Land of Israel: Human Geography
In respect of human as well as of physical geography, it is convenient to divide the Land of Israel into four major units:
- the Mediterranean Coastal Plain
- the hill regions of northern and central Cisjordan (west of the Jordan)
- the Rift Valley of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea
- the desert regions of the Negev and the Aravah Valley (which are similar to parts of the Sinai Peninsula).
The great variety in natural features (see Physiography in *Israel, Land of: Geographical Survey) entails profound differences in historical evolution, demography, and economic development.
In the light of present-day economic considerations, the Coastal Plain has clear advantages and the deserts of the south come last for human settlement. Throughout most of history, however, security considerations were paramount in determining population density. In most periods, therefore, the hills were preferred to the lowlands. On the hilltops or the upper slopes, even small villages could hope to defend themselves against superior enemy forces; they used the poorest and rockiest ground, while retaining the better soils in the valleys for farming. Their economy being basically autarkic, they depended little on lines of communication. Settlers were repelled from the Coastal Plain and the large valleys of the interior (the Jezreel, Beth-Shean, and upper Jordan valleys), on the other hand, because the international thoroughfare, the Via Maris, ran through this area and provided foreign armies, which would plunder the inhabitants of any territory through which they passed, access to this region. Moreover, the assiduous hill farmer could build his terraces with primitive tools, make cisterns in which to collect his drinking water in winter and store it all year round, and thus draw a livelihood – albeit meager – from the soil. In many parts of the lowlands, on the other hand, which were covered with dense brush or malarial swamps, superior skill and knowledge were required to prepare the ground for habitation and agriculture and develop sources of fresh water. Consequently, successive generations of conquerors and rulers shifted the center of population and administration alternately between the Cisjordanian hills (west of the Jordan River) and the Coastal Plain. Peoples coming from the land side (i.e., mainly from the east), whose achievements in material civilization were inferior (i.e., Israelites, Arabs, Mamluks, and Turks), generally preferred the hills, while those crossing the sea from the west, possessing technical knowhow and a talent for international commerce, like Phoenicians, Philistines, Hellenes, Romans, Crusaders, or Jews in modern times, preferred the coast.
Only in periods of peak density and cultural achievement did the sedentary population spill over into the poorest areas – the northern and central Negev, the Lower Jordan Valley, the Aravah Valley, and southern Transjordan. As soon as the regime showed signs of weakness and decline, these regions again became the exclusive domain of the Bedouin nomad. The border between the desert and the arable land, though basically determined by climatic variations, oscillated violently with the interplay of human factors. Border peasants, protected by a strong central power, could extend their holdings over marginal lands in the transition zone, and governments sometimes settled active or demobilized soldiers to farm desert outposts. The nomads, on the other hand – dependent on the same transition zone for grazing in the dry season – awaited every opportunity to harass the farmers, tear down the fences and destroy homes, and cut trees for firewood or burn them down to use the ground for pasture. If they met no effective resistance, they penetrated ever deeper into the settled area. It happened repeatedly, however (as in the case of the Israelites), that intruding nomads or semi-nomads gradually became tillers of the soil themselves and later found it necessary to repel fresh Bedouin onslaughts.
As the country lies on the crossroads of three continents and two oceans, its population was in constant flux. Multitudes came and went, not only in the wake of historical events (e.g., the entry of the Israelites, the Muslim-Arab conquest, the Crusaders, or modern Jewish immigration), but even in periods when large-scale movements were hardly in evidence. Thus, for example, Egyptians may be supposed to have settled in considerable numbers during the first half of the 19th century, under the rule of Muhammad Ali. Under the British Mandate, there was again a substantial, though unrecorded and uncontrolled, immigration of Arabs overland from Transjordan, the Hauran, Egypt, etc.
Fundamental changes in the country's population were brought about not only by migration but, perhaps on an even larger scale, by the assumption of new national, religious, or linguistic identities on the part of entire sections of the population. Most of the Philistines, for example, seem to have been gradually absorbed into the Canaanite population, which, in turn, was largely Hellenized after the conquest of Alexander the Great. In both the First and Second Temple periods, a considerable part of the pagan population may be assumed to have adopted Judaism. The nascent Christian faith attracted followers among both pagans and Jews, and the process of conversion was accelerated when Christianity became the Roman, and then the Byzantine, state religion. A solid rural Jewish population existed for centuries, however, during the Roman and Byzantine periods, particularly in Galilee and Judea. While the early Arab rulers did little to promote the adoption of Islam by the indigenous population, Islamization spread before and after the Crusades, which led not so much to conversion to Christianity as to a fierce competition between the various Christian denominations. The group most strongly affected by developments from the early Middle Ages was the Samaritans; once prominent in the central areas, they dwindled to some 400 by the middle of the 20th century. Conversion to Islam, which seems to have engulfed the bulk of the remaining autochthonous Jews from the seventh century, continued among both Samaritans and Christians into the 19th century and later. Of the present Christian population, the majority speak Arabic and regard themselves as Arabs.
Distribution of the Population
After Israel's War of Independence (1948) and the signing of armistice agreements with its neighbors, the State of Israel measured 7,993 sq. mi. (20,700 sq. km.), of which 7,821 sq. mi. (20,255 sq. km.) constituted land surface. East Jerusalem, with an area of 24 sq. mi. (70 sq. km.) was reunited with the rest of the city after the Six-Day War (1967). The areas that came under Israel administration in June 1967 total 26,476 sq. mi. (68,589 sq. km.): the Golan Heights 444 sq. mi. (1,150 sq. km.); Judea-Samaria (the "West Bank"), with the districts of Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Jordan Valley, Bethlehem, and Hebron, 2,270 sq. mi. (5,878 sq. km.); the Gaza Strip 140 sq. mi. (363 sq. km.), and Sinai 23,622 sq. mi. (61,198 sq. km.), with the districts of north Sinai, central Sinai, and Merhav Shelomoh (the Sharm el-Sheikh region). The entire area governed by Israel from June 1967 thus totaled 34,493 sq. mi. (89,359 sq. km.).
The emergence of the State of Israel led to far-reaching changes in the geographical distribution of the Arabs. With few exceptions, they left those parts of the Coastal Plain, the Foothills and Hills of Judea, the Manasseh Hills, the Ḥuleh and Beth-Shean valleys, etc. that were occupied by Israel forces in 1948–49, and most of the Negev Bedouin left the region when it finally came into Israel hands. In Galilee, however, a considerable part of the non-Jewish population, particularly Druze and Christians, remained, while a larger number of Muslims left. In the small areas added to Israeli territory in 1949 in accordance with the Armistice Agreement with Jordan – notably the east rim of the Sharon Plain and the Iron Valley and Hills – the entire Muslim population remained. Consequently, Upper and Lower Galilee, the Iron Valley and Hills, and the eastern Sharon Plain constitute the main centers of Arab and Druze population inside the pre-1967 armistice lines; to these, East Jerusalem was added after the Six-Day War. Of the 36,800 Bedouin in Israel, most lived in the Arad region east and northeast of Beersheba.
At the end of 1969, the overall population density amounted to 371.9 per sq. mi. (143.6 per sq. km.) as compared with 111.6 per sq. mi. (43.1 per sq. km.) in 1948. As in most countries in the 20th century, rapid urbanization took place. Of Israel's population, 82.5% (89.2% of its Jews) were inhabitants of 26 towns and 50 other urban communities; of the 2,397,200 town dwellers, 2,215,500 were Jews and 181,700 non-Jews. The categories termed "large" and "small" villages, totaling 154, included 98 Arab villages and 56 Jewish moshavot or villages of similar form; the former had 201,800 and the latter 53,300 inhabitants. The 349 moshavim, with 122,700 inhabitants, constituted the largest Jewish rural group, followed by the 230 kibbutzim, with 84,400. There were 22 moshavim shittufiyyim, with 5,200, and 46 farms, institutions, and schools with 12,500. There was a preponderance of moshavim in comprehensive regional settlement areas (e.g., Lachish, Taanach, and Merḥavim) and a concentration of kibbutzim in the Jordan-Yarmuk (Kinneret), Ḥuleh, Beth-Shean, and Harod valleys and in areas near the pre-1967 borders. Of the 26 cities and towns, 18 were exclusively Jewish, two (Nazareth and Shepharam) exclusively non-Jewish, and six others (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Ramleh, Lydda) were mainly Jewish but had non-Jewish minorities. Inside the pre-1967 armistice lines, Israel had a total of 877 settled places, 76 urban and 801 rural.
Although the geographer's "law of the primate city" (the tendency of the largest city in a country or region to overdevelop at the expense of the remote areas) is at work in Israel, as in other modern countries, planning and development have succeeded to some extent in counteracting the overriding attraction of the metropolis and influencing the distribution of the Jewish population. In 1936, 78% of Palestine's Jewish population lived in the central part of the Coastal Plain, between Haifa in the north and Gederah in the south; 12% in Jerusalem and the Judean Hills; 9.6% in Galilee and the interior valleys; and only 0.4% in the Negev. This compares with an estimated 63% for the central Coastal Plain in 1968; 9.5% in Jerusalem and the Judean Hills; 11.5% in the South and the Negev (Ashkelon and Beersheba sub-districts); 10% in the northern district; and an estimated 7% in those parts of the Haifa, Ḥaderah, Ramleh, and Reḥovot sub-districts lying outside the Coastal Plain or south of Gederah. After the Six-Day War there was also a steady increase in the growth of the Jewish population in Jerusalem.
