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.
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel and the third largest city in the country. Built on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa has a history dating back to Biblical times. The earliest known settlement in the vicinity was Tell Abu Hawam, a small port city established in the Late Bronze Age (14th century BCE). In the 3rd century CE, Haifa was known as a dye-making center. Over the centuries, the city has changed hands: It has been conquered and ruled by the Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, Egyptians, and the British. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the city has been governed by the Haifa Municipality.
Today, the city is a major seaport located on Israel's Mediterranean coastline in the Bay of Haifa covering 63.7 square kilometres (24.6 sq mi). It is located about 90 kilometers(56 mi) north of Tel Aviv and is the major regional center of northern Israel. Two respected academic institutions, the University of Haifa and the Technion, are located in Haifa, and the city plays an important role in Israel's economy. It has several high-tech parks, among them the oldest and largest in the country, an industrial port, and a petroleum refinery.
Located on the northern slopes of Mount Carmel and around Haifa Bay, the city is split over three tiers. The lowest is the center of commerce and industry including the Port of Haifa. The middle level is on the slopes of Mount Carmel and consists of older residential neighborhoods, while the upper level consists of modern neighborhoods looking over the lower tiers. From here views can be had across the Western Galilee region of Israel towards Rosh HaNikra and the Lebanese border.
Haifa today has a population of over 285.000. Eighty percent are defined as Israeli Jews. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union constitute 25% of Haifa's population. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Arab citizens of Israel constitute 9% of Haifa's population. Haifa is commonly portrayed as a model of co-existence between Arabs and Jews in Israel, although tensions and hostility do sometimes still exist.
The Central District surrounds the Tel Aviv District to the north, south and east, with the Mediterranean Sea giving the western border. The majority of Israel’s Jewish population lives in this densely populated part of the country, with 21 cities being included in this district. The housing prices can be significantly lower in this district than in Tel Aviv itself. This region is characterised by the cliffs, beaches and dunes of the coastal plain and the flat fertile land that is famous for the citrus fruits grown in this area. The climate is hot and humid in the summer, with heavy rainfall in the winter.
Another name given to the region that extends from Rehovot in the south, to Herzliya in the north, is Gush Dan. Gush refers to the portion of Dan, referring to the tribal territory allocated by Joshua at Shilo. This sprawling metropolitan area is the largest in Israel, with an estimated population of over 4 million residents, 95% of whom are Jewish. Despite making up less than 8% of Israel's total land area, it houses about 45% of the country's total population. It is one of the largest metropolitan areas on the Mediterranean Sea and because of this it is also the most densely populated part of the land. Two parts of this district connect to the coast, while the rest is inland, connecting between the coastal plain and the lowlands.
Many of the cities in this area were established during the first wave of aliyah in the late 1880’s, such as Rishon le Zion, Petah Tikvah and Nes Tziona. These three Jewish cities have beautiful names; Rishon le Zion means The First to Zion, Petah Tikvah means Opening of Hope, and Nes Tziona is translated The Miracle of Zion. There were five periods of time known as waves as aliyah, when significant movements of the Jewish people towards the land of Israel (then part of the Ottoman Empire) took place.
The First Aliyah took place from 1882-1903 and was also known as The Farmers’ Aliyah because many of those who came wanted to learn how to farm the land. The majority of those who came during this period originated in Eastern Europe and Yemen, with approximately 25,000–35,000 immigrating during the First Aliyah. Part of the drive to make the long and arduous journey came from the horrific pogroms of Russia which took place from 1881-1882. Two of the movements that helped to train and prepare people to make this journey, and then to establish themselves in the land were named the Hibbat Zion and Bilu. Their stated goal was “the political, national, and spiritual resurrection of the Jewish people in Palestine.” Bilu chose a scripture that when translated to Hebrew, gives the first letter of each word of this phrase from Isaiah 2 v 5: “House of Jacob, let us get up and go!””
Though they were inexperienced in agriculture, most chose farming as their way of life, founding moshavot. These are villages where everyone has their own private property and their own agricultural land, but in order to maximize prices for produce, it is taken to the markets collectively. Rishon le Tzion was one of the first examples of these types of settlement.
