The north conjures up images of rolling hills, jagged cliffs and black basalt volcanic rocks contrasted with white limestone. The beloved Kinneret or Sea of Galilee takes the center stage, being positioned as the lowest freshwater lake on the face of the earth, while Mount Hermon is set in the far north at the highest place, overseeing the region. The north covers both the tribal territories of Naphtali and Asher, and the Golan covers the ancient regions of the Bashan and the Decapolis. While the Golan borders on both Jordan and Syria, much of the upper Galilee touches the Lebanese border.
The north is pregnant with possibility. Less populated than the center, she is packed to the brim with agriculture, outdoor activities such as horse riding, rafting, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, boating, canoeing and so much more.
She boasts the highest percentage of minorities in the land, with Druze, Circassians, Arabic speaking Christians and Muslims and Bedouins together comprising the majority in this region. The north is divided into the Galilee and the Golan, each having a distinct character. Between them sits the Hula valley, which carries the waters of the springs of the north via the Jordan River, down towards the Sea of Galilee. Mount Hermon is enthroned at the highest point, overlooking all and dominating the scenery of much of the region.
The north boasts the largest water source in the middle east, the Dan spring, which is located in the Dan National Park. In terms of climate, the Golan sometimes receives snow in the winter and receives an average of 1120 mm/ 44 inches of rain per year. It becomes a little more dry as you go up away from the lake, but the temperatures can be quite high in the southern Golan; I can recall being at Susita at dusk with the temperature still being close to 40 degrees celsius/ 104 fahrenheit. In the northern Golan it is much cooler, with Mount Hermon being a climate in a class of its own as it is so much higher than everything else. If you love the snow and skiing then you might choose to live near Mount Hermon.
The Golan heights is packed with nature reserves and national parks, with numerous streams, springs and waterfalls. Israelis tend to view the Golan as their playground. They love to come here for the weekend or to have a vacation in the numerous and beautiful wooden cabins which are known as zimmerim. If you love the great untamed outdoors, the Golan heights is for you.
Jewish moshavim are scattered across the Golan Heights with four Druze villages in the north making up the rest of the population. Some of the moshavim are religious, some are secular, while a few are mixed. They exhibit great creativity in entrepreneurship, with activities ranging from the raising of free range beef, to growing pomegranates, mangoes, apples, cherries, to olive groves and vineyards, horse riding stables, jeep trails, camping, zimmerim, numerous air bnb’s, wonderful meat restaurants and more. A well kept secret is that if you want to eat a good steak, the best place to go is the Golan. Just don’t expect American style service, we don’t know how to do that!
Four Druze villages sit just below Mount Hermon, and they are famous for the fresh fruits, honey and nuts that are grown locally and sold at little stands at the side of the road across the region. You may also find stands with a fire and someone making Druze pancakes, which can be eaten with zatar (hyssop), a local cheese, or hazelnut spread. If you prefer something a little more classy, they have wonderful restaurants serving Syrian style cuisine, especially in the village of Masade, (Not to be confused with Masada!) where you should be sure to try their incredible and unique hummus and falafel (spoiler alert, they are huge and not round!). They also serve wonderful meats, and should you fancy a desert, you must go up to the most northern of the four villages to try their knafeh, which is a mouth watering sweet treat made from goat's milk.
The main and only city in the Golan is Katzrin with a population of around 7000 people. It has schools, medical facilities, grocery stores and much more. It has tranquil feel and ancient history that connects to the Jewish presence in this region that goes back more than 2000 years and is attested to by the ancient site of Katzrin.
The Galilee region is divided into several parts; the upper and lower Galilee, with a further division to eastern, central and western, each having a slightly different characteristic.
Some parts fall under the jurisdiction of Tzfat, others under Tiberius. These are two of the main cities of the Galilee, both being quite religious in character. Tiberius and Tzfat are two of the cities that are known as the four Holy cities, the others being Jerusalem and Hebron. Tzfat is included because of the deep connection to the Kabala, while Tiberius is the place where the Masoretic text was compiled, being the only extant copy of scripture which includes the teamim (a musical notation). Kiryat Shmona is the furthest north city in Israel.
The Upper Galilee is around 300m/ 1000 ft above sea level higher than the lower Galilee, giving a big variation in temperature and soil type which affects what can be grown there.
The Upper Galilee is more diverse in terms of population and possibilities for work, while Tiberius and the area around the Sea of Galilee is very important for tourism. Most of the hotels and other tourist facilities are located in this area.