In 2002 the main part of Israel's population was concentrated in the districts lying along the coastal strip. Over the years the dispersion of population reached the peripheral areas of the country, while the changes in the rate of dispersion occurred mainly in the Jewish population.
In 2002, 21.5% of the Jewish population lived in the Tel Aviv District; 26.7% in the Central District comprising the central lowlands; 10% in the Northern District lowlands; 14.8% in the South; 11.9% in the Haifa District, and 10.8% in the Jerusalem District.
The period after 1967 was characterized by the rapid settlement of the administered territories in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, the establishment of such new towns as *Ariel, *Ma'aleh Adumim, and Efrat, and the building of many new neighborhoods in Greater Jerusalem. Another noteworthy feature was the mass immigration of Russian Jews to Israel in the 1990s and their rapid absorption in all parts of the country.
The Coastal Plain
The lowland strip along the Mediterranean shore is geologically the youngest part of the country. The shoreline is mainly straight with a few promontories and indentations, notably Jaffa Hill; a stretch of the Carmel coast between Dor and Athlit, with diminutive bays and headlands; the slightly protruding Carmel cape at the mountain's northern extremity; and Haifa Bay further north. The straight course of the shoreline is unfavorable to the construction of anchorages and ports and has, through most of the country's history, given little encouragement to the development of seafaring and fisheries. The Coastal Plain narrows gradually from 25 mi. (40 km.) wide in the south (at the latitude of Gaza) to 9–12 mi. (15–20 km.) in the Sharon, a few hundred meters in the northern Carmel coast, and 2.5–3 mi. (4–5 km.) in the Acre Plain south of Rosh ha-Nikrah. It is crossed by numerous watercourses, of which the majority are ephemeral. Of the few perennial ones, the Yarkon River carries the most water. Sands thrown up by the sea form a belt of coastal dunes obstructing the outlet of watercourses and contributing to the forming of swamps, principally in the Sharon and Zebulun valleys, which finally disappeared in the 20th century with intensive Jewish settlement and drainage work. The most characteristic soil of the central Coastal Plain is the "red sand," which combines a coarse, porous texture, easily drained and aerated, with adequate mineral content; it is best suited to the cultivation of the local "Jaffa" orange. Toward the south and Negev, it has an admixture of loess, which is concealed over certain stretches beneath a cover – generally thin – of arid dune sand. The eastern Sharon, the Carmel Coast, and the Acre Plain have mostly heavier soils, and parts of the Zebulun Valley are characterized by black swamp soil.
The climate of the Coastal Plain is influenced by the sea, which reduces temperature spans between day and night and summer and winter. Relative humidity is generally high; in built-up areas, like Tel Aviv, it is an irritant on hot summer days. Annual precipitation increases in general, from south to north: rainfall ranges from 4–6 in. (100–150 mm.) at the southern end of the Gaza Strip to 20–24 in. (500–600 mm.) in the Sharon, the Carmel Coast, and the Zebulun Valley, and somewhat more in the Acre Plain. With the exception of its Negev and Sinai sections, the Coastal Plain forms part of the lowland type of the Mediterranean vegetation zone.
The Coastal Plain, which was prosperous during the period of the Crusades, was laid waste by the Mamluk ruler Baybars to prevent any further Crusader invasions. Of the seaports, all but Jaffa and Acre ceased to exist, and even these retained only a fraction of their former importance. Paradoxically, the destruction was worst in those parts enjoying a relatively humid climate, where impenetrable brush and malarial swamp spread quickly, providing hideouts for highway robbers. At the end of the 18th century, conditions reached their nadir.
From the beginning of the 19th century, villages situated near the western rim of the hills began to cultivate lands in the adjoining plain, and even hill peasants from more remote villages ventured out into the lowlands, at first staying only during the sowing and harvesting seasons but later transforming their temporary huts into permanent dwellings. These became daughter settlements of hill villages and often bore the same names, with the Arabic words nazla ("descent" – from the hills) or khirba ("ruined place" or "outpost") attached. At approximately the same time, new villages, which supposedly drew many of their inhabitants from Egypt, came into being in the southern Coastal Plain. Jaffa, too, began to expand again, serving as the country's only port for, inter alia, renewed Christian and Jewish pilgrimages. Orange and other fruit groves were planted in the town's immediate neighborhood; Sir Moses Montefiore's aid to the Jewish community included the planting of a citrus grove near Jaffa (today Tel Aviv's Montefiore quarter). In the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the German *Templer colonies were founded, mostly in the Coastal Plain (Sarona near Jaffa, Wilhelma near Lydda, and Neuhardthof and the German Colony near Haifa).
A new era in the history of the area opened with the establishment of the Mikveh Israel farming school in 1870. Then came the attempt by "old yishuv" families from Jerusalem to set up Petaḥ Tikvah in 1878 and, finally, from 1882 onward, the founding of the first modern settlements by Jewish pioneers from abroad: Rishon le-Zion, Nes Ẓiyyonah, Gederah and Mazkeret Batyah south and southeast of Jaffa; the new site of Petaḥ Tikvah northeast of the town; and Zikhron Ya'akov on Mt. Carmel north of the Sharon. In the 1890s followed the establishment of Reḥovot and Ḥaderah, and the tentative erection of two settlements further south (Be'er Toviyyah and Ruḥamah). The transition from grain to fruit farming and the larger openings for hired labor entailed therein increased the capacity of the Coastal Plain moshavot to absorb Jewish newcomers, but also stimulated a large-scale migration of Arabs from the hills – and even from beyond the country's borders – and the quick expansion of Arab villages in the area.
In the first decade of the 20th century, citrus groves were planted in the veteran moshavot of the Coastal Plain and Jewish workers' quarters, some of them with auxiliary farm holdings, were established to absorb immigrants from Yemen and elsewhere (Naḥalat Yehudah near Rishon le-Zion; Tirat Shalom, Sha'arayim, and others near Reḥovot; Maḥaneh Yehudah near Petaḥ Tikvah; Naḥali'el near Ḥaderah). The network of villages began to spread in the southern Sharon (Kefar Sava, Kefar Malal, and others). Parallel with this was the accelerated growth of Jaffa, where a sizable Jewish community took root. The Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization opened there under Arthur Ruppin in 1908, and Tel Aviv was founded as a suburb of Jaffa in 1909. On a more modest scale, Haifa took on an urban character: the Hadar ha-Carmel quarter was founded, and the Jewish community of the city began to grow.
In the years following World War i, the settlement network became closer in the southern Sharon (renewal of Kefar Sava, founding of Herzliyyah, Ra'anannah, etc.), the citrus groves expanded, and Tel Aviv became a town on its own. In the beginning of the 1930s a continuous chain of Jewish villages was already in existence in the Sharon, thanks to the acquisition (in 1927/28) of the Ḥefer Plain by the Jewish National Fund (jnf), which had also purchased parts of the Zebulun Valley (Haifa Bay area) and prepared the latter's development according to a master plan, dividing it into industrial, residential, and agricultural zones.
This was followed by the establishment of numerous kibbutzim and moshavim in the Sharon and the Rishon le-Zion–Gederah area, as well as the first Jewish foothold in the Acre Plain (Nahariyyah, 1934; Shavei Zion, 1938). The Petah Tikvah–Ḥaderah road, completed in 1936, was the first fairly long communications line running through an area inhabited exclusively by Jews. Tel Aviv and Haifa became the country's largest cities. The port of Haifa was opened in 1934, and Tel Aviv was permitted to construct an anchorage when the Arab riots paralyzed Jaffa port in 1936. At the same time, the Arab villages in the Coastal Plain, particularly those in the Jaffa-Lydda area, expanded further, thanks to the prosperity brought by Jewish settlement activity. Tulkarm and Qalqīlya, on the eastern border of the Sharon, as well as Majdal (Ashkelon) in the south, became small towns.
The founding of Negbah in 1939 heralded settlement in the southern Coastal Plain and the northern Negev, which was pursued throughout World War ii and the 1946/47 struggle with the British authorities; Dorot, Nir Am, Gevaram, Yad Mordekhai and other outposts came into being, and another kibbutz, Beror Ḥayil, was set up in May 1948 during a War of Independence battle on the site. With few exceptions (e.g., Fureidis near Zikhron Ya'akov and al-Mazra'a near Nahariyyah), the Arab villages in the Coastal Plain were abandoned in the 1948 war, generally even before Israel forces occupied them. On the other hand, the population stayed on in the Arab villages of the eastern Sharon (al-Ṭīra, Ṭayyiba, Jiljiliya, Qalansawa, etc.), which became Israel territory in 1949, following the Armistice Agreement with Jordan. At the end of the War of Independence, few Arabs remained in former Arab towns (Acre, Ramleh, Lydda, Majdal) and mixed towns (Jaffa, Haifa), where Jewish immigrants were housed from the end of 1948.
After 1949, several veteran moshavot in the Coastal Plain (Rishon le-Zion, Reḥovot, Petaḥ Tikvah, Netanyah, Ḥaderah, Nahariyyah) acquired city status. New villages, mostly moshavim, were set up in all parts of the area, especially in the Acre Plain, the eastern rim of the Sharon, the Lydda Plain, and the Southern Plain. Settlement in the latter region expanded further, mainly eastward, with the implementation of the Lachish regional development project from 1954. From the middle 1950s, a number of development towns were erected, particularly in the south (Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malakhi, Sederot, etc.). Simultaneously, the Tel Aviv region became Israel's major conurbation.
