tribe of Issachar:

The fourth lot came out for Issachar, even for the children of Issachar according to their families. And their border was Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Shunem… (Joshua 19)

The best known biblical story connected to Jezreel places the death of Queen Jezebel here.

30 And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her eyes, and attired her head, and looked out at the window. 31 And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said: ‘Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master’s murderer?’ 32 And he lifted up his face to the window, and said: ‘Who is on my side? who?’ And there looked out to him two or three officers. 33 And he said: ‘Throw her down.’ So they threw her down; and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses; and she was trodden under foot. (2 Kings 9, 13-33)

Ruined tower at Jezreel, 1880s.
Photo: Public Domain

The archaeological site is located on a low hill on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley’s eastern edge. Archaeologists David Ussishkin and John Woodhead believe that Jezreel was a fortress that served as a cavalry base for King Ahab.

Megiddo and Jezreel

Mount Carmel

The Carmel range is approximately 6.5 to 8 kilometres wide, sloping gradually 39 km towards the southwest, but forming a steep ridge on the northeastern face, 546 metres (1,791 feet) high. The Jezreel Valley lies to the immediate northeast. Mount Carmel has three passes:

  • Yokneam (Jokneam) Pass (modern Route 70) 
  • Megiddo Pass (modern Route 65)
  • Dothan Pass (approximately Route 585)
A beautiful picture of the southwest face of mount Carmel during the sunset. This picture was taken from the entrance of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael.
Public Domain

Plain of Asher

The Northern Coastal Plain is bordered to the east by – north to south – the topographically higher regions of the Galilee, the low and flat Jezreel Valley, and the Carmel range. The Northern Coastal Plain borders Western Galilee in its northern part, and the Jezreel Valley in its southern part between Akko, where it is called Plain of Asher, and Haifa, where it is called the Plain of Zebulon.

Territory of Asher, 1873 map
Public Domain

Nazareth

Nazareth is the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. In 2018 its population was 77,064, predominantly Arab citizens of Israel, of whom 69% are Muslim and 30.9% Christian. Nof HaGalil (formerly Nazareth Illit) was declared a separate city in June 1974 alongside old Nazareth, and had a Jewish population of 40,312 in 2014.

In the New Testament, Nazareth is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.

Nazareth, 1842
Public Domain

Harod Valley

Harod Valley, which is the eastern part of the Jezreel Valley. While the Jezreel Valley is drained via the Kishon River to the Mediterranean Sea, the Harod Valley is drained through the Harod Stream (“Wadi Jalud” in Arabic) to the Jordan River. Maayan Harod (Ain Jalud) is the largest of the springs emerging on the northern slopes of Mount Gilboa. The source of the spring as well as other springs in the Beit She’an Valley to the east, comes from fresh rainwater that percolate into the limestone hills of Samaria and collect in an underground water reservoir beneath the areas of the Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin.

Ain Jalud (Maayan Harod) at the turn of the 20th century
Photo: Public Domain

Mount Moreh

Givat HaMoreh  is a hill on the northeast side of the Jezreel Valley. The highest peak reaches an altitude of 515 metres, while the bottom of the Jezreel Valley is situated at an altitude of 50–100 metres. North of it are the plains of the Lower Galilee and Mount Tabor. To the east, Giv’at HaMoreh connects to the Issachar Plateau. To the southeast it descends into the Harod Valley, where the Ain Jalud flows eastwards into the Jordan Valley.

Tomb of Nebi Dahi
Photo: Ori~

Mount Gilboa

In the Bible, Saul, Israel’s first king, led a charge against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4). The battle ends with the king falling on his own sword and Saul’s sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Melchishua being killed in battle (1 Samuel 31:1-4). King David, who hears about the tragedy after the battle, curses the mountain:

Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil (2 Samuel 1:21).

Mount Gilboa, located in the Lower Galilee region, south of the Sea of Galilee is one of Israel’s most beautiful spots. Whilst spring saturates the mountains in pretty wildflowers, no matter what the season, Mount Gilboa is a stunning, tranquil area to explore, offering a break from the intense summer heat with a cool breeze. The Gilboa Scenic Road is your access point into this array of hikes, viewpoints, picnic sites, bike paths, and stunning outlooks, and is a great path to follow when exploring the area.

Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor 8 kilometres (11 mi) west of the Sea of Galilee. In the Bible (Joshua, Judges), Mount Tabor is the site of the Battle of Mount Tabor between the Israelite army under the leadership of Barak and the army of the Canaanite king of Hazor, Jabin, commanded by Sisera.