The cities of Lod and Ramla have mixed populations, with both Arabic speaking Muslims and Christians and Jews living there. The area known as the Arab triangle, has several larger towns inhabited by Israeli Arabs, such as Kfar Kasim, Qalansawe, and Tayibe.
One of the most beautiful of the coastal cities is Netanya which has undergone significant regeneration and growth in recent years. It has a beautiful boulevard and steep cliffs that lead down to expansive stretches of sand.
Modi’in is the most inland of the center cities and is a planned new city which enjoys a growing population. The area is connected to the Maccabees, the heroes of the Hanukkah story.
There are many sayings associated with this lively part of the country: The first would be that Tel Aviv is known as the city that never sleeps, like New York and London. It is also said that: Jerusalem is to pray, Tel Aviv is to play, Haifa is for work!
The Tel Aviv district has around 1.35 million residents, with the vast majority being Jewish. It encompasses 10 cities; Tel Aviv-Yafo, Bat Yam, Bnei Brak, Givatayim, Herzliya, Holon, Kiryat Ono, Or Yehuda, Ramat Gan and Ramat ha Sharon. Each one has a different character, for example Bnei Brak is known as an Orthodox city. Herzliya, Bat Yam and Tel Aviv-Yafo are located on the coast, while the other seven are located a little more inland.
Tel Aviv-Yafo is the largest city within this area, with a population of over 400,000.
The double-barrelled name refers to the joining of two places; the ancient port city of Jaffa, with it’s mainly Arabic speaking population, and the new city of Tel Aviv, with it’s mainly Jewish population. Jaffa is famous internationally for the Jaffa oranges grown in this area of the coastal plain.
In 1909 Tel Aviv was nothing but sand dunes. That is until a group of families met and drew lots of seashells to determine who would receive the first 60 plots of land to build their homes on. In those days, the name of this place was Ahuzat Bayit, which loosely translated means homestead. The streets and some of the original homes can still be found and visited in the heart of the white city, and one houses the Independence Museum. The name Tel Aviv was given later, to honor Theodore Herzl, who was one of the most important founders of modern zionism. He wrote a book called Altneuland, or old new land in which he dreamed of a city that would be like New York, a port city which would receive new immigrants and which would have running water and electricity. He even foresaw the extraction of minerals from the Dead Sea; one could almost say that he was a modern day prophet as so many things that he described have come to pass. Tel is something old; an ancient mound containing multiple layers of human history, a peculiarly Middle Eastern phenomena. The month of Aviv represents the new; it is the month that heralds the spring, new life, and the Passover.
The white city of Tel Aviv that dominates this region is known for the white, international style of homes that were built in the early years of the establishment of the city. It is honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the large number of them in the heart of the city. The proximity of the airport to this region is also important to mention, as a gateway to the nations.
For young people, food lovers, vegetarians, vegans and surfers/ beach lovers, Tel Aviv is a paradise. Packed with gourmet and more modest restaurants, the choice is endless. The night life continues until the early hours of the morning, when revelers go home and those who are committed to swim every day rise with the morning sun. The choice of cultural activities is endless; from museums teaching the ancient and modern history of the area, to the concerts of the Philharmonic orchestra, or outdoor rock concerts, there is surely something for every age and taste in this vibrant metropolis.
For the person who is gifted in hitech, Herzliya is the Silicon Wadi (Valley) of the Middle East. Being located just north of Tel Aviv, Herzliya is named after one of the most important fathers of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl. A very high proportion of new immigrants choose to begin their life in Israel in the area of Tel Aviv, and because of the multitude of opportunities afforded here, many never leave.
For those for whom the bustle of the city is a little too much, there are many smaller coastal towns and villages in the area, some of which are connected to the famous orange groves that are named after the ancient city of Jaffa. It should be noted that in terms of climate, this region is warmer and much more humid than the mountainous Jerusalem environs, so come prepared! The winters can also afford heavy rainfall.
