Christianity Knowledge Base

Galilee (הגליל Arabic ha-Galil, الجليل al-Jaleel), meaning "circuit", is a large region overlapping with much of the North District of Israel. It is traditionally divided into three regions:

  • Upper Galilee
  • Lower Galilee
  • Western Galilee


The Galilee includes more than one-third of present-day Israel, extending from Dan on the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, to the ridges of Carmel and Gilboa on the south, and from the Jordan Valley on the east across the plains of Jezreel and Akko to the shores of the Mediterranean on the west."

The Western Galilee, also called the "Northern Coastal Plain", stretches from north of Haifa up to Rosh HaNikra on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

The Lower Galilee reaches from Mount Carmel and the Gilboa ridge in the south to the Beit HaKerem Valley in the north. Its eastern border is the Jordan River.

The Upper Galilee extends from the Beit HaKerem Valley northwards to the Lebanese border. Its eastern border is the Sea of Galilee and the mountains of the Golan Heights. The "Finger of the Galilee" (אצבע הגליל, Etzba HaGalil) is a region of the Upper Galilee and contains the towns Metulla and Qiryat Shemona and the rivers of Dan and Banias.

Most of the Galilee consists of rocky terrain, at heights of about 500-700 meters. There are several high mountain such as Mount Tabor and Mount Meron. The relatively low tempartures and the large amounts of rainfall every year made the Galilee a center of flora and wildlife, and many birds pass by every year in their migration and create an attraction. The Hulah Valley resort is a welcoming home for them. The streams and waterfalls, the latter mainly in the Upper Galilee, along with vast fields of greenery and colorful wildflowers make it a popular tourist attraction in Israel.


According to legend, Solomon rewarded Hiram for certain services rendered him by the gift of an upland plain among the mountains of Naphtali. Hiram was dissatisfied with the gift, and called it "the land of Cabul". The Jews called it Galil. During the Hasmonaean period, in the midst of the decline of the Seleucid Empire, the region was taken over by the Jews.

In Roman times, the holy land was divided into Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, which comprised the whole northern section of the country, and was the largest of the three. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, ruled Galilee as tetrarch during Jesus' ministry.

Galilee, ca. AD 50

Galilee was the home of Jesus during at least thirty years of his life. The first three Gospels of the New Testament are chiefly an account of Jesus' public ministry in this province, particularly in the villages of Nazareth and Capernaum. The Galilee is cited as the place where Jesus cured a blind man.

After the Arab caliphate took control of the region in 638, it became part of the jund (military district) of Urdunn (Jordan). The Shia Fatimids conquered the region in the 900s; a breakaway sect, venerating the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, formed the Druze religion, centered in and to north of the Galilee.

During the Crusades, Galilee was organized into the Principality of Galilee, one of the most important Crusader seigneuries.

A prominent 18th-century ruler of the Galilee (under nominal Ottoman authority) was Dhaher El-Omar.

In the early 20th century, the Galilee was inhabited by Arabs, Druzes and minorities such as Circassians and Jews. The Jewish population was increased significantly by Zionist immigration.

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war the entire Galilee came under Israel's control. A large portion of the population fled, leaving entire villages empty; however, more Palestinians remained than in most areas, due especially to a successful rapprochement with the Druze. The kibbutzim around the Sea of Galilee were sometimes shelled by the Syrian army's artillery. The shelling stopped after Israel conquered the Golan Heights in 1967.

During the 1970's and the early 1980's, the PLO sometimes launched attacks on towns of the Upper and Western Galilee from Lebanon. Israel initiated Operation Litani (1979) and Operation Peace For Galilee (1982) with the stated objectives of destroying the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon and protects the citizens of the Galilee. Israel remained in occupation of most of Southern Lebanon until 1985; in 1985 Israel withdrew to a narrow security "buffer zone" (in Hebrew, רצועת הבטחון , "Retzuat ha-Bitachon", literally "security strip").

Until the year 2000, Hezbollah (and earlier Amal) continued to fight the Israeli Defence Forces, sometimes shelling Upper Galilee communities and towns with Katyusha rockets). In May 2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak unilaterally withdrew IDF troops from southern Lebanon, maintaining a security force on the Israeli side of the international border recognized by the UN. However, clashes between Hezbollah and Israel continued along the border, and UN observers condemned both for their attacks. Hezbollah claims that the Shebaa Farms, located on the border of the Golan Heights and Lebanon, is Israeli-occupied Lebanon, while Israel and the UN claim that the Shebaa Farms are part of the Syrian Golan Heights.

The 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict was characterized by round-the-clock Katyusha rocket attacks (with a greatly extended range) by Hezbollah on the entire Galilee, with long-range ground-launched missiles purportedly supplied by Iran via Syria, hitting as far south as the Sharon plain, Jezreel Valley, and Jordan Valley below the Sea of Galilee.

Modern Galilee

Modern Galilee is one of the few areas of Israel to have retained a large Arab population after the founding of the State in 1948, with a particularly large Druze population. The "heart of the Galilee"—the districts of Carmel, Upper Nazareth, Ma'alot-Tarshiha, Migdal Ha'emek and Afula—has an Arab majority of 78 percent,[1] despite Jewish Agency efforts to change the demographic balance. The population of the Galilee as a whole is 50 percent Jewish, 50 percent Arab (including Druze and Bedouin) and minorities.

Its main cities are Acre (Akko), Nahariya, Nazareth, Safed (Zefat), Karmiel, Afula, Qiryat Shemona and Tiberias. The port city of Haifa, although outside the Galilee, serves as an administrative and commercial center.

Because of its hilly terrain, most of the settlements in the Galilee are small villages connected by relatively few roads. The railroad runs south from Nahariya along the Mediterranean coast. The main livelihood throughout the area comes from agriculture and tourism. Industrial parks are being developed, bringing further employment opportunities to the local population that includes many recent immigrants.

The Galilee is a popular destination for vacationing Israelis from other parts of the country who enjoy its scenery, recreational, and gastronomic offerings. Many kibbutzim and moshav families operate a Zimmer (German: "room", the local term for a B&B). Numerous festivals are held throughout the year, especially in the autumn and spring holiday seasons. These include the Acco Festival of Alternative Theater, the olive harvest festival, and music festivals featuring Anglo-American folk, klezmer, Renaissance, and chamber music.

See also

  • The Koenig Memorandum
  • North District, Israel
  • Sea of Galilee (also known as Yam Kinneret, Sea of Tiberias)
  • Golan Heights
  • Mount Hermon
  • Golan Heights Law


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