GEOGRAPHY

   Israel is a small country whose land borders (except with Egypt, Jordan, and the sea) are not permanent and recognized and whose size has not been determined precisely due to the absence of permanent and comprehensive peace. Within the frontiers established by armistice agreements signed in 1949 at the end of the first Arab-Israeli War, Israel was less than 8,000 square miles (some 20,700 square kilometers) and was bounded on the north by Lebanon; on the northeast by Syria; on the east by the West Bank, Jordan, and the Dead Sea; and on the west by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is 264 miles long and, at its widest, is some 70 miles.
   Israel may be divided into four main natural land regions: the coastal plain, the highlands of Judea and Samaria, the Rift Valley, and the Negev Desert. The coastal plain lies along the Mediterranean and is composed of a generally narrow and sandy shoreline bordered by fertile farmland varying up to 25 miles in width from the northern border to the Israel-Egypt border in the southwest. Most Israelis live in the coastal plain, and most of the industry and agriculture are located there. A series of mountain ranges run north to south from the Galilee to the Negev. The mountains of Galilee stretch southward to the Jezreel Valley, south of which are the mountains and hills of Samaria, Judea, and the Negev. Upper Galilee is the highest part of the country. Lower Galilee's hills are more broken. The highlands of Galilee are where most of Israel's Arabs live in a triangular-shaped area that includes the city of Nazareth. Mount Meron, Israel's highest mountain, is here. The Judean hills include Jerusalem. There is also the Carmel mountain range near Haifa.
   The Rift Valley is part of the Great Syrian-African rift—the deepest valley on earth. In Israel, it includes the Jordan Valley, which is located between the mountains of Judea and Samaria in the west and the mountains of Jordan to the east; the Hula Valley between the mountains of Galilee and the Golan Heights; the Jezreel Valley between the mountains of Galilee and Samaria; and the Arava, a long and arid valley running from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. Portions of the Arava were ceded to Jordan in the 1994 peace treaty and then leased back to Israeli farmers. The Dead Sea, a saltwater body, is part of the Rift Valley area and is the lowest land area on earth, about 1,286 feet below sea level. The Negev is an arid area of flatlands and limestone mountains that stretches southward from the Judean Desert, which lies between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
   The Jordan River, the longest of Israel's rivers, flows north to south through the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Kinneret and Lake Tiberias) and empties into the Dead Sea. Most of Israel's other rivers are small and generally seasonal in nature, except for the Kishon (which is about 8 miles long, flows east to west, and empties into the Mediterranean north of Haifa) and the Yarkon (which is about 16 miles long, flows east to west, and empties into the Mediterranean at Tel Aviv).
   Israel's climate generally is Mediterranean in nature—marked by hot and dry summers and cool but relatively mild winters. There is sunshine from May through mid-October, and no rain falls during this season. Periods of hot and dry weather brought by easterly winds occur at the beginning and end of the summer, usually in May and September. The hot, dry, sandy, easterly wind of Biblical fame is commonly known as khamsin, from the Arabic for fifty. The rainy season begins about mid-October, but it is only in December that rainy days become frequent. Winter weather alternates between short but heavy rainy spells and sunshine. March and April are cool, with occasional rains of short duration. Nevertheless, there is a variation of climate by region, partly as a consequence of differences in altitude. North of Beersheba, Israel has a Mediterranean climate, but the Negev is generally arid, and cultivation there is impossible without irrigation. The Jordan Valley is hotter and drier than the coastal plain. Tiberias and the Jordan Valley enjoy warm temperatures and little rainfall. In the hilly regions (including Jerusalem and the Upper Galilee), temperatures drop toward the freezing point, and brief snowfalls are not unusual.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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