In the 1960s Ashdod, Israel's second Mediterranean port, was founded and quickly expanded on the sand dunes near the mouth of Naḥal Lachish. Similarly, other Coastal Plain cities and towns progressed, some reaching populations of 50,000 and over. The population of the Tel Aviv conurbation, together with the "outer ring," exceeded 1,000,000 in 1970.
After 1967 industry and services expanded still further in the Coastal Plain. Haifa and Ashdod ports and Ben-Gurion Airport attained record turnovers. All these entailed a further concentration of population and a further steep increase in population density. At the end of 2002, the inhabitants of the districts lying within the Coastal Plain (including parts of Haifa on Mt. Carmel) numbered nearly 4,648,000, approximately 70% of the total population within the pre-1967 borders. The Tel Aviv conurbation and, to a lesser degree, the Haifa conurbation have naturally formed the major attraction for immigration and internal migration. At the same time, however, there has been a slight but constant displacement of the population center toward the south since the early 1950s. This is due not only to the speedy growth of Beersheba (see below), but also to the successful planning and development of Ashdod, Ashkelon, and smaller urban centers in the southern Coastal Plain and to the sound foundations laid for farming villages.
In 2002 the Coastal Plain was the most densely settled and intensively utilized agricultural region of Israel, and an outstanding example of the impact of agrotechnical changes and the evolution of a region. The most striking changes in land use came through urbanization, mainly after 1967. The most marked urban development took place in rural settlements which also included a stretch of coastline: Ḥaderah, Netanyah, Herzliyyah, and Tel Aviv. Almost all other former agricultural moshavot have become towns based on services and industries, such as Pardes Ḥannah, Ra'anannah, Kefar Sava, and Ramat ha-Sharon.
the southern plain (negev coastal plain and philistine plain)
The Southern Plain extends from the mouth of Naḥal Lachish to the south and southwest to merge, almost imperceptibly, with the Sinai coastal area. In the east, it borders on the southern Judean foothills and, in the southeast, on the Beersheba depression, where again, the transition is hardly noticeable. The parts lying within the pre-1967 borders cover an area of some 560 sq. mi. (1,450 sq. km.), whereas the Gaza Strip measures 140 sq. mi. (363 sq. km.). Of all sections of the Coastal Plain, this has experienced the most thorough transformation since 1948.
The population of the Gaza Strip at least tripled when it was flooded by refugees late in 1948. At the end of 2003, the Strip's sub-districts of Gaza and Khan Yunis had about 1.2 million inhabitants. It had the extremely high population density of 8,262 per sq. mi. (3,305 per sq. km.). The Ashkelon sub-district, evacuated by practically all its Arab inhabitants in the wake of the same events, has been covered by a network of 101 Jewish villages, towns, and cities; it has grown faster in population and density than any other area in Israel, with the exception of the northwestern part of the Beersheba sub-district. Its population rose from 7,200 (4,800 Jews and 2,400 non-Jews) in November 1948 to 426,800 (393,400 Jews and 33,400 non-Jews) at the end of 2002 and the population density of the sub-district increased from 14.0 per sq. mi. (5.8 per sq. km.) to 830.2 per sq. mi. (372.1 per sq. km.).
Concurrently, land use underwent profound changes in the Gaza Strip and the rest of the South, as irrigated fruit orchards and garden and field crops replaced dry farming. While in the Gaza Strip this entailed the drilling of numerous, mostly shallow wells and the over-exploitation of the ground-water table, in the Ashkelon sub-district and the northwestern Negev it was the regional Yarkon-Negev pipeline and, later, the National Water Carrier that made intensification of agriculture possible. In the Gaza Strip and the western part of the Ashkelon district, which have lighter soils, citrus groves took the lead. On the heavier soils further inland, particularly in the central and eastern parts of the Lachish region, preference is given to irrigated field crops (cotton, sugar beets, fodder plants, etc.). In the southernmost reaches (Sha'ar ha-Negev and the Eshkol development region), out-of-season export vegetables and flowers, which are favored by mild winters, have become important since the late 1960s. There were 39 Jewish villages in the northwestern part of the Beersheba district (the Besor region, part of which belongs geographically to the Coastal Plain) and 102 in the Ashkelon district. Most are moshavim, although kibbutzim are preponderant in the zone next to the Gaza Strip. Comprehensive regional planning, facilitated in the Southern Plain by the extensive areas abandoned in 1948, is characterized by clusters of villages around regional centers, which in turn depend on regional towns (Sederot, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malakhi). These towns also introduced industry based generally on farm produce. The oil wells of the Ḥeleẓ-Beror Ḥayil area introduced an additional feature (see Oil and Gas in *Israel, State of: Economic Affairs). Ashkelon (founded 1948) and Ashdod (founded 1955) became the sites of large and middle-sized industrial plants. The economic pivot of Ashdod is its port. Ashkelon has also developed recreation and tourism. The erection of the terminal of the large oil pipeline at Ashkelon and the refineries, whose construction began in 1970 at Ashdod, herald a quickened urbanization process in the South.
The 21 Jewish settlements of the *Gush Katif group in the Gaza Strip, established between the early 1970s and the 1990s and reaching a population of around 8,000, were dismantled in August 2005 following an Israeli government decision to withdraw from the area.
The term Judean Plain may be applied to the section lying between a line running east from the mouth of Naḥal Lachish and the bed of the Yarkon River. Together with those parts of the Tel Aviv district and Petaḥ Tikvah sub-district, which, lying north of the Yarkon River belong geographically to the Sharon area, it measures 310 sq. mi. (about 800 sq. km.). It includes the Tel Aviv district, the Reḥovot and Petaḥ Tikvah sub-districts, and most of the Ramleh sub-district. This region was the scene of the earliest modern Jewish settlement (Mikveh Israel, Petaḥ Tikvah, Rishon le-Zion, etc.). Today most of it is occupied by the Tel Aviv conurbation (Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramat Gan, Ḥolon, Bat Yam, Bene Berak, Givatayim) and its outer ring (Rishon le-Zion, Reḥovot, Ramleh, Lydda, Petaḥ Tikvah, etc.). In 2000 it had over 2 million inhabitants in 154 settled places, more than one-third of the country's population. The population density at the end of 2002 was 3,600 per sq. mi. (1,440 per sq. km.). Thanks to a rich groundwater table and the light "red sands" prevalent in the southern and southwestern parts, this is one of the main centers of Israel's citriculture. On the heavier soils between Lydda and Petaḥ Tikvah there are citrus groves and other intensive crops, largely of the truck-farming type. The Judean Plain contains over half of Israel's industrial enterprises as well as the country's most dense communications network. Planning efforts in this area aim largely at preventing it from becoming one shapeless "megalopolis" and preserving a neat separation between residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and recreational zones, permitting the cities within the conurbation to merge, with time, into one single social and economic unit, but guarding the independence of the towns in the "outer ring." It is thus intended to keep commuting within reasonable limits and not to complicate the grave traffic problems even further.
The wide areas of the Judean Plain served as the largest receiving ground for new immigrant settlers. They facilitated the adoption of new planning principles which found their successful expression in the Lakhish Planning Region, a model of integrated rural and regional planning which was later adopted in other regions of Israel.
The development towns in the south were created and planned according to the policy of population dispersal. The largest town is Ashdod, which became the central town of the Judean Plain. Ashkelon developed on the abandoned Arab township of Majdal and became an industrial town beside its natural park and resort areas. Minor development towns were developed as intermediate links in the urban hierarchy of the region, such as Kiryat Gat, Yavne, and Kiryat Mal'akhi.
The Sharon, extending from the Yarkon River north to Naḥal Tanninim, is Israel's foremost farming area. Administratively, it includes the Sharon sub-district and most of the Ḥaderah sub-district, as well as the northern part of the Petaḥ Tikvah sub-district. The Sharon measures about 330 sq. mi. (860 sq. km.). It has 155 settled places and 267,900 inhabitants (including 11 Arab villages with 70,000 inhabitants), and the population density is 2,423.2 per sq. mi. (969.3 per sq. km.). The western halves of all three sub-districts are characterized by light "red sands," particularly favorable to citriculture, while in the east heavier soils prevail. Water supply is ample throughout the region. The southernmost reaches are included in the Tel Aviv conurbation (Herzliyyah, Ramat ha-Sharon, North Tel Aviv) and its outer ring (Ra'anannah, Kefar Sava, etc.). Netanyah is the urban center for the central Sharon and Ḥaderah for the north. A dense network of Jewish rural agglomerations – mostly moshavim and moshavot, with a smaller number of kibbutzim – covers most of the Sharon. The eastern rim, however, on both sides of the pre-1967 armistice lines, has a predominantly Arab population. Ṭayyiba is the largest village within the former borders, while the towns of Tulkarm and Qalqīlya lie beyond them. Besides farming enterprises based exclusively on citrus and villages combining citrus with truck farming (vegetables, dairy cattle, poultry), there are also farms geared to special export crops, such as flowers. There are industrial plants in the major towns and moshavot, as well as in the kibbutzim. Tourism and recreation are catered to by towns and villages near the coast.
