Israel has four
main geographic regions:
The Coastal Plain, The Gallilean-Samarian-Judean Highlands, The Negev Desert and The Jordan Rift Valley.
The Coastal Plain:
It extends 187 km (117 miles) along the Mediterranean coast. At its broadest near the Gaza Strip, the coastal plain is 48 km (30 miles) wide. It is known throughout the country, but by various names. North of Haifa, it is called the Plain of Zebulun; from Haifa to Tel Aviv, the Plain of Sharon; and South of Tel Aviv, it's called the Plain of Judea.
Except for the sandy beach and dune area of Tel Aviv, the coastal plain has been a fertile farming ground for hundreds of years. It is the center of the country's citrus farms, and it contains some of the largest, most successful agricultural settlements in the country.
The soil of the coastal plains is formed from two kinds of thick, sedimentary river deposits. One is dark and heavy, which is ideal for growing field crops; and the other, which is excellent soil for citrus, is thin and sandy.
Only two significant rivers cross the coastal plain: the Yorkor, which is 42 km (26 miles) long and flows from the Judean Hills near Jerusalem into the Mediterranean, and the 43 km (27 miles) long Kishan, which flows into the Gulf of Acre near Haifa.
As the rivers are small, most water for drinking and irrigation must come from wells.
The Coastal Plain is Israel's most populated region. Two thirds of Israel's population live there. Major Coastal cities include Haifa, Israel's chief port; Tel-Aviv, the most populous city; and Ashdod, the end point for an important pipeline.
Even though the coastline is very long, there are few natural harbors long enough for tankers or container ships.
The Galilean-Samarian-Judean Highlands:
These are ranges of hills that stretch from the Judean Hills in central Israel to Galilee in the North. The highest mountain in Israel, Mount Meron, looms over Galilee. The Mount is about 1,208 meters (3,962 feet) high.
The western slopes of the Galilean Highlands are, on average, 610 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level.
In-between the rolling highlands lie small, fertile valleys dotted with orchards and vineyards. Because of sudden, crop-destroying winter frosts, farming in these slopes can be difficult.
The eastern slopes of the Galilean Highlands are rugged, with deep, impassable valleys and sparse vegetation. A mountainous area known as the Samarian Hills, is the central section of the highlands. It includes Mount Carmel, near Haifa; the Plateau of Dalia to the southeast; and Mount Gilboa.
The southern portion of the highlands is made up of the Judean Hills, on which Jerusalem is built. These steep, rocky hills are covered with green trees and an abundance of wildflowers.
The Negev Desert:
This is actually the eastern portion of Egypt's Sinai Desert. The Negev Desert extends from the Gulf of Aquaba in the south to the city of Beersheba, the chief city of the region. A low mountain chain runs across the northern section of the Negev, from northeast to southwest. Its highest point is Mount Ramon, which is 1,035 meters (3,396 feet).
The Negegv has a dusty, windblown surface made of hardpan gravel and in addition, it is monotonously flat and incredibly ho. At the desert's extreme southern end is the small resort town of Elat.
West of Beersheba, at the northwestern border of the Negev, is the Beersheba Basin. The basin holds great potential for agriculture because of its fine-grained soil, but it receives only about 203 mm (8 inches) of rainfall annually. The Israelis have begun cultivation sections of the basin by pumping in water from the Sea of Galilee in the north through a 142-km (88-mile) system of canals, pipelines, and tunnels called the National Water Carrier.
The Jordan Rift Valley:
This is part of a geographical trench known as the Great Rift Valley that stretches from Syria to Mozambique in southern Africa. It runs along Israel's eastern border and is steep and rocky.
The Jordan Rift Valley's northern section includes the Jordan River, which flows south from Syria's Golan Heights for 253 km (157 miles) until it empties into the Dead Sea. The Jordan's path forms the border between Jordan and the occupied West Bank.
The Sea of Galilee is also located in the northern valley. It is a freshwater lake and the most popular vacation spot in Israel.
The valley's geography becomes harsh south of the Sea of Galilee. Lush greens give way to desolate, dry, rock-hard soil. The Bedouins (nomadic Arabs) who live there, graze their camels and livestock on the few blades of scrub grass that manage to survive.
This desolate portion of the valley plunges downward until it reaches 396 meters (1,300 feet) below sea level. This is the lowest point on land anywhere in the world.
To the west of the valley lies the occupied West Bank, to the east lies Jordan, and in the center of the valley lies the Dead Sea.
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