A major internal plain stretching almost 30 miles (48 kilometers) across northern Israel, from the northwestern base of Mount Carmel to the Jordan Valley.
The Jezreel Valley is called, in Hebrew, Emek Yizreʿel ; in Arabic, Marj ibn Amir ; and in English, the Plain of Esdraelon. Its larger, western portion is based on the westward flowing Kishon (Muqatta) River, while its smaller, eastern portion is based on the eastward flowing Harod ( Jalud) River. Separating the hills of the lower Galilee in the north from the Carmel ridge and Samarian hills ( Jabal Nablus) in the south, the valley has been a natural route for travelers, merchants, nomads, and armies for thousands of years. Its agricultural land has consistently been cultivated by surrounding hill settlements.
Named for the ancient Israelite city of Yizreʿel (Hebrew for "may god sow"), the valley has supported varying levels of population throughout history. The dense habitation of pre-Crusader times later gave way to a thinner population and the emergence of marshland, both of which fluctuated historically and seasonally. During British rule in Palestine, Zionist organizations purchased parts of the valley and undertook Jewish settlement and marshland drainage, resulting in the rapid increase of its predominantly European-born Jewish population alongside the local Arab population. The events surrounding the 1948 war and the establishment of Israel resulted in a sharp decrease in the valley's Arab population and another increase in its Jewish population. The 1949 Israeli-Jordanian armistice lines cut across the southeastern valley just north of Jenin, leaving most of the valley within the borders of Israel and a small portion in the West Bank.
Naor, Mordechai. The Jezreel Valley, 1900–1967: Sources, Summaries, Selected Episodes and Material. Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Tzvi, 1993.
Smith, George Adam. The Historical Geography of the Holy Land: Especially in Relation to the History of Israel and the Early Church, 22d edition. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1896.