Galilee – Israel’s Most Beautiful Region

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Galilee is the northernmost part of Israel, bounded from the south by the Jezreel Valley, the Harod and Beit Shean Valley, from the west by the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, from the east by the Jordan River Valley, and from the north by the state border.

A significant part of Upper Galilee is located outside Israel, in Lebanon. It extends to the Litani River, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea between Tire and Sidon and originates north of the Hermon Massif.

The Etymology of the Name

The name “Galilee” goes back to the Hebrew root of GLL (גלל), meaning “roll,” “wave.”

There are several other versions of the origin of the name: one of them explains its mountainous nature of the area (gal – wave), the other directly connects it with the Hebrew word “Galil” (גליל), meaning “district,” “neighborhood.” According to the third version, the name comes from the word goal (גולה) from the same root – removal, scattering.

The second and third versions are associated with the mention of this region in the Hebrew Bible as “Glil ha-Goyim” – “district of people” or “a place where different people are scattered.”

Geography of Galilee

The whole region is divided by the Beit Hakerem Valley into the Upper and Lower Galilee. In the northernmost part along the Hula Valley to Lebanon, there is the so-called Galilean finger. The coastal region is called the Western Galilee, and in the east of the Upper Galilee is Lake Kinneret.

It is characteristic of the entire Galilee that, and unlike other parts of the country, there is an excess of water here, and this sometimes leads to undesirable consequences. The red earth soils of the Galilee valleys do not provide satisfactory natural drainage. This leads to a high swampiness of the area, which was observed here until not so long ago. However, this was not the case in all historical periods.

In the Roman-Byzantine era, in the valleys of Galilee, there were no swamps, which later became the curse of these places. The area was densely populated, the soil was fertile.

This indicates a relatively high level of irrigation and agriculture in that era. The fact of the absence of swamps in the valleys of Galilee is also attested in the Talmud. The mountainous region of Upper Galilee, wooded and inaccessible, served as a shelter for the persecuted before laying modern roads.

Therefore, here, in the village of Pkiin, the Jewish population remained from the time of the Hasmoneans to the present day. Abundant precipitation, which distinguishes the Upper Galilee from the rest of the country, causes the phenomenon of “karst” – the chemical dissolution of Cretaceous and dolomite rocks.

As a result, many karst caves formed in the Upper Galilee. The most famous of them are the magnificent caves of Sasa and Alma. The central part of Upper Galilee is occupied by the Meron massif, the highest point of which is Mount Meron (1208 m), and individual peaks reach thousands and a few meters.

Lower Galilee, whose chains of small mountains (the main peaks are Kamon – 598 m, Tavor – 588 m, Yodfat – 548 m) interspersed with flowering valleys, served as a corridor for caravans and troops on their way from the sea to Damascus.

This led to the early flowering of urban civilizations on its territory, such as Beit Erah and Hatzor. A vast valley begins from the mountains of Samaria, which is divided into two parts: the western – Jezreel valley and the eastern – Harod valley.

The lands in the Jezreel Valley are very fertile. It was here back in the 20s. Keren Kaymet National Fund began to buy land from Arab sheiks.

Between the Jezreel Valley and the eastern plateaus, two mountains rise Tavor and Givat ha-Mor. The mountains of Nazareth border the Jezreel Valley from the north.


In 3000 BCE, The Canaanites settled Galilee. Some of their cities are mentioned in the archives of Mari (19–18 centuries BCE) and contemporary Egyptian texts, and in significant numbers – in the Bible (Josh., Judg.).

The types of these cities, judging by the excavations in Ahziv, Acre, Kedesh b-Galil, and other places, reflect the persistent influence of the civilizations of Mesopotamia. Some deviation was only the construction of the pores of the Hyksos invasion (1700-1580 BCE; typical city walls with slopes and ditches at their bases in Hazor and other places). The Hurrians who settled in those years in Galilee, as well as the Egyptians to whom Canaan was subject to in the 16th–15th centuries BCE and the Hittites that drove them back (14–13 centuries BCE) did not leave tangible traces of cultural influence in the Galilee.

During the Israeli conquest of lands west of the Jordan (13–12 centuries BCE; Joshua 19: 16–39 and Judg. 4: 6–24), Galilee was inherited by the tribes of Asher (northwest), Zvulun ( southwest), Naftali (northeast) and Issahara (southeast). By the end of the 11th century BCE, Galilee was taken over by the kingdom of Saul. However, it became its organic part only under David, who defeated the Philistines, who cut off Galilee (1004 BCE) by capturing the Jezreel Valley and subdued the Canaanites, who still owned several cities in the valley. After the death of Solomon (928 BCE) and the split of the state into Judea and Israel, Galilee became part of the kingdom of Israel, serving as its outpost for about two centuries in frequent battles with the Aramaic state of Aram-Dammesek.

In 732 BCE. Tiglat Palasar III ousted Galilee from the kingdom of Israel (completely conquered by Assyria in 722 BCE) and, turning it into the Assyrian province of Megiddo, stole a part of the Jewish population, but (unlike Samaria) he did not settle strangers in Galilee in exchange of the displaced Jewish population. Around 625 BCE, King Josiah (Joshiah) included Galilee in the kingdom of Judah. The reign of Babylonia (from 604 BCE), Persia (from 539 BCE), and the Hellenistic states of the Ptolemies (between 323 and 200 BCE) and the Seleucids were not marked by exceptional events for Galilee.

Yehuda Aristobulus I, after victories over the itureys who captured part of Upper Galilee, converted them to Judaism in 104 BCE annexed all of Galilee to the Hasmonean kingdom. Pompey, conquering Judea in 63 BCE, gave Samaria and other areas under the rule of Roman governors in Syria, and Galileo, remaining the province of Judea, was practically isolated from it. But the spiritual community of the Jews of Judea and Galilee remained, and with the reign of Herod I (37 B.C.), Galileo became one of the centers of opposition to his pro-Roman politics, and then the stronghold of the Zealots – the most active force in the First Jewish War (66– 73 A.D.)

In the territory of Galilee, a series of the most dramatic episodes of this war broke out. The conquest of Galilee by Vespasian brought closer the fall of Jerusalem, in defense of which the militia of Galilee, headed by Johanan of Gishal, distinguished itself the most. Eleazar bin Yair, the head of Masada’s defenders, was also from Galilee.

Galilee – Israel’s Most Beautiful Region

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