Northern Israel – The Country That Lies Within the Borders

Northern Israel is absolutely the most gorgeous area on earth, in my eyes. Its almost neverending biblical sights located all across a bucolic countryside whose borders touch Arab nations which wish to destroy it gives this region of Israel a powerful pull that I can’t find anywhere else in the world. I think most people don’t know much, if anything, about northern Israel, so I’ll give you what little I’ve got. This part of Israel is so rich with religion, beauty, military history and more that I can’t even touch on all of it with just one post. So I’ll focus first on its borders.

Windmills along the Israel/Syria border in the Golan Heights

Windmills along the Israel/Syria border in the Golan Heights

I am not sure of the actual square mileage of northern Israel. I do know that it is approximately an hour and a half drive from west to east and an approximately two and a half hour drive from north to south. Unlike its other borders, the beginning of northern Israel’s southern edge is not well defined and lies within Israel itself. I’d say it begins approximtely at Beit She’an. Most tourists who visit Israel are interested in its religious sites, so Beit She’an is usually passed by. It shouldn’t be. Within this town is a large site with many layers of ancient ruins, built in the Egyptian, Byzantine, Hellenistic, Crusader and other periods. I can’t tell you much because, although I’ve visited Beit She’an twice, I don’t know much. I do know that a lot of this ancient city was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD, and it lies there today much as it did just after its fall.

The ruins of Bet Shean in Northern Israel

A fraction of the ruins of Beit She'an

The Mediterranean Sea marks the western border of northern Israel, along which lie Haifa, Israel’s third largest city and home to a great deal of its industry, and Akko (also spelled Acco and Acre), an Arab town dating back to the 15th Century BC, which has a very cool little ancient walled area teeming with people, tiny shops and restaurants.

The ancient town of Acco, Israel

The ancient walled city of Akko

Along the majority of Israel’s eastern border is the country of Jordan, its boundary roughly determined by the north-to-south path of the Jordan River. This river spills into the Sea of Galilee from the north and then flows out of its southern edge. The Sea of Galilee is known as Lake Kinneret to Jewish people. It is, after all, a lake, not a sea. Lake or sea, it is an awesomely gorgeous body of water.

The sun shining down through thick clouds over the Sea of Galilee in Israel

The Sea of Galilee - this photo is so awesome I can't believe I'm the one who took it

Israel and Jordan have a peace treaty, so direct travel between the two countries is possible and very common. Twice I have flown directly from Amman, Jordan to Tel Aviv, Israel on Royal Jordanian Airlines. Three bridges also exist which allow people to cross. The first time I traveled to Israel I stayed at Ma’agan Holiday Village, directly on the Sea of Galilee and so close to the border with Jordan that I was able to jog all the way to Jordan and back one morning.

A fence separates Israel from Jordan in the Galilee region of Israel

Fence separating Israel from Jordan as seen from the Galilee area of Israel

On Israel’s northeastern border lies Syria. Due to the fact that Israel and Syria are rabid enemies, it is impossible to cross from one country to the next. The Golan Heights is a large, rather empty mass of land on the northeastern tip of Israel, and it leads straight to Syria. Along with Jews and Arabs, about 20,000 Druze populate the Golan. I don’t know much about the Druze, although I have read in several reliable sources that they are Arab and their religion is a mystery to everyone but themselves. I’ve passed through probably more of their villages than I realize, since approximately 100,000 of them live in areas of Israel other than the Golan Heights.

A druze village in the Golan Heights in northern Israel

A Druze village in the Golan Heights - sorry, I don't know the name of this one

I stopped in a couple of Druze villages in the Golan the first time I traveled there, and in the village of Majdal Shams I got to taste a bread called lafa stuffed with finely ground exquisitely spiced meat which was so outstanding I yearn for it to this day. I tried to imitate the experience at Gazala Place in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, the one and only Druze restaurant I could find in my part of the U.S., but it was a $15.00 tasteless rip-off.

Druze woman making lafa, in a Druze village called Majdal Shams in northern Israel

A Druze woman tossing lafa in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights

Lebanon, another enemy country that very badly wants Israel wiped off the earth, lies on the top of its northern border. It probably goes without saying that there is no border crossing between Israel and Lebanon. The first time I traveled to Israel three years ago, I got to take a ride with an unlicensed (read: cheap) tour guide to the border with Lebanon. There wasn’t much to see except for trees, but I did come across a couple of interesting spots.

Border with Lebanon as seen from Israel

One of Israel's borders with Lebanon

I’ve been in northern Israel for the past couple of weeks and am hopefully here for the long term. It’s a very odd feeling to look out my window onto the rolling hills of the Galilee region every day and know that the most beautiful country on earth is surrounded by enemy nations intent on destroying it. And it’s unsettling.

11 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Claire says:

    I have been to Israel twice-both times with my church. I would LOVE to go back just on my own and see the rest of the country and get a feel for it without the group/church aspect of it. Thanks for sharing.
    Claire recently posted..It was Clean- Cheap- and a Little NoisyMy Profile

  2. RyukyuMike says:

    Glad to see you back in the Mid East. Great post, I learned from it. Just quit being amazed at that one photo. I liked several of them.

  3. Sabina says:

    I’m glad you learned from it. I wish all of the photos were better.

  4. Sabina says:

    Hi, Claire – it’s great to hear that you’ve been here twice. I think you would definitely get an entirely different feel if you came back on your own.

  5. Steve says:

    I haven’t made it to Israel yet, but it’s been getting closer for me. It was actually on my narrow list of places to see this year, but I couldn’t fit it in. I can see why you say it is such a gorgeous place. And you’re right about your photo of the Sea of Galilee. Very beautiful.
    Steve recently posted..Are You Afraid to Do Things AloneMy Profile

  6. Sabina says:

    Hi, Steve. I’m glad to hear you’re interested in coming to Israel. Maybe you can devote an entire trip to this country some day. It’s so rich in history it takes forever to see everything.

  7. Kyle says:

    WOW, it looks absolutely stunning. It is sad that a country that’s so rich with history is in such turmoil with it’s neighbors. World peace. When will it come?

  8. Sabina says:

    Hi, Kyle. It is very sad. But I believe we will have world peace some day.

  9. I loved the picture you have of the Sea of Galilee. It is simply breathtaking.

  10. Sabina says:

    Thank you very much, Dr. Evans. I love it too. I hope you’ll stop back by to read more later.

  11. Mohammed Ali says:

    I see you have wrote that all the Arab country’s around occupied Palestine want to destroy it do you blame them the occupies are nothing but terrorists who use the second world war and the lie that six million Jews died as a excuse to kill and occupy a land that doesn’t even belong to them

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