ḤULEH (Heb. חוּלָה), a valley and a former lake in N.E. Israel (see Physiography of the Land of *Israel, Rift Valley). Early Stone Age remains have been discovered in the Ḥuleh Valley, near the Benot Ya'akov Bridge. They include flint tools, iron hand-axes, flint flakes, etc., found together with bones of a Pleistocene elephant. In the Canaanite period, three cities near the Ḥuleh are mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts (late third millennium): Ijon, Abel, and Laish. Egyptian armies on expeditions to the Lebanon Valley passed through the Ḥuleh, and the cities of Abel, Laish, Ijon, and Kedesh, northwest of the Ḥuleh, also appear in the lists of cities conquered by Egyptian kings of the 18th Dynasty. During the period of the Israelite conquest, the Israelites achieved control of the Ḥuleh Valley after their capture of Hazor. The northern part of the valley, however, remained in the possession of the rulers of Beth-Rehob and Maacah until the tribe of Dan, retreating from Philistine pressure, conquered and settled Laish (Tell al-Qādī) renaming it Dan (Judg. 18). With the division of the monarchy, the Ḥuleh Valley was included in the kingdom of Israel. It was the scene of numerous clashes between the kings of Israel and Aram (i Kings 15:20) and was taken from Israel by the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser iii in his campaign in 733/2 b.c.e. Under Persian rule the valley was held by Tyre until the Hellenistic city Paneas was founded nearby in the time of the Ptolemies. The valley then received the Greek name Oulatha (Ḥulata) but the lake retained its early name of Yam Samcho (Gr. Semachonitis) which apparently already appears in Ugaritic documents. A decisive battle between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids took place near Paneas (200 b.c.e.) and after the victory of Antiochus iii, the city of Antiochus was founded at Dan and the whole region renamed "Valley of Antiochus." This district was conquered by Alexander Yannai and incorporated into the Jewish kingdom (Jos., Ant., 13:394; 17:24; Wars, 1:105). Although it was restored to the Itureans by Pompey, Augustus granted it to Herod in 20 b.c.e. (Ant., 15:359–60; Wars, 1:400) and it remained a possession of his heirs until the death of Agrippa ii (end of the first century c.e.). At that time Jewish settlement was renewed there; its rice production is mentioned in the Talmud (tj, Dem. 2:1, 22b). Lake Samcho was considered one of the seven lakes surrounding Ereẓ Israel. The Ḥuleh area subsequently belonged to the city of Caesarea Philippi (formerly Paneas) up to the time of the Arab conquest. Early Arab writers (e.g., al-Muqaddasī, 985 c.e.) praise the cotton grown in the Ḥuleh Valley and its mat industry. The valley still contained many villages in the 14th century. The lake was called Lake Malḥa by the crusaders after one of the springs in its vicinity. The erroneous identification of Lake Ḥuleh with the waters of Merom first appears in the crusader period. The Ḥuleh Valley also flourished after this period; Yāqūt (13th century) found it comparable to Iraq in its rice production and numerous villages. The valley however subsequently deteriorated through neglect and malaria. First Jewish settlements were founded in the Ḥuleh Valley and on its outskirts with the beginning of the Zionist enterprise (*Yesud ha-Ma'alah, *Mishmar ha-Yarden, *Maḥanayim). During World War i*Ayyelet ha-Shahar and *Kefar Giladi were added. After the acquisition of the Ḥuleh Concession, planned settlement was started in 1939 with the "Ussishkin strongholds," *Dafnah, *Dan, and *She'ar Yashuv, followed by settlements nearer the swamps (*Amir, *Kefar Blum, etc.).
For the history of the reclamation of the marshlands, see *Ḥuleh Valley.
Y. Karmon, The Northern Huleh Valley: Its Natural and Cultural Landscape (1956); idem, in: iej, 3 (1953), 4ff. (includes bibliography); Avi-Yonah, Geog, index; E. Orni and E. Efrat, Geography of Israel, 1 (1964), index. add. bibliography: M. Avi-Yonah et al., The Huleh and the Upper Jordan Region (1954); M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, vol. 1 (1974), 289; Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer. (1994), 226, s.v. Semachonitis Lacus.