Jezreel Valley

Jezreel Valley

(Joshua 19:18: 1 Chronicles 10:7)
“And their border went to Jezreel, and included Chesulloth, and Shunem.” (Joshua 19:18)

Large fertile valley that extends the width of the Holy Land between the hilly regions of the Galilee and Samaria. Named after the ancient city of Jezreel. It is crossed by vital arteries including ancient international routes. It was, therefore, during all periods, a battleground against invading armies from the north, south, east and west.

When the Israelites entered the country, the valley was inhabited by Canaanites whom Joshua failed to dislodge. Only after their defeat at the hands of Deborah and Barak, son of Abinoam, did the valley come under Israelite control providing territorial continuity between the Israelite tribes in the north and in the central regions. The Jezreel Valley was the scene of the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines in which Saul and his sons were killed.

“And when all the men of Israel that were in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, then they forsook their cities, and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.” (I Chronicles 10:7)

History: It was delineated as one of the 12 districts under King Solomon and he built cities and fortifications here. After the Division of the Kingdom, it was included in the Kingdom of Israel. In 733 BCE, it was conquered by Tiglath-pileser III and turned into an Assyrian province. For a long period the valley remained desolate until settlement was renewed during the Hellenistic Period. Captured from the Greeks by John Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean, and annexed to his kingdom. At beginning of the Roman Period it was detached from the Kingdom of Judah, but was later returned. It became an important Jewish center after the destruction of the Second Temple and during the Roman and Byzantine Period. It was laid waste during the Arab conquest in the 7th century Once again the valley served as a battlefield for Crusaders and Moslems, and then for Mamluks and Seljuks. During the Ottoman Period it became part of the property of the Sultan (lands of Jiftliq). In 1799 Napoleon’s armies fought here against the Turks. Renewal of Jewish settlement in the country at end of  19th century found the valley completely desolate, partly covered with deadly swamps. The Turks thwarted attempted settlement in 1890. Only at the beginning of the 20th century did Yehoshua Hankin succeed in purchasing a small tract of land upon which Merhavya (1911) and Tel Adashim (1913) were established. During World War I it was again a battlefield, this time between the Turks and Germans against the British. After the war Hankin was able to purchase larger tracts of land upon which in 1921, En Harod in the east and Nahalal in the west were established. From that year onward the valley flourished.

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