The southern district includes the southern portion of the coastal plain including the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, as well as the vast area of the Negev Desert. Sixty percent of the land of Israel is desert, and a large proportion of that land is found in the Negev, with the smaller portion being located in the Judean Desert. The Negev is divided into what is known as the Northern Negev, with its cities of Be’er Sheva and Arad, and the Negev proper, which together with the Arava, extends all the way down to the modern port city of Eilat. In between lies Dimona with its nuclear production and solar farms.
Be’er Sheva is fondly known as the opportunity capital of Israel, and the history of the city stretches back to the time of our forefather Abraham. In fact, Be’er Sheva is named after the well that Abraham dug in this area. It is the capital of the Negev and of the southern district of Israel, with the city itself having more than 220,000 residents and 750,000 people being included in the sub district of Be’er Sheva. The modern city was built by immigrants from 70 different countries, and to this day its residents come from a wide variety of communities. The demographic of the city's population is unique, being one of the youngest communities in Israel, with close to fifty percent of the residents being under the age of 40. The city boasts a thriving and growing university with close to 30,000 students, including the highest rate of students studying engineering in the entire country.
In terms of population size, Be'er-Sheva is the seventh largest city in Israel, although in terms of the size of its territory, it takes second place. The city covers 117.5 square kilometers/ 45.5 square miles, which is more than double the footprint of the city of Tel Aviv. Because of this, the district of Beer Sheva is highly significant because of the available land, and is important both for investors and entrepreneurs in this, the “startup nation”.
The sub district of Ashkelon has more than half a million residents, with Ashkelon being the closest city to Gaza. This district also includes the cities of Ashdod and Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi and Sderot. In ancient times this territory was occupied by the Philistines who were one of the bitter enemies of Israel at the time of King David and Solomon. Because of this, Ashdod hosts the world's only Philistine Museum. Ashdod has thriving cultural institutions and a rich variety of musical and sporting activities and education.
The ancient history of Ashkelon can be attested to by the finding of one of the most ancient arched entrances to a city which dates back to approximately 1750 BCE, to the time of our forefather Abraham. Today Ashkelon is popular among French and Russian speaking immigrants and has a large villa area close to the popular and bustling marina where many go to enjoy a meal by the water. In recent years the city has seen a great deal of investment and expansion.
The planned city of Ashdod boasts the largest port in Israel, and is the sixth largest city in Israel. It is located 20km/ 12 miles to the north of Ashkelon and has a population of around 225,000 people. Fascinatingly, the largest Moroccan and Karaite Jewish communities in Israel are found in Ashdod, as is the largest Georgian Jewish community in the world. Eighty five percent of the new immigrants who choose to settle in Ashdod are from the former Soviet Union. There is a beautiful 20 kilometer/12-mile stretch of sand dunes on the southern outskirts of Ashdod that is known as the Ashdod-Nitzanim Sand Dune Nature Reserve.
Eilat is located at the southernmost tip of Israel, and borders Egypt to the south west, and Jordan to the north east. It is located on what is known as the Gulf of Eilat, or in Jordan as the Gulf of Aqaba, on the northernmost tip of the Red Sea. Famous as a tourist destination, Eilat has a new international airport and a busy port. Israel's southernmost city has a population of more than 52,000 inhabitants, which is usually swelled by large numbers of domestic and international tourists. Eilat’s unique location is adjacent to the Egyptian resort city of Taba to the south, the Jordanian port city of Aqaba to the east, and is even within sight of Haql in Saudi Arabia, across the gulf to the southeast.
Eilat has a dry desert climate with temperatures often being in excess of 40 °C/104 °F in the summer, and 21 °C/70 °F in winter, with the water temperatures maintaining a range of between 20 and 26 °C/ 68 and 79 °F. Eilat averages three hundred and sixty sunny days a year. This is the place for you if you enjoy the heat!
The vast majority of Eilat's permanent population are Jews; around ninety six percent. However, Eilat has a large number of foreign workers, who work as caregivers, hotel workers and in construction. Eilat also has a growing Israeli Arab population, while many wealthy Jordanians and Egyptians like to visit Eilat in the summer months.
