The Galilee and the Golan

Everything is Going Green…

Now is the Time to Invest in the North of Israel - Where Greener Pastures Flourish

The most important thing I succeeded in accomplishing here in the Galilee was establishing communities and outposts between 1978 and 1981, when I served as Minister of Agriculture. I see this as perhaps the most important thing, and the greatest privilege I have had (Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a speech at the 2005 Galilee Conference).

Introduction

The Green Galilee for hundreds of years has been known as a prime location for resting and healing the body, mind and soul. The Golan Heights in the northeastern side of the country overlooks the Hula Valley and southeastern Syria and was formed centuries ago by volcanic eruptions. It measures 15 miles wide and 45 miles long and rises 3,000 feet above the Sea of Galilee. The hills of the Galilee are primarily made up of soft limestone and dolomite.  The Galilee, which makes up one third of Israel’s land area, soars to heights ranging from 1,600 to 4,000 feet or 500 to 1,200 meters above sea level.

The Golan and Galilee are strategic assets to Israel. The primary source of freshwater for Israel, the Kinneret also known as the Sea of Galilee, feeds off water shed from the Golan. The Golan has been referred to as the “Eyes of Israel” because from the highest points in the Golan, one can see into Syria and Lebanon, a key advantage if Israel is under attack. The Galilee borders both Lebanon to the north and Samaria to the south, and is viewed by many as the first line in dividing Israel to reach Samaria.

Compared with the rest of the country, the north offers better value for one’s money especially since the government’s priority is to develop the region. At the Caesarea Conference in July 2009, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “The combination of expanding the transport routes to the Negev and the Galilee coupled with the opening up of land the simplifying of the planning and building process will create an impressive, long-lasting growth.” The value of the land in the north is also expected to increase further.  During the first quarter of 2009, Haifa, for example registered the highest increase in value in the whole of Israel, with a rise of 9.3% in property prices, compared to the center of the country which went up by 3-5%.

Critical Facts:

  • 16.9% of Israel’s population currently resides in the north of the country, with the majority of the population being non-Jewish and Arabic. 648,300 Arabs (Muslims, Druze and Christians) and 532,100 Jews reside there (Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, 2008).  The former are constantly looking for ways to expand their villages posing a significant threat to the “Jewish-presence” of the north.
  • Jewish farmers in the region are under constant threats and attacks by non-Jewish farmers. The Israel Land Fund works together with the New Shomer organization [insert link] to protect Jewish agricultural land from attacks.
  • The Arabs receive a large portion of land for agricultural use. The aim is for Jewish farmers to obtain more of that land for agricultural use so as to strengthen the presence in the Galilee.
  • Mixed cities in the north are common. Such cities like Acre, Carmiel and Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth) have a large but weak Jewish population, the majority of whom is underprivileged.  The Jewish population in these cities, some of which make up the majority of the populace, needs strengthening (many are elderly or rely on welfare subsidies). They require people with larger income, Torah centers and Jewish tourism.

NORTHERN HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Galilee is the most productive, fertile and agricultural region of Israel with rain a distinctive feature.
  • Farming plays a key role in the region. Successful agricultural industries include corn (23% of the Israeli market), apples (30% of the Israeli market), pears (41% of the Israeli market), cherries (50% of the Israeli market), mangoes (32% of the Israeli market) and more such as seasonal crops, wheat, onions and so forth.
  • The north of the country is home to several multinationals (Motorola, Netafim, SAP)  and some of the country’s top hi-tech companies, with R&D centers and industry leaders such as ISCAR, Elbit Systems, Tefron and others.
  • The hi-tech centers such as Migal, Tefen Industrial Park, Carmiel and Haifa together with a higher quality of living attract population groups such as academics, hi-tech professionals and business owners living in settlements and outposts in the Galilee.
  • The settlements of Gilon and Ya’ad are examples of communities founded by professionals. Both villages were established by engineers from Haifa’s Technion Institute with the aim of bringing more Jews to the area.
  • Approximately 167 companies, factories and 120 new businesses are established each year in the Galilee.
  • The government of Israel regards the development and strengthening the Galilee of paramount importance. The Government offers incentive packages to companies in various fields to encourage to greater development of the region.
  • To boost development of infrastructure in the area the Government has designated land in the north for rezoning including an international airport, a train to Carmiel, expanding Route 6 amongst others.
  • The Manufacturers Association of Israel’s northern branch aims to promote industry in the region. It is currently planning, designing and establishing industrial plants.
  • Additional committees and organizations that are committed to developing the region include the Galilee Development Authority, Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, Israeli SME’s Authority and MATI Lev-Hagalil.