carmel coast region
Administratively, most of this narrow, elongated area belongs to the Ḥaderah sub-district. With an area of 29 sq. mi. (76 sq. km.), it has 67 settled places (54 Jewish and 13 Arab) with 309,500 inhabitants (including 134,800 non-Jews), and a population density of 1,401 per sq. mi. (541.0 per sq. km.). The region has the advantages of fertile, mostly heavy, alluvial soil and an abundant ground-water reserve, not only facilitating fully irrigated farming but also leaving a water surplus, which is diverted to other parts of the country. In addition to citrus groves, vineyards, deciduous fruit, and field, fodder, and garden crops, there are banana plantations, which benefit from the mild winters and, particularly, from the wind shelter provided by the wall-like slope of Mt. Carmel rising in the east. In addition to 13 Jewish and two Arab villages, a number of settlements on Mt. Carmel (e.g., Bet Oren, Ma'yan Ẓevi) cultivate fields in the Carmel Coastal region. Athlit is the principal agglomeration. The northernmost part, with Tirat Karmel, belongs to the Haifa conurbation.
haifa bay area (zebulun valley)
Mt. Carmel in the southwest, the Tivon-Shepharam Hills in the southeast, and the hills of Lower Galilee in the east clearly delineate this valley; in the north, the Acre-Aḥihud highway is a recognizable border. It covers an area of some 90 sq. mi. (230 sq. km.). Administratively, its southern part belongs to the Haifa district and the northern one to the Acre sub-district. This area was the object of the first regional planning effort, undertaken with the aid of the British town planner, Patrick Abercrombie, at the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, which determined its present physical and habitational characteristics. The coastline was largely transformed by the construction of Haifa port, and later, of the Kishon port. The original partition into an industrial zone in the south, a residential zone – the kerayot (pl. of kiryah, "township") – in the center, and agricultural area in the north, with further farming land in the eastern part of the region, has been superseded by the expansion of the Haifa-Acre conurbation. One industrial zone stretches from Kishon port, near the southeast corner of Haifa Bay, southeastward to Nesher, along the foot of Mt. Carmel; a second has developed north of the kerayot zone, extending along the shore to the southern approaches of Acre and including the "Steel City" complex; Kiryat Ata in the east forms a third industrial nucleus. The residential zone of the "kerayot" (Kiryat Ḥayyim, which is within Haifa's municipal boundaries, Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Motzkin, and Kiryat Bialik) has expanded considerably northward, particularly on the east side of the Haifa-Acre highway, thus leaving to agriculture only the easternmost and southeastern sections of the region, with Jewish villages (Kefar Masaryk, Afek, Kefar ha-Maccabi, Yagur, etc.) and Arab centers (Shepharam, etc.). The Haifa Bay area is Israel's primary center of heavy industry. Agriculture includes intensive field and garden crops. This is the only section of the Coastal Plain where citrus is not grown (see *Haifa).
Within the industrial zone there exists a certain functional differentiation. The old industrial zone between the main and Kishon harbor includes the old Shemen table and cooking oil factory, the power stations, and gas installations. To the east is the area of the chemical and petrochemical industries based on the oil refineries.
The residential quarters have spread out in all directions, while the most important development was in the west towards Bat Gallim, Kiryat Eliyahu, and Kiryat Eliezer.
Owing to the proximity of the Bay and Mount Carmel, Haifa is one of the most beautiful towns of the Mediterranean and in addition enjoys a pleasant climate on the top of Mount Carmel and a diversity of landscape which is matched by a diversity of functions.
The Acre Plain extends from the Acre-Aḥihud highway north to Rosh ha-Nikrah and the Ḥanitah-Adamit ridge. In the east, the limestone hills of Upper Galilee rise in stark contrast to the fertile, intermediate-to-heavy soil cover of the Plain which, measuring about 45 sq. mi. (some 120 sq. km.), is included in the Acre sub-district. In addition to Acre, Nahariyyah exercises administrative and economic functions as a second center of this region. Apart from highly intensive and almost fully irrigated farming, recreation facilities are important in the region's economy. Industry is principally based on the two towns. There are 17 Jewish and nine non-Jewish villages and the development town Shelomi.
At least half of Israel's area within the pre-1967 armistice borders, and over 60% of Cisjordan, have a hilly or mountainous topography. Elevations reach 3,380 ft. (1,035 m.) in the Negev (Mt. Ramon), 3,350 ft. (1,020 m.) in Judea (Mt. Ḥalḥul), 3,085 ft. (940 m.) in Samaria (Mt. Ebal), 3,963 ft. (1,208 m.) in Galilee (Mt. Meron), and, outside Israel-held territory, 9,233 ft. (2,814 m.) at the peak of the Hermon block. Apart from the Negev, the hill region proper includes Judea in the south, Samaria in the center, and Galilee in the north. The transition from Judea to Samaria is gradual, but Galilee is clearly separated from Samaria by the tectonic valleys of Jezreel and Ḥarod. The characteristic soil of limestone areas is the reddish-brown, relatively heavy and fertile "terra rossa." The chalk hills have mostly rendzina soils of paler hues which, although inherently poorer, are friable and easy to till; on valley bottoms, they are often enriched with organic matter. Erosion runoff has always been the central problem of hill farming. The streambeds are dry in summer and even in winter carry water only occasionally after heavy rain.
The hill climate differs, generally, from that of the Coastal Plain in sharper temperature differences between day and night and, mainly on hilltops, in perceptibly cooler winters, although even there the summer heat is equal to that of the lowlands, and the sharav (ḥamsin) is even more oppressive. Humidity is generally lower in the hills, except in midwinter, and evaporation stronger, but rainfall on the western side of the hills is superior to that on the Coastal Plain. Snow falls in Jerusalem and Hebron on the average once in two or three years, and in the highest parts of Upper Galilee nearly every year, although, as a rule, it remains on the ground for a few hours only. In contrast, the eastern side of the hills descending to the Jordan rift lies in the rain shadow, but the arid zone in Samaria is much narrower than in Judea, and on Galilee's eastern slopes rainfall is everywhere above 16 in. (400 mm.) per year. Deforestation has left few remnants of the original plant cover, belonging to the hill type of the Mediterranean vegetation zone. The eastern side of Judea (the Judean Desert, Wilderness of Judah) and of Samaria belong partly to the Irano-Turanian dry-steppe zone and partly to the Saharo-Arabian desert zone. Of the hill regions west of the Jordan – Judea, Samaria, and Galilee – the lower parts (Shephelah, northern Samaria, Lower Galilee), with their broader intermontane valleys, deeper soils, and easier thoroughfares, have been better endowed for settlement since antiquity than the higher reaches (Judean Hills, southern Samaria, Upper Galilee).
Since the late 18th century, Christian churches and monasteries erected in the hills have contributed to the progress of farming, at least in their immediate neighborhood (e.g., Ein Kerem near Jerusalem, Bi'r Zayt in southern Samaria, Kafr Kannā in Lower Galilee), as well as to the importance of towns sacred to Christianity (Bethlehem, Nazareth). In the 19th century, earthquakes caused ravages at Safed, Tiberias, and Nablus, but in the long run did not impede a certain amount of growth in these centers, paralleling that of other towns in the hills and on their outskirts (Hebron, Ramallah, Tulkarm). For Jerusalem, a new chapter began when Jews and non-Jews founded new quarters outside the city walls. At the end of the 19th century, however, the hills began to cede their dominant position to the Coastal Plain. Although emissaries of early Jewish pioneer groups tried to acquire land for settlement near Hebron and elsewhere in the hills, they were soon discouraged by the high prices of land, the unavailability of sizable holdings, and the restricted possibility of farming on European models. Of the three small Jewish hill settlements established before 1899 – Moẓa, Ein Zeitim, and Hartuv – the two latter existed only intermittently.
A new phase opened in the first decade of the 20th century, when the *Jewish Colonization Association (ica) founded grain-farming villages in eastern Lower Galilee (Ilaniyyah, Yavne'el, Kefar Tavor, etc.). A few private villages (Mizpah, etc.) were established and a training farm opened at Kefar Ḥittim on jnf land. All these villages, like their few predecessors in the hills, did not develop satisfactorily. Kiryat Anavim, a kibbutz founded in 1920 west of Jerusalem, made the first steps toward modernization of hill farming, and two more small villages, Atarot and Neveh Ya'akov, were set up north of Jerusalem. The next hill settlement, Kefar ha-Ḥoresh, was founded only in 1935 west of Nazareth.
Three out of the four traditional "holy cities," all of them in the Hills, suffered setbacks in the 1930s. The old Jewish community of Hebron ceased to exist after the 1929 Arab riots; the Safed community gradually dwindled; and that of Tiberias stagnated. Only Jerusalem's Jewish population increased vigorously in that period.
Hill outposts were finally established on a planned basis and on a larger scale as *stockade and watchtower settlements: from 1937 in the Manasseh Hills (Ein ha-Shofet, Daliy yah, etc.), with the aim of creating a "settlement bridge" between the Sharon and the Jezreel Valley; in eastern Lower Galilee (Sharonah, Kefar Kisch, etc.), to strengthen the existing network of villages; and, since 1938, near the Lebanese border in western Upper Galilee (Ḥanitah, Eilon, etc.). In the Judean Hills, Kiryat Anavim was joined, in 1938, by Ma'aleh ha-Ḥamishah and, in 1946, by Neveh Ilan. The Eẓyon Bloc was established in the Hebron Hills between 1943 and 1947, but was destroyed in the 1948 War of Independence, when Neveh Ya'akov and Atarot also had to be evacuated. While the 1947 un partition map allocated practically all the hill regions to the proposed Arab state (with the exception of a narrow strip of eastern Galilee, Mt. Carmel, and part of the Manasseh Hills), the 1949 armistice borders added to Israel the rest of Galilee and the Manasseh Hills, the Jerusalem Corridor, and most of the Shephelah, as well as part of the Iron Hills.