There is a campus of Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Eilat with one thousand one hundred students, as well as a Field School on the outskirts of Eilat. Scuba diving among the corals or dolphins are favoured pastimes in the most southern city in Israel. For the more spiritual or adventurous, the Timnah National Park - with what could well be the copper mines of King Solomon - and the Tabernacle Model are a must.
Arad is located on the border of the Negev and the Judean Deserts, 25 kilometres/ 16 miles west of the Dead Sea and 45 kilometres/ 28 miles east of Beersheba. The diverse population of over 25,000 includes Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, secular and religious, as well as Bedouins, Black Hebrews and new immigrants.
Arad was founded in November 1962 as an Israeli development town and has the honour of being the first planned city in Israel. Arad's population grew significantly with the waves of immigration, or Aliyah, from the former Soviet Union. Ancient Arad can be visited outside the city at the Nation Park of Tel Arad, which has a fascinating history. There is also a domestic airfield and even Israel's first legal race circuit. The city also boasts an annual summer music festival.
There are also smaller desert settlements in the Negev, which up until 1946 was almost devoid of Jewish inhabitation. In order to prevent the Negev being written out of the land of Israel as was stipulated by the Morrison Grady plan of July 1946 for the division of Palestine, the pre-state institutions decided to greatly increase the numbers of Jewish settlements in the Negev. After the sunset of the fast of Yom Kippur on October 6th 1946, four hundred pioneers reached eleven appointed destinations, establishing eleven settlements simultaneously on this night.
These eleven "Points" of the Negev are named Kedmah and Galon in the north-east, Shoval and Mishmar ha-Negev a little further south but still to the east; Nevatim and Hatzerim near Be’ersheva, and Urim to the west, near Gevulot; and, finally, the four "Points": Tekuma, Be'eri, Kefar Darom, and Nirim, bordering the Gaza Strip. During the War of Independence, these pioneers defended the new born Jewish State against the Egyptian armies. Since that time, they have turned vast areas of yellow desert into green pastures.
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime Minister, had a very strong vision for the Negev desert, believing that her development was crucial to Israel’s survival. He had a home in Sde Boker and was buried there. You can visit the little museum and memorial.
The 200mm line, as it is known, is just above Be’er Sheva and represents the line below which the land does not receive enough rainfall for traditional agriculture. Thus, up until modern day agricultural innovations and technologies, it was very hard to farm south of this line. However, in ancient times, a nomadic group of people lived in this area were known as the Nabateans. They lived from trading precious spices along the spice route that is today recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. They would travel from Oman with their caravans of camels carrying precious wares that included frankincense and fragrant perfumes, all the way to the port of Gaza. These valuable goods would be exported all the way across the sea to Rome. In fact, the mother of King Herod the Great was a Nabathean princess!
The Nabatheans had three main rules; not to drink alcohol, not to build houses and not to grow crops in a fixed location because these rules made it very difficult for rulers to control them. However, during the late Roman Period, they began to build very large homes in this region, the remains of which can still be visited in Avdat, Shivta and others. What is most notable about these locations is their use of ancient water technology, which they used to grow food and provide water for their settlements. We could say that it was the first use of agricultural innovation in the desert; almost 2000 years ago. Because such a large portion of the land of Israel is the Negev desert, this has forced modern day Israelis to be innovative in order to increase the amount of land that can be used for agriculture. Consequently, much of the agricultural innovation that Israel is famous for comes from the desert; including drip irrigation, which gives a specific amount of water and nutrients to each plant. In some locations, strawberries are grown at hand height to facilitate picking, and owls are used to control unwanted populations of mice in order to reduce the use of pesticides.
In the desert tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, carrots and olives can be grown, to name just a few examples. A fascinating fact; when fruits and vegetables are given brine water, the plant is forced to fight against the salt, which actually makes the produce even sweeter!
Today a modern day nomadic people dominate the desert landscape: the Bedouins. They have two types of settlements, the first are recognised by the State and have homes and modern infrastructure provided by the state. Then there are those that are not recognized, without modern infrastructure, where they live in tents and makeshift structures.