FACTS OF INTEREST:

  • The Kinneret or Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world, at 212 meters below sea level. It is 64 square miles with a depth of 57 feet (or 48 meters).
  • 38% of the land in the Galilee is wine land. One of Israel’s largest wine producers, the Golan Heights Winery, located in Katzrin, exports over $2.5 dollars worth of wine annually and has won many international awards for their wine.
  • The north is renowned for its olive trees, hosting an annual olive festival which attracts many visitors.
  • Additional festivals throughout the year in the region include the Acre Festival of Alternative Theater, Israeli Folk Dance Festival in Carmiel, and music festivals such as Klezmer, Renaissance and Chamber music.
  • An estimated 2.1 million visitors visit the Golan and Galilee region annually, providing 207 tourism related businesses with income.  This accounts for the majority of Israel’s internal tourism.
  • The dry mountain air of Safed in the summer is renowned for its curative quality for respiratory ailments.
  • Nature conservation efforts in Upper Galilee have ensured one of the largest bird sanctuaries in the world. The region attracts many distinctive migrating birds as they fly over Africa to Europe and back. With moderate temperature, volcanic mountain structure and water sources, the north draws millions of birds not found in any other parts of the country. These include various species and birds of prey like imperial eagles, Egyptian vultures and long-legged buzzards.
  • The Hula Valley Park and Nature Reserve in 2009 was recognized by BBC Wildlife Magazine as one of the worlds outstanding sites for nature observation. The park ranked ninth on a list of 20 exceptional sites around the world and was judged by three hundred scientists, photographers and television producers.
  • The geographical conditions make the north home to unique flora and fauna such as Prickly Juniper, Lebanese Cedar, Paeonias, Ponticum and more. 
  • In an opinion poll conducted in July 2009, 48% of Israelis said it is most important to build in the Galilee (and Negev).
  • A fifth medical school has been proposed, to be established in the Galilee in the near future.
  • Plans have been initiated to widen the roads in the eastern and upper Galilee, thereby strengthening the Galilee and increasing employment opportunities and boosting tourism.
  • The leaders of the Galilean city of Carmiel have expressed a deep desire to strengthen the Jewish nature of the city.

History of the Galilee and the Golan

Jews have lived in the Galilee and the Golan since ancient times.  The Bible mentions Galilee in several other places, such as in Isaih 8:23 and Maccabees 5:15 where it refers to the “Gelil he-goyim” – the Galilee of the nations. In Joshua 12:1, it describes the Galilee as corresponding to the area “from the Valley of Arnon to Mount Hermon” in the lands beyond the Jordan River.

The Bible outlines the borders of Israel however it was not until King David that they came much closer to realization. Jews continued to live in the Galilee long after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. There is archeological evidence that reflects the character of Jewish life there, which changed dramatically after the loss of its territorial status.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Judea, the Galilee became the stronghold of Judaism in the land of Israel throughout the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods. Even the activities of Jesus and the early Christian apostles had no effect on the Jews of the Galilee.

The name Golan is believed to come from the Bible, where it refers to the city of “Golan in Bashan” (Deut. 4:43; I Chron. 6:56). Bashan was a region north of the Yarmuk River and east of the Jordan River, and lakes Huleh and Kinneret

Archeological excavations in the north have also revealed at least 20 synagogues and numerous communities on the Golan. In 1969 a stone was found in the area, which was apparently part of a beam over a main entrance to a Beit Midrash, or house of learning. Inscribed in the stone were the words, “This is the Beit Midrash of Rabbi Eliezer HaKappar,” referring to a Talmudic scholar by the name of Eliezer Ha-Kappar who lived in the late second century C.E.

For additional history of the Galilee and the Golan, click here