Energetic settlement activity started at the end of 1948 in the Jerusalem Corridor and, to a lesser degree, in Galilee. To overcome the particular difficulties of hill settlement, which requires large investments in land reclamation in the initial stage and a long period of waiting until farming becomes remunerative, the jnf established work villages. Afforestation was carried out on a large scale, transforming the landscape and providing initial or supplementary employment to new settlers in the Hills. In 1955, the development of the Adullam region, south of the Jerusalem Corridor, was commenced as an extension of the Lachish region, and in 1963 another development program was launched in central and northern Galilee. Of the relatively few development towns built in the hills, not all expanded as anticipated. In Galilee, Ma'alot struggled hard to overcome its difficulties and attract industry, while the hope of turning Shelomi into a growing urban center was practically given up. Naẓerat Illit (Upper Nazareth) and Migdal ha-Emek, on the other hand, succeeded after initial hardships, and the progress of Karmi'el, slow until 1967, accelerated after the Six-Day War. Similarly, Beth-Shemesh in the Judean Hills, for a long time problematic, made some progress only after sizable industrial plants were established there in the late 1960s. Of the ancient towns in Galilee, Safed and Tiberias regained their original population figures soon after the flight of their Arab inhabitants, but further growth was slow after the early 1950s. Nazareth, which hardly suffered in the War of Independence, greatly improved its economic situation in the State of Israel and became its primary Arab center. There were record increases (averaging 4% and more annually) in the population of the Arab hill villages of Galilee and the Iron Hills, which greatly broadened their economic foundation.
The parts of the region west of the 1949 armistice lines belong to the Jerusalem, Ramleh, Ashkelon, and Petaḥ Tikvah sub-districts. East Jerusalem was reunited with the capital's western parts in 1967. The remaining area of the former Jordanian Jerusalem district was added partly to the Bethlehem and partly to the Ramallah district. The third district of former Jordanian-held Judea is that of Hebron.
In this area, which was completely abandoned by Arabs in 1948 and had only a few small Jewish settlements (Ḥuldah, Gezer, Ben Shemen), resettlement began at the end of that year near the "Highway of Valor" (Kevish ha-Gevurah), built to secure the access to Jerusalem, and in 1949 east of Ramleh and Lydda. The kibbutzim of Netiv ha-Lamed-He and Bet Guvrin were at first solitary outposts further south, but more villages were established as part of the Adullam Project after 1955. At the southern and northern extremity of the area, only isolated villages were founded on the sites of the projected Adoraim and Modi'im regional schemes. While Kiryat Gat, Ramleh, Lydda, and Petah Tikvah, all situated outside the western rim of the Shephelah, have become population centers for the area and exercise economic and other functions, Beth-Shemesh is the only development town in the Shephelah proper. In population density, the Shephelah remains well below the average of central and northern Israel. Farming is mostly of a transition type, with partly intensive field crops located on valley bottoms (Elah, Aijalon, Sorek valleys, etc.) and deciduous fruit orchards and vineyards prominent on higher ground. Afforestation takes up considerable areas.
In the part of the Judean Hills proper included in Israel in 1948/49, the first new settlements were founded near the Jerusalem highway, and others were added later further south. The easternmost reaches (Mevasseret Zion, Moẓa, Bet Zayit) have since the late 1960s been gradually becoming suburban extensions of Jerusalem. Farming is based principally on poultry and fruit orchards, the latter planted on laboriously terraced hillsides, but there are also some recreation and tourist facilities.
Hebron and Bethlehem Districts
In the population census held by Israel in 1967, the Hebron and Bethlehem districts had about 180,000 inhabitants, the great majority being Muslim Arabs. The Hebron district had a population density of 290 per sq. mi. (112 per sq. km.) and the Bethlehem district 88 per sq. km.; about half the area of the former and over two-thirds of the latter lie within the uninhabited Judean Desert in the east. Of the 87 Arab villages in the Hebron and the 45 in the Bethlehem district, some of the largest lie, characteristically, near the desert border. Most of the villages have existed for centuries or millennia, but small agglomerations, inhabited by Bedouin in the transitional stage from nomadic to sedentary life, refugees of the 1948 war, and others, came into being between 1948 and 1967 in the southwest corner of the Hebron Hills and east of Bethlehem. The dominant crop is the lateripening vine; vineyards have spread in the last decades over new hillsides. Wheat and olives are second and third in importance. Hebron and Bethlehem (the latter with its sister towns Beit Jālā and Beit Sāḥūr) are the only urban agglomerations. After the end of 1967, the Jewish *Eẓyon Bloc, destroyed during the 1948 war, with 14 villages, a rural center named Allon Shevut, and the town of Efrat were revived.
The Ramallah District
The Ramallah district numbered some 89,000 inhabitants (1967), with a population density of 298 per sq. mi. (115 per sq. km.). Besides the twin towns of Ramallah and al-Bīra, it had 87 villages, after the inclusion of part of the former Jordanian Jerusalem district. Its northern border coincides approximately with that separating Judea and Samaria. Apart from Ramallah and al-Bīra, where first steps toward industrialization have been taken, the district has a rural economy based on olive groves, other fruit orchards, and field crops – the latter principally in small intermontane valleys like that of Levonah (Marj Lubbān).
Most of this region lies in what was, after 1967, the Israel-held territory of Judea-Samaria, comprising the three districts of Nablus, Tulkarm, and Jenin. Only the northwestern extension of the Samaria Hills, composed of the three subregions of the Iron Hills and Valley, the Manasseh Hills, and Mt. Carmel, as well as the northern rim of Mt. Gilboa, were part of pre-1967 Israel.
Nablus, Tulkarm, and Jenin Districts
In 1967 the Nablus, Tulkarm, and Jenin districts had a combined population of some 303,000, nearly exclusively Muslim Arabs. At the same date, the population density amounted to 565 per sq. mi. (218 per sq. km.) in the Tulkarm, 355 (137) in the Jenin, and 249 (96) in the Nablus district. Villages are more or less evenly distributed over the region, the eastern slopes descending to the Jordan Rift excepted. In farming, olive groves are dominant on the hillsides, and sheep, goat, and cattle herds constitute important supplementary branches. Small fig orchards thrive on relatively moist sites. Thanks to the numerous intermontane valleys covered with fertile alluvium (Shiloh, Mikhmetat, Dothan valleys, Marj Sānūr, etc.), however, agriculture in Samaria is much more variegated than in Judea, comprising winter and summer field crops, vegetables, watermelons, and so on. In the north, deciduous fruit orchards and some citrus groves have been added since the 1950s. From 1967, farming methods greatly improved under the guidance of Israeli experts and new crops, like cotton, have been introduced. An area apart is the narrow Fāriʿa Valley descending to the Jordan rift, where intensive crops irrigated with the water of the perennially flowing Wadi Fāriʿa include citrus, dates, bananas, and other subtropical and tropical fruit, as well as vegetables, green fodder, and so on. The three district centers – Samaria's only urban agglomerations (two of them, to be exact, lying outside the Hills) – subsist mainly on handicrafts, commerce, and administrative functions, although the process of industrialization, begun on a very modest scale before 1967, was speeded up under Israeli administration. The northern and northeastern edges of Mt. Gilboa, which belonged to Israel prior to 1967, have for the most part become an area of afforestation, and one outpost kibbutz, Ma'aleh Gilboa, has been founded there.
Israel's conquest of Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem in the 1967 War enabled it to extend its frontiers, to improve its security and strategic position, and to realize what many Jews perceive to be their historical right to "all the Land of Israel." After the Six-Day War in 1967 the territories came under Israeli military administration and the previous orientation to Jordan was partly replaced by linkages with Israel. During the conquest of Judea and Samaria some 250,000 Arabs fled the region. Jerusalem then became a reunified city.
At the end of the Six-Day War Judea and Samaria had approximately 595,000 inhabitants, some 225,000 of them in 12 urban centers. By 2002 the Arab population has increased to over a million. The rural population also underwent intense urbanization and is dispersed in over 400 villages of various size. The main reason for the population expansion is the very high natural increase among the Arabs, approximately 37 per 1,000 annually in contrast with 19 per 1,000 among the Jews. The fertility rate among the Arabs remains seven births per woman, while infant mortality is decreasing. The Arab population is much younger than the Jewish one. More than half the Arabs in the administered territories are less than five years old. This figure promises an even higher population in the future. To this should be added the fact that the Arabs still live together in large families and that their attachment to their land does not encourage emigration.
Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria after 1967 was undertaken for the most part by the religious right as a religious imperative, under the auspices of such groups as Gush Emunim. Settlement commenced with a return of Jewish inhabitants to their pre-1948 homes in settlements or neighborhoods evacuated in the 1948 war, such as the Jewish Quarter in Old Jerusalem, the Eẓyon Bloc, and Hebron. Settlement was accelerated when the Likud under Menaḥem Begin came to power in 1977. The new government authorized settlements on ideological grounds in locations avoided by Labor governments, because they did not serve a strategic purpose and were positioned in areas of dense Arab population concentration.