The three makhteshim, or large craters, including the heart shaped Makhtesh ha Gadol, or Big Crater, define the landscape of the Negev.
The physical land of Israel is very diverse. This is exemplified by the Jerusalem region, which encompasses three distinct geographical units.
Beginning with the western section of this region and continuing to the east, you have the Shephela, or lowlands, then the Judean Mountains which surround Jerusalem. As you continue to the east, you have the rainshadow desert that is called the Judean Desert and leads down towards the Dead Sea.
Because of the differences in altitude, humidity and so on, you effectively have three distinct climates to choose from in this region: The Judean Mountains are the highest altitude of the three and are also the coolest; the highest inhabited mountain within this area is the “yishuv” or village of Har Adar, which also boasts breathtaking views of almost eighty percent of the centre of the country. It is high enough to have snow in the winter. Jerusalem is a close second place in terms of altitude, with a beautiful breeze cooling the city down each day in the late afternoon/ early evening, as it has done since the days of the Jewish Temples.
Greater Jerusalem has expanded greatly in recent years, taking in peripheral neighbourhoods such as Pisgat Zeev and Givat Zeev in the north, Har Homa and Armon ha Natziv in the south, and Givat Shaul, Ein Kerem and others in the west. In terms of price, the more peripheral the lower the price; the closer to the Temple Mount, the more expensive. Each neighborhood tends to have a different character, from the artists’ high end neighbourhood of Yemin Moshe overlooking the walls of the Old City, to less expensive areas in the periphery, each with their own character. From high rise blocks to villas, from ancient to modern, Jerusalem has something for everyone, including the largest covered market in the Middle East.
The Judean desert includes the second largest settlement in Judea and Samaria - Ma’ale Adumim, which is a beautiful and lush desert town. The temperature is on average 5-10 degrees higher there than Jerusalem. It has very little rain; on average 500 mm per year. The altitude on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives towards the desert is considerably lower than Jerusalem, as it continues to drop down towards the Dead Sea.
The “Shephelah”, or Lowlands, is located between the coastal plain and the Judean Mountains. It feels much warmer there than in the Judean Mountains and has gently rolling chalk hills, in contrast to the limestone of the Judean Mountains that surround Jerusalem.
The Shephela has a rural, agricultural feel, with the largest city being Modi’in.
The Judean Mountains are primarily inhabited on the summits, with the Arabic speaking villages of Abu Gosh and Ein Rafa nestling in the valleys. These villages are favourite places for Israelis to eat on Friday lunch time and have excellent quality greengrocers and butchers as well. The hummus from Abu Gosh is famous nationally, and the Abu Gosh restaurant is listed in the Guinness book of records for the world's largest hummus!
Many people who live in the Jerusalem region actually make their living in Hi-Tech and drive daily to Tel Aviv or to Herzliya to work. Others worked in tourism, (Pre-corona!) benefitting from the extensive tourist infrastructure of Jerusalem and her environs.
The area around Jerusalem boasts some places that are in a very high socio economic group, such as Har Adar and Shoresh. People that live in these areas tend to work in Hi- Tech or research and development and as lawyers, entrepreneurs and people who have reached the top of their professions.
There are other more modest areas for those starting out in life, with some areas like Telstone being more religious in character, and others such as Meveserret and Castel being mixed with others being more secular.
In the Jerusalem region, there are expansive open spaces, national parks, nature reserves, horse riding facilities, swimming pools and a wide variety of places to eat out - especially in Jerusalem itself. Within Jerusalem you can also find more and less expensive areas, green and leafy suburbs with individual homes, as well as urban environments with new high rises springing up almost daily.
For an in depth article on Jerusalem please click here:
The name Judea attests to an ancient Jewish presence in this region, with Jews living in Judea at the time of both the first and second exiles. The southern part of the vast kingdom of King David and Solomon was named the Kingdom of Judah after King Solomon died. By the time of King Herod the Great, the southern portion was called Judea, with the northern portion being named Samaria or the Shomron, after her capital city whose ancient ruins still nestle in the hills to the west of Shechem.