In Christian tradition, Mount Tabor is the site of the transfiguration of Jesus.

Shimron Pass

Tel Shimron was one of the Bronze Age fortified Canaanite cities that controlled the Jezreel Valley, possibly the largest of them. All of these cities were located at an entrance to the valley, and controlled one of the roads leading into it.

Gath Hepher

The reputed location of  prophet Jonah’s tomb include the Arab village of Mashhad, located on the ancient site of Gath-hepher, a border town in ancient Israel.

Zippori

Sepphoris or Zippori  is a former village and an archaeological site located in the central Galilee region, 6 kilometers north-northwest of Nazareth. It lies 286 meters above sea level and overlooks the Beit Netofa Valley. The site holds a rich and diverse historical and architectural legacy that includes Hellenistic, Jewish, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader, Arab and Ottoman remains.

Aerial view of Sepphoris, 2013
Photo: AVRAMGR

It was believed to be the birthplace of Mary, mother of Jesus, and the village where Saints Anna and Joachim are often said to have resided, where today a 5th-century basilica is excavated at the site honouring the birth of Mary. Notable structures at the site include a Roman theatre, two early Christian churches, a Crusader fort partly rebuilt by Zahir al-Umar in the 18th century, and over sixty different mosaics dating from the third to the sixth century CE.

Yotfat

Ancient Yodfat (Jotapata), situated to the south east of the modern moshav, is mentioned in the Mishna as a fortified Jewish village dating from the time of Joshua, corresponding with the Iron Age. Archaeological explorations of the site have thus far revealed a modest village established some time during the Hellenistic period, between the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. As the Hasmonean kings extended their influence into the Galilee during the last decades of the 2nd century BCE, a change of population occurred at Yodfat and the village was populated by Jews.

Site of ancient Yodfat.
Public Domain

Kana

The Gospel of John refers a number of times to a town called Cana of Galilee. Among Christians and other students of the New Testament, Cana is best known as the place where, according to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus performed “the first of his signs”, his first public miracle, the turning of a large quantity of water into wine at a wedding feast (John 2:1–11) when the wine provided by the bridegroom had run out. Although none of the synoptic gospels record the event, mainstream Christian tradition holds that this is the first public miracle of Jesus.

Nein

Nein  is an Arab village in the Lower Galilee, 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) south of Nazareth. “The Nain of the New Testament” according to Luke 7:11–17, Jesus raised a young man from death and reunited him with his mother, the only son of an unnamed widow.

Nachal Arbel

Wadi Arbel Nachal Arbel

Mount Arbel  is a mountain in the Lower Galilee near Tiberias, with high cliffs, views of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, trails to a cave-fortress, and ruins of an ancient synagogue. Mt. Arbel sits across from Mount Nitai; their cliffs were created as a result of the Jordan Rift Valley and the geological faults that produced the valleys. See: Wadi Arbel, Nachal Arbel

View of Mount Arbel as seen from Hararit, Israel. (October 2011) Behind Mount Arbel the Sea of Galilee and Golan Hights can be seen.
Photo: Yuvalr 

Shunem

Shunaam was a small village mentioned in the Bible in the possession of the Tribe of Issachar. It was located near the Jezreel Valley, north of Mount Gilboa (Joshua 19:18). Shunaam is where the Philistines camped when they fought Saul, the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 28,4)

Ascent of Gur

IBLEAM – Yivleam (Heb. יִבְלְעָם), city located in the tribal district of Issachar which was held by Manasseh (Josh. 17:11). In his flight from Jezreel, Ahaziah, king of Judah, was killed “at the ascent of Gur, which is by Ibleam” (ii Kings 9:27). Belmain (Ibleam) is mentioned in Judith 4:4 and 7:3 as a place near Dothan. In crusader times Castellum Beleismum was part of the principality of Galilee. The name Ibleam is preserved in Wadi and Tell Balameh, 12½ mi. (20 km.) south of Afulah. On the large tell which guards the ascent to the valley of Dothan, sherds were found dating from the Early Bronze to Iron Age (Israelite period) and a rock-hewn tunnel leading to a spring at the foot of the tell.

Beit She’an

Beit She’an Scythopolis is a city in the Northern District, which has played an important role in history due to its geographical location at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley. In the Biblical account of the battle of the Israelites against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, the bodies of King Saul and three of his sons were hung on the walls of Beit She’an (1 Samuel 31:10-12). In Roman times, Beit She’an was the leading city of the Decapolis, a league of pagan cities.

Roman cardo in Beit She’am
Photo: Mark10:43

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