A highly significant process was the post-1977 wave of settlement that exploited the spatio-economic potential of the West Bank, namely its proximity to Israeli population centers. In effect, settlers were supplied from four major sources: the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, the city of Jerusalem, Israel's periphery in Galilee and the Negev, and Jews from abroad. Most settlers from the Tel Aviv area moved to settlements in the West Samaria area, while most settlers from Jerusalem moved to a group of settlements around Jerusalem. The Haifa area contributed its part to the settlement of North Samaria, while the Israeli periphery contributed mostly to West Samaria and the Jerusalem area. Jewish colonization of the West Bank was mostly part of the metropolitan expansion of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The development eastwards started mainly after 1977 as a consequence of the massive and rapid construction of new settlements on the western fringes of the Samaria mountains. These settlements were constructed as suburbs, without a local economic base, as part of the declared government policy of populating the occupied territories. It involved largescale government spending on land purchases, the construction of infrastructure, and housing projects, with the whole of the occupied territories accorded the status of a development area, which meant government subsidies for housing and loans to private construction companies and industries willing to relocate. By 2002 around 130 settlements with about 230,000 Jews had been established in the region by the Israeli government. The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria was widely dispersed, in keeping with a policy of occupying as much land as possible. Only a few urban or semi-urban settlements in the region are likely to play a role in the future redelineation of boundaries. Foremost among them are the towns of *Ariel, Emmanuel, Elkanah, and Alfei Menasseh, the town of Ma'aleh Adummim east of Jerusalem with its 25,000 inhabitants, and the Eẓyon Bloc with its 19,000 settlers.
Iron and Manasseh Hills
Of the Iron and Manasseh Hills, belonging partly to the Ḥaderah and partly to the Jezreel sub-district, the former is predominantly inhabited by Arabs and characterized by partly intensive mixed farming, in which there was considerable progress after 1949. Villages like ʿAra, ʿArʿara, and Umm al-Faḥm much more than doubled their population. Mei Ammi was founded in 1963 as a border kibbutz on the armistice line. Farming in the Manasseh Hills-which contain 11 Jewish villages, mostly kibbutzim, as well as one Arab village – comprises intensive field crops and fruit orchards, milch cows, sheep, poultry, and so on. Most kibbutzim have industrial enterprises to complement their economy. The Manasseh Forest, with over 7,000,000 trees planted by 1970, is the largest in the country.
The main importance of the region lies in its role as the historic transit zone from the Coastal Plain to the Jezreel Valley and on to Transjordan and Damascus. The pass between the Menasseh hills and Iron valley was used throughout history as part of the "Way of the Sea" route and was guarded by the town of Megiddo. Even today the Iron-Megiddo pass is on the main road from the Coastal Plain to the Jezreel Valley and Galilee.
The northwestern extremity of the Mt. Carmel block is occupied by suburbs of Haifa. Large parts of its central and southeastern sections have been declared nature reserves, and the expanses covered with pine woods form the background for the recreation facilities developed at several sites (Bet Oren, Ya'arot ha-Karmel, Nir Eẓyon, etc.). Villages on or near the mountain's western edge cultivate land in the Carmel coastal plain below. On the top of Keren ha-Karmel, at the mountain's southeast corner, a Catholic monastery stands on the spot traditionally held to be the site of the prophet Elijah's contest with the priests of Baal.
The difficult topography of Mount Carmel allowed only a small area to be used for agriculture, so that natural vegetation has been preserved there more than in any other part of the country. All slopes are covered with well-developed Mediterranean scrub, and in favored places natural forests, consisting mainly of pine, have survived. All these areas have now been designated as a nature reserve.
Administratively, the Galilean hill country belongs to the Acre, Kinneret, and Safed sub-districts. The hills proper cover an area of over 700 sq. mi. (approximately 1,815 sq. km.). Their population density amounts to about 344 per sq. mi. (132 per sq. km.). Arabs and Druze are in the majority, with 351,100 out of 685 800 inhabitants.
The area south of the Bet ha-Kerem Valley and southwest of the Ammud Gorge falls into two separate parts. The first is western and central Lower Galilee, with the towns of Nazareth and Naẓerat Illit (Upper Nazareth) and a few Jewish rural settlements scattered among many Arab villages, some of which are large. The second part is the exclusively rural southeastern Lower Galilee, characterized by nearly flat basaltic plateaus dissected by deeper gorges, in which Jewish villages constitute the majority. In the west and center, olives, deciduous fruit orchards, and vines are to be found on hillsides, while field crops, primarily wheat, are cultivated in the valleys. The largest intermontane valley, Bikat Bet Netofah, with an open canal of the National Water Carrier running through it, is in some rainy winters partly flooded, and its fertile soil is therefore used mainly for summer crops. Eastern and southeastern Lower Galilee, which before 1948 cultivated grain almost exclusively, have introduced additional crops (e.g., cotton, deciduous fruit, etc.) since Israel's independence.
The Lower Galilee has a normal Mediterranean climate with continental influences and a greater range of temperatures. From the point of view of human settlement Lower Galilee is one of the favored regions in Israel. Human occupation has persisted there throughout history, and most of today's villages are situated on sites which have been continuously occupied since earliest historical times, and in many cases have preserved their biblical or Roman names. The number of historical routes there is greater than anywhere in the country; they usually follow basins or deeply cut valleys.
Bordering on the Acre Plain in the west, Lower Galilee in the south, the Ḥuleh Valley in the east and northeast, and Lebanon in the north, Upper Galilee bears a more pronouncedly mountainous character. Its cultivated area therefore constitutes only a small percentage of its total surface, whereas considerable expanses are covered with stunted remnants of natural woods or planted forests. Hill farming, with olives and tobacco prominent in Arab villages and deciduous fruit orchards, vineyards, and poultry in Jewish settlements, is practiced largely on terraced slopes. Among the non-Jewish population, Druze are prominent in the west and center (Yirkā, Jatt, Beit Jann, Ḥurfaysh, etc.), and Christians in the north-center (Miʿilyā, Fassūṭa, Gush Ḥalav, etc.), while the majority of Jewish settlements lie close to the Lebanese frontier. Urban agglomerations are Safed and Ma'alot.
The climate of Upper Galilee is typical Mediterranean, modified by altitude. Precipitation there is the highest in Israel with annual average of 800 mm in the central portion. Settlements in the mountains of Upper Galilee show relative stability over the centuries. There were no periods of great prosperity but neither were there periods of almost complete abandonment. Throughout history major roads have been completely absent from the area, with the international routes circumventing it along the valleys of the west, south, and east. The lack of natural routes in Upper Galilee prevented the formation of a natural urban center. In medieval times Safed became the main urban center, located at the top of an isolated hill a short distance from natural routes.
The Jordan and Dead Sea Rift and Its Jezreel Valley Branch
The outstanding features of the Rift Valley in Israel, which is part of the 4,000 mi. (6,500 km.) Syrian-East African Rift, are its straight north-south course, the precipitous mountain walls hemming it in on both sides, and the thick cover of alluvium, nearly flat on the surface, which conceals the enormous depth of the rift bottom. The rift neatly separates Cisjordan from Transjordan. It falls into five major sections: the upper Jordan Valley, comprising the Ḥuleh Valley and the Rosh Pinnah-Korazim sill; the central Jordan Valley, including Lake Kinneret and its surroundings and the Beth-Shean Valley; the lower Jordan Valley, with the subregions of the Succoth and Peẓa'el (Phasael) valleys and the Jericho Plain (Ha-Kikkar); the Dead Sea and its region; finally, the Arabah Valley, which, at least in aspects of human geography, is closely related to the Negev. The Ḥuleh Valley measures 15 mi. (25 km.) from north to south and 4–6 mi. (6–8 km.) from west to east. The northern rim of the valley is 525 ft. (170 m.) above sea level and the surface of the former Lake Ḥuleh was 220 ft. (70 m.) above sea level. The surface of Lake Kinneret lies some 696 ft. (213 m.) below sea level, the figure oscillating with the seasons and the rainfall. With a capacity estimated at 3,000,000,000 cubic meters, it serves as the National Water Carrier's principal reservoir. Three river terraces may be distinguished in the Beth-Shean Valley, the Jordan meandering on the lowest and the town of Beth-Shean lying on the highest. South of this valley the Samaria Hills approach the Jordan bed, leaving only a narrow passage on its west bank. Further south, the rift widens into the Succoth Valley. Mt. Sartaba separates the Succoth Valley from the still wider Peẓa'el Valley, which, in turn, goes over, south of Wadi ʿAwjā, into the Jericho Plain, where the west-east distance between the slopes of the Judean Desert and the edge of the Moab Plateau is 20 mi. (32 km.) and where the valley bottom lies between 820 and 1,250 ft. (250–380 m.) below sea level. The Dead Sea is an inland lake covering the deepest continental depression on earth: in 1963 its water surface lay 1,308 ft. (398.5 m.) below sea level. The Lashon (Lisān) Peninsula divides the lake into a larger, northern and a smaller, southern basin. The high temperatures and evaporation, as well as the absence of any outlet, explain the extremely high salt content of the sea – the highest of any body of water on earth, attaining 29–32% in the southern basin – and the specific gravity of these waters exceeding that of any other lake.