Both internationally controversial and yet steeped with biblical history, Judea and Samaria have a unique beauty. Full of ancient archaeological sites and raw nature, much of the agricultural landscape has remained unchanged for millennia. Her olive groves and vineyards perch on the terraces of the hills, just as in the time of King David and Solomon. International boycotts and accusations hang over this region like a shroud and yet she carries so much promise. Living here is for the brave and the idealistic, as well as for those who long for peace between her inhabitants.
The southern part of Judea extends all the way down to Tel Arad in the Negev and the border of the 200mm line, beyond which it is difficult to have agriculture. In contrast, the northern border is formed by the verdant Gilboa mountains, where Saul and Benjamin lost their lives to the Philistines, almost 3000 years ago.
Judea and Samaria is divided into three areas; Area A where the Palestinian Authority has full military and civil jurisdiction, Area B which is shared and includes the majority of the roads, and Area C where the Jewish towns and villages are located.
Maale Adumim is the largest Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, boasting a population of close to forty thousand people. It is located in the Judean desert and there are views towards the Dead Sea and Jordan to the east and the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem to the west. Ariel is the second largest of the settlements, with a population of over twenty thousand. It also has city status, and is the only settlement to boast a university. Ariel is in the heart of Judea and Samaria and to the north east of Maale Adumim, and being located in wine and olive country, Ariel is much greener.
It was only possible to begin building in Judea and Samaria after the six days war in 1967, when Jordan retreated from these lands. Today, there are more than 150 Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria with more than three hundred and sixty thousand residents. There are many schools, businesses, factories, cultural centers, synagogues, libraries, health clinics and shopping centers.
Many residents enjoy a good relationship with their Muslim neighbours, preferring to buy their fresh produce from the shop-lined main streets of their villages and enjoying an occasional falafel or shwarma from their restaurants.
Judea and Samaria is a place of contrasts:
At times there is conflict and yet there are so many examples of reconciliation and good relationships between neighbours.
The different geographical units of this region result in different climates, rainfall and agriculture. For example; from the Judean desert to the Judean mountains, and from the Shomron to the Jordan Valley. There are mountains with cool breezes and low valleys; the Jordan valley being below sea level. The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth, and generally one of the hottest places in Israel, with Jericho being the lowest city on earth. (unfortunately Jericho is located in Area A, so Jews cannot live there.) Bananas, sweet oranges and dates are grown in the Jordan valley, while in the cooler mountain breezes you find olives and grape vines. The vineyards of the Shomron have won prizes in international competitions, even competing against the ancient viticulture of France.
Some areas are religious while others are secular or mixed; there is room for everyone.
In Israel, one rule of thumb can be: do first and ask permission later! The bureaucratic processes can be so cumbersome that some take a pragmatic approach. Thus, there are both outposts and government approved settlements.
The Nomadic Bedouins of the Judean desert take the same approach; if they have planted a tree, then in their culture the land belongs to them - this is the wild east! This contrasts with western way of buying land and living in cities, towns and villages. There is a contrast of population density throughout the region.
There are those who work in Agriculture, industry and tourism. Some industrial parks are designed to foster cooperation between Jews and Muslims. Those with a more academic bent may be drawn to the university town of Ariel, which is currently the only university in Judea and Samaria.
There is a rich tapestry of cultures and religions throughout this region; of Jews, Muslims, Christians and even Samaritans who are a small remnant of those from Temple times. They still live on Mount Gerizim where you can visit the ruins of their ancient Temple as well as a modern day museum.
There are many National Parks and springs, as well as outdoor activities such as jeeping in Judea and Samaria. Perhaps the most significant site is Ancient Shiloh; Israel’s first capital for 369 years and resting place of the ark and the tabernacle, from the time of Joshua and the tribes entering the land after their long journey from Egypt in the wilderness. One of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries was made by Adam Zertal of blessed memory, who believed that he had found several Israelite encampments in the shape of a foot, throughout Judea and leading to Shiloh starting at Argaman in the Jordan valley. It can still be clearly seen today and the evidence is striking. If you want to connect to the deep ancient Jewish roots, dating all the way back to the time when Abraham entered the land and built several altars, then this region is for you!
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