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Background on the Area: The City of Beit Shean, the Emek Hamaayanot, Gilboa and Lower Galilee Regional Councils

In the northern region of the Land of Israel, there is an area blessed with bountiful amounts of water, nature and blossoming flora – the regional councils of Emek Hamaayanot, the Gilboa Mountains, the Lower Galilee and the City of Beit Shean. This special region situated along of the longitudinal and latitudinal axes of the State of Israel with its unique landscape, multitude of streams, rivers and creeks, internationally important historical sites, locations for entertainment, nature and recreation, its spring blossom and rather comfortable climate, particularly during the winter, serves to attract numerous visitors throughout the year.

The Beit Shean Rift (Emek Hamaayanot) is a portion of the Afro-Syrian Rift and opens westward in its connection to the Harod Valley and Ramat Issachar. The Gilboa Mountain Range closes the scenic landscape from the southwest and the Jordan River from the east, with a variance of 800 meters in altitude between them. The scenes, alternate between the mountains and cliffs of the Gilboa, the basalt plateaus of the north, a sharp into a level valley and a subsequent step falling towards the evergreen banks of the Jordan River. The region was consistently settled by Jews from as far back as the Roman and Byzantine periods, a number of ancient synagogue ruins were since uncovered, each of which testified to a blossoming Jewish community in the region. During the Modern Era settlement activity between during Operation ‘Tower and Stockade’, in the framework of which kibbutzim and moshavim settled the area, following the purchase of these swamp and malaria stricken lands, and determined the borders of the nascent nation to be. Because of its special location, at the tectonic axis that separates Africa, Asia and Europe, its bountiful water and food sources, its warm air, the Beit Shean Valley (Emek Hamaayanot) is a global corridor for bird migration. Over 500,000 storks pass here twice a year, during the fall and spring seasons on their route to/from Africa and Europe, while millions of other bird species stop here for the winter. The many fish ponds spread across the area area a source of attraction for a wide variety of waterfowl and predators. Professional and amateur bird watchers from around the world come to the region with their binoculars to observe the flocks on their seasonal journeys.

Mount Gilboa rises to an altitude of 500 meters above sea level. The impressive landscape from its peaks overlook the entire north, from the Hermon, the Golan Heights, the Galilee, the Carmel and Shomron mountains. It was on Mount Gilboa that King Saul fell on his sword in the battle with the Philistines, it was here that a young King David composed his famous “Psalm of David”. During the spring months, the Gilboa is amazing in its wealth of wildflowers, the most prominent of which is the Gilboa Iris, which grows only here. Most of the mountain is a nature reserve populated by multiple wildlife species, among them a number of desert species.

At the heart of the valley sits the City of Beit Shean. Beit Shean is one of the oldest cities in the Land of Israel, a historical gem that recounts a fascinating tale of a period filled with twists and turns, the highlight of which is uncovered at the Beit Shean National Park in the northern section of the city. The beginnings of Beit Shean as uncovered in the archeological excavations of Tel Beit Shean reach back as far as the Early Chalcolithic period (5th – 6th millennium BCE), some 3,500 years ago the city was captured by the Egyptians, followed a few centuries later by the Philistines, where they hung the dead body of King Saul on the city walls following the battle on Mount Gilboa. Beit Shean was repopulated as a Hellenistic city and given the name “Scythopolis” and during the Roman Period peaked as an ancient settlement situated at a crucial geopolitical junction between East and West. Today, a visit to the city and surrounding communities can easily be compared to visiting family, enabling a view into the authentic world of the region’s residents, varied experiences that for creating a meaningful bond between people and a unique and special introduction into Israeli life. The region’s human and touristic diversity enables us all to find areas of interest and more than anything connect to the State of Israel in a more significant and personal fashion. One can visit with the residents of the city and hear the stories of their aliyah from a multitude of countries, taste their ethnic foods and gain an appreciation for a blend of various cultures.

The site of numerous historical and archeological remains, the Lower Galilee stretches between the Jezreel Valley and the Kinneret. The region holds special interest to Christian tourists, here they visit the City of Nazareth, the ancestral home of Jesus as well as in Kfar Cana where it is believed that Jesus conducted his first miracles and climb to the peak of Mount Tabor, considered by many to be the site of the Transfiguration (where Jesus shows himself as the Messiah to his disciples). Here too is where Jewish Thought relocated following the destruction of the Second Temple and the Bar Kochba Revolt: in Tzippori Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi wrote the Mishna and in Tiberias, the seat of the Sanhedrin and where the Jerusalem Talmud was written, in the 5th Century CE. For hundreds of years the Lower Galilee has seen the growth of a variety of Arab Muslim and Christian communities, peasant farmers and Bedouin, Druze and Circassians, alongside a number of prosperous Jewish communities, towns and cities. Visitors can tour a wide variety of ancient synagogues, early churches, olive presses and wineries. The area offers a multitude of interesting accommodations, rural hospitality and a variety of craft shops and agricultural produce.

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Emek Hama'ayanot
Tourism Department
Tel: 04-6065664
Fax: 04-6065862
Email: tourism@maianot.co.il