A side branch of the Rift, composed of the Ḥarod and Jezreel valleys, leads from the Beth-Shean Valley northwest-ward. The Harod Valley, 11 mi. (18 km.) long and 3 mi. (5 km.) wide, is a narrow corridor separating the Ẓeva'im Ridge in Lower Galilee from Mt. Gilboa in Samaria. Naḥal Harod runs through it from its source at the foot of Mt. Gilboa toward Beth-Shean and the Jordan River. The Jezreel Valley is triangular in shape, its apex pointing south to the town of Jenin.
Soils in the Jordan Rift Valley change from dark, heavy alluvium (partly swamp and peat soils) in the Ḥuleh Valley and alluvium of partly basaltic origin around the northern shores of Lake Kinneret to pale, marly lashon soils, predominant from Lake Kinneret southward through the Beth-Shean and Succoth valleys to the Jericho region.
In the past, extensive swamps and waterlogging excluded human settlement from the larger part of the Ḥuleh Valley. In the Beth-Shean Valley, the success of farming was dependent on the readiness of settlers to prevent flooding of fields by spring waters and watercourses; when this was not done, thorny brush spread and soils became increasingly saline. In the lower Jordan Valley, agriculture is essentially oasis farming, of which Jericho is the most striking example. The heavy, alluvial soils of the Harod and Jezreel valleys resemble those of the northern parts of the Jordan Valley, as did, until the recent past, their swamps and their waterlogging problems. All the swamps are now drained.
Going from north to south, the climate of the Jordan Valley becomes progressively hotter and drier. The Ḥuleh Valley has a mean annual temperature of 68° f (20° c); although summer days are frequently oppressive, winter frosts, caused by temperature inversion, exclude subtropical crops but are beneficial to the extensive apple orchards. The Kinneret region has hot summers and mild winters, and the Beth-Shean Valley is characterized by a continental temperature regime, with peak summer heat but not entirely frost-free winters. On the Dead Sea shore, the mean annual temperature soars to 77° f (25° c), with summer maximums frequently exceeding 104° f (40° c). Differences in rainfall are no less extreme: the Ḥuleh Valley's northern rim receives an annual precipitation average of 24 in. (600 mm.); the Kinneret region between 16 and 20 in. (400–500 mm.); the Beth-Shean Valley between 10 and 16 in. (250–400 mm.); and the Jericho region about 4 in. (100 mm.), while at Sodom only 2 in. (50 mm.) are registered. The lower the averages, the more extreme are the fluctuations between one rain year and the next. Evaporation in the Rift is very strong, particularly from Lake Kinneret southward, having a negative influence on the water balance and promoting salination.
Great variety is found in the Rift's flora and fauna. The Ḥuleh Valley belongs to the Mediterranean vegetation zone's lowland type; in the former Ḥuleh swamps there was a dense vegetation grouped around the papyrus reed, which has been partly preserved in the Ḥuleh Nature Reserve; the Kinneret region is of a transition type between the Mediterranean and Irano-Turanian (dry-steppe) vegetation zones, and the Beth-Shean and Succoth valleys are within the confines of the latter zone. The Jericho and Dead Sea regions belong to the Saharo-Arabian (desert) zone; the flood terrace of the lower Jordan River and some other stretches have a halophytic (salt-loving) flora, whereas Jericho, En-Gedi, and some other cases constitute enclaves of the Sudanian (moist-tropical) vegetation zone.
Lines of communication crossing the Rift from west to east were through most of history of greater importance than lengthwise north-south roads. The Jordan Valley's role in pre-history is outstanding; finds from the Paleolithic (Ubaydiyya), the Neolithic (Jericho, Sha'ar ha-Golan), and the Chalcolithic periods (Tulaylāt al-Ghusūl, etc.), have been discovered. In most prehistoric and historic periods, however, habitation was discontinuous in time and space; sections of the valley often had more contacts with the adjoining hill regions than with each other. The decline setting in after the Muslim conquest was, in the initial centuries, less pronounced in the Jordan Valley than in other parts of the country; after the Crusades, however, the Rift Valley remained a total waste, as did the Jezreel Valley. In the 19th century, new Arab villages came into being in the Ḥuleh Valley, many of whose settlers presumably hailed from Egypt.
Some of the earlier Jewish settlements in the country (Yesud ha-Ma'alah, Mishmar ha-Yarden, etc.) were founded in or near the Ḥuleh Valley. In the first decade of the 20th century, Jewish settlement gained a foothold in the Jordan-Yarmuk Plain (Kinneret, Deganiyyah). The Jezreel and Harod valleys became the principal object of pioneering efforts in the 1920s, and in the Beth-Shean Valley the first stockade and watchtower settlements were erected in the 1930s. The lower Jordan Valley, on the other hand, did not come into the scope of Jewish development (with the exception of the Rabbat Ashlag potash works and Bet ha-Aravah) and remained outside Israel's 1948 armistice borders. Between 1951 and 1958, the great Ḥuleh drainage project was carried out, making the lake and swamp disappear and creating conditions for adding new settlements, particularly the town of Kiryat Shemonah and the development town of Ḥaẓor. In the Kinneret region, few new villages were founded after 1948. In the Beth-Shean Valley, the town of Beth-Shean became Jewish, and a few more moshavim and kibbutzim were founded. The Jezreel Valley settlement expanded southward with the establishment of the Taanach village bloc. In the lower Jordan Valley, tens of thousands of 1948 Arab war refugees were housed in camps of mud-brick huts by the Jordanian regime. After the Six-Day War, beginnings were made in intensive farming and in development of tourism in the formerly Syrian Baṭeiḥa Valley, and by 1971 eight *Naḥal outposts had been established in the lower Jordan Valley.
The Ḥuleh Valley, measuring 93 sq. mi. (240 sq. km.), forms part of the Safed sub-district. It has 23 settlements and 34,100 inhabitants (all Jewish), 21,600 living in Kiryat Shemonah and the rest in kibbutzim and moshavim. The area of the valley, fully and intensively cultivated, is entirely covered with irrigated apples and other deciduous fruit orchards, carp ponds, and field and fodder crops. In addition to the local villages, Galilee hill settlements have been allocated fields in the Ḥuleh Valley. Industry exists in Kiryat Shemonah and in several kibbutzim.
the kinneret region
The Kinneret region forms part of the Kinarot sub-district. With an area of 59 sq. mi. (152 sq. km.) it has 29 settled places (all Jewish) with a population of 56,700 of whom 39,800 live in Tiberias, where their economy is principally based on tourism and recreation. In the rural sector, the 15 kibbutzim are the predominant element, as this was the area where collective settlement came into being and where important ideological and cultural centers of the kibbutz movement (study centers, museums, etc.) are located. Farming, highly intensive and fully irrigated, specializes in tropical and subtropical species (bananas, date palms, etc.); field and fodder crops, vegetables, dairy cattle, and poultry are also important. In addition to carp ponds, fishing in Lake Kinneret is developed. Industrial enterprises are to be found in some of the Jordan-Yarmuk Plain kibbutzim.
the beth-shean valley
The Beth-Shean Valley, with an area of 85 sq. mi. (219 sq. km.), numbers 25,000 inhabitants (all Jewish) in 22 settlements. The town of Beth-Shean (with 15,900 inhabitants) contains the majority of the population. Among the villages, 14 are kibbutzim and five are moshavim. Farming is based on salt-resistant date palms and pomegranates, cotton, and other intensive field crops, and carp ponds (making use of brackish spring water); bananas are not cultivated because of the danger of frost. A number of kibbutzim have industrial plants.
lower jordan valley and the dead sea regions
From 1968 the lower Jordan Valley, together with most of the un-inhabited hill slopes at its western side, formed the Jericho-Jordan district of Israel-held Judea-Samaria. In 1968 it had a population of 9,600 Arabs, most of whom lived in Jericho. Few fields are cultivated outside the Jericho oasis and the lower reaches of Fāriʿa Gorge.
Covering an area of over 4,600 sq. mi. (some 12,000 sq. km.), the Negev constitutes a challenge to Israel's constructive efforts because of its relative vastness, the potential of its mineral wealth, and its position as a communications link with the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. While the desert climate sets it apart from the country's center and north, structurally it continues to the south the division of Cisjordan into the Coastal Plain, the Hill Region, and the Rift Valley to the south. The Beersheba depression, gradually rising eastward from some 300 ft. (less than 100 m.) to 1,650 ft. (500 m.) above sea level, has a thick cover of fine-grained, yellowish-brown loess as its outstanding characteristic, although large stretches in the west and southwest are overlaid by sand dunes. The loess is susceptible to severe gullying by flash floods and to sheet and wind erosion, necessitating special soil conservation measures, e.g., contour plowing and planting of shelterbelts of eucalyptus and tamarisk trees around the fields, to make farming possible. Almost the entire Beersheba region belongs to the drainage basin of Naḥal Besor.
The topography of the Negev Hills is basically determined by parallel folds running from northeast to southwest, the highest elevations lying in the southwest. On the bedrock of the Negev Hills, desert erosion has imposed sharp, angular landscape features, most strikingly exemplified in the three makhteshim ("erosional cirques" or "craters"): Makhtesh Ramon, Ha-Makhtesh ha-Gadol (Ḥatirah), and Ha-Makhtesh ha-Katan (Ḥaẓerah). There is hardly any arable soil.
The Eilat Mountains at the Negev's southern extremity, which belongs to the same geological province as southern Sinai, eastern Egypt, Edom, and western Arabia, are fundamentally different from the rest of the Negev. The landscape is of infinite variety, with narrow clefts hemmed in by rock walls rising 1,000 ft. (300 m.) over them, which cut through the granite mountains in various directions. Rock debris fills the gorges, while erosion has sculptured awe-inspiring rock facades, like Solomon's Pillars near Timna, the Amram Columns, etc.
The Arabah Valley, the Rift's southern section in Israel, stretches from the Dead Sea to Eilat over a distance of 105 mi. (170 km.) between the Negev Highlands in the west and the Edom Mountains in the east. Particularly in its south, landscape features typical of the Rift are even more spectacular than anywhere else in the country. A thick cover of alluvium, mostly coarse sand and gravel, everywhere obscures the valley's rock foundations. The Arabah has a number of springs, brackish in various degrees, on its western and, more so, on its eastern side. Deep well drillings, particularly in the Ḥaẓevah area, have yielded water in previously unsuspected quantities.
Only the northwestern corner of the Negev has a climate that can, at best, be described as semiarid; all the other parts are desert proper. While peak temperatures, with the exception of the Arabah Valley, hardly exceed those of other parts of the country, there is a large diurnal span of temperatures, typical of continental climates. Humidity decreases in southern and eastern directions, as does rainfall, which is extremely capricious; entire years may pass without any rain, and a thunderstorm lasting a few hours at a desert spot may yield the total annual average. Only the northern half of the Beersheba region and the highest reaches of the Negev hills belong to the Irano-Turanian dry-steppe vegetation zone. All the rest of the Negev belongs to the Saharo-Arabian desert zone, where the vegetation cover is extremely sparse or totally absent over long distances.
Basically, the Negev always seems to have been the nomad's domain, but other forms of human presence and activity appeared in certain periods, conditioned by the exploitation of minerals, the development and maintenance of lines of communications, and the holding of defense posts of the sown land against the wilderness. While prehistoric artifacts found over wide areas and in considerable number possibly testify to periods of greater rainfall in the earlier Stone Age, it is certain that the impressive achievements of the Chalcolithic period, which included manufacturing near Beersheba (Tell Abu Matar) and copper mining and transporting in the Arabah Valley, coincided with climatic conditions hardly different from those of the present. For a millennium the Negev had no sedentary population after the period of the Nabateans, who made enormous efforts in Roman and Byzantine times to conserve water for farming and town dwelling. Only in 1900 did the Turks decide to build Beersheba as an administrative center. Even in the 1930s, no other towns or villages existed south and east of the Rafa-Gaza-Bet Guvrin-Dhahiriyya-Samūʿ (Eshtemo'a) line. Bedouin, affiliated with five large tribal associations – Tarābīn, al-Tiyāha, ʿAzāzma, al-Ḥanājira and al-Jabārāt – roamed the Negev, mainly subsisting on their goat flocks and camel herds and occasionally, in rainy winters, sowing some wheat or barley.
Early Jewish settlers visualized the Negev as a field for future development. Z.D. *Levontin's plan, around 1882, to found Rishon le-Zion south of Gaza, as well as later attempts at purchasing holdings near Rafa and elsewhere in the northern Negev, came to naught, however, mainly because Bedouin would-be vendors did not have their ownership rights entered in the land registry. In the first decade of the 20th century, the idea of Jewish settlement in the Negev was brought up again, first as a daring plan for a Jewish-Bedouin alliance, then as a project to be assisted by the Turkish authorities, in connection with Herzl's *El-Arish project. After World War i, veterans of the *Jewish Legion tried to settle on state land offered by the British authorities at Arad, but despaired when no water was found. In the 1920s and 1930s, Jewish individuals and groups acquired isolated holdings in the Negev, which were taken over by the jnf and secured and enlarged after the end of the 1930s. This made it possible to set up the three "observation outposts" of Gevulot, Revivim, and Bet Eshel in the spring and summer of 1943, and three years later 11 more villages in the south and Negev, on the night following the Day of Atonement (Oct. 6, 1946). By the outbreak of hostilities after the un partition resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, the number of Negev settlements had grown to 18, and two pipelines drawn from the Nir Am and Gevaram wells supplied them with drinking water and a limited quantity of irrigation water.
In the years 1949–51, settlement activity was energetically pursued. Fifteen thousand of the Bedouin population, estimated at 50,000 before 1947, remained (their number increased to about 126,100 in 2002, when nearly all of them lived in the Arad region). Whereas farming villages are concentrated northwest of Beersheba, since the 1950s outposts have begun to be established in the Negev hills and the Arabah Valley. Urban nuclei were started in the central and eastern Negev (Yeroḥam, 1951; Miẓpeh Ramon, 1954; Dimonah, 1955; Arad, 1961), and the development of Eilat became feasible after the 1956 Sinai Campaign. In the northwest, Ofakim and Netivot were built as immigrant towns. All these made the Negev an integral part of Israel demographically as well as politically. Beersheba became Israel's sixth-largest city, and mineral quarrying and processing (Dead Sea minerals, phosphates, methane gas, copper, ceramic clays, glass sands, etc.) furnished the basis for industrialization. Important were the traffic arteries that came into being after 1948; previously, the only one was the Gaza-Beersheba-Niẓẓanah road, with a branch leading up to the present-day Yeroḥam. Among these are the Beersheba-Dimonah-Sodom road (continuing to En-Gedi), the Beersheba-Miẓpeh Ramon-Eilat and Tel Shoket-Arad-Shefekh Zohar roads, and the Sodom-Eilat highway. To these was added the Tel Aviv-Beersheba railroad, which was later continued to Dimonah, Oron, and Ẓefa-Efeh.
The entire Negev is included in the sub-district of Beer-sheba which extends over 4,956 sq. mi. (12,835 sq. km.). The sub-district has 521,200 inhabitants: 393,100 Jews and 128,100 Arabs. Practically all the latter are Bedouin, living as nomads or in transition to sedentary life, mostly in the area between Beersheba and Arad. The population density has increased from 2.85 per sq. mi. (1.1 per sq. km.) in 1948 to 100 per sq. mi. (40.3 per sq. km.) in 2002.
This region, which includes the Gerar and Besor regions, has an area of 549 sq. mi. (1,423 sq. km.). Farming is almost entirely dependent on irrigation, mainly with water from the National Water Carrier. Out-of-season vegetables for export, flowers, deciduous and subtropical fruit trees, and fodder crops are characteristic. A beginning has been made with auxiliary irrigation to secure the grain harvest in the rain-deficient years. Citrus groves have begun to appear in the northwestern Negev since the 1960s. There are 69 inhabited places in this relatively small area; most are moshavim, grouped in the settlement regions of Benei Shimon, Merḥavim, and Eshkol. The development towns of Ofakim and Netivot are based on various industries. The total population of the region, all of them Jewish, numbers 30,500.
The Beersheba region, measuring 614 sq. mi. (1,589 sq. km.), has only 19 inhabited places, among them the city of Beersheba and the town of Arad, where 206,000 Jewish inhabitants live; the rest of the population are Bedouin. The principal economic activity is industry, concentrated in the two towns and partly based on Negev minerals. Beersheba's academic and research institutes have had a mounting impact on the life of the city and its vicinity. Dry farming (mostly barley and wheat fields) is practiced on relatively small areas. While the Bedouin used to wait until the first rains had come down in promising quantity before sowing, auxiliary irrigation has been introduced with the aid of small storage dams that retain occasional flash-flood waters.
negev hills, paran plateau, and arabah valley
The vast area, extending over 3,793 sq. mi. (9,823 sq. km.), comprises the Negev Hills, Paran Plateau, and Arabah Valley (including the southern section of the Judean Desert and the west shore of the Dead Sea). It has 16 inhabited places, among them the towns of Dimonah and Eilat and the development centers of Yeroḥam and Miẓpeh Ramon. In addition, there are important mining and industrial sites (e.g., Oron, Ẓefa-Efeh, Timna, Sodom, etc.) with no resident population. Phosphates, copper, clay minerals, and the Dead Sea minerals are extracted and treated. Oasis-type farming is to be found in the Arabah Valley settlements (numbering 17 in 2002), where tropical fruit (dates, mangoes, etc.) and out-of-season export vegetables and flowers are prominent. The region contains 80,600 residents, most of them in Dimonah and Eilat.
Mount Hermon is a huge uplifted block, 9,232 ft. (2,814 m.) high, which towers above its surroundings – the Litani (Leontes) and ʿĀyūn (Ijon) valleys in the west, the Ḥuleh Valley in the south, the Golan in the southeast, and the Ghuta (Damascus region) in the northeast – and deeply influences their climate and water economy. Much of the annual precipitation on its highest reaches – over 60 in. (1,500 mm.) a year – largely comes in the form of snow, which remains on the ground for several months. The larger part of the mountain belongs to Lebanon, the northeast is in Syria, and the southeast ridge, Ketef ha-Hermon (the "Hermon Shoulder"), which rises to 7,220 ft. (2,200 m.), came under Israeli control after the Six-Day War. Most of the mountain is uninhabited; a number of villages, peopled mainly by Druze, Alaouites, etc., nestle in protected sites on the lower slopes. Among them is the Druze village of Majdal Shams, the northernmost inhabited place held by Israel, which lies in a secondary valley at a height of 3,940 ft. (1,200 m.) above sea level.
See also Physiography in *Israel, Land of: Geographical Survey and entries on places and regions mentioned in this article.
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[Efraim Orni /
Elisha Efrat (2nd ed.)]