The Jordan Valley is part of the Syrian African Rift (or Great Rift Valley), which extends between Lebanon in the north to Mozambique in Africa, a distance of about 3,700 miles. It results from the moving apart of two tectonic plates – the African Plate and Arabian Plate – leading to a thinning of the earth’s crust. These plates are still, in fact, moving apart. The Arabian plate on the east side of the Jordan River is shifting north, while the African plate is moving to the west. The movement is only several millimeters a year but over 15 million years it adds up. The rivers, gullies, and even copper mines on the two sides of the Jordan River and Arava no longer align, and there is a difference of 65-miles between them.
About 3.7 million years ago, oceanic water from the Mediterranean poured into the Jordan Rift Valley through the Jezreel Valley. Subsequently, the intervening mountains rose up, leading to the isolation of a large lake called Lake Lissan. Lake Kinneret in the north and the Dead Sea are all that remain of this giant lake. The Jordan River meanders through the length of the Jordan Valley and connects these two lakes. The distance covered as the crow flies is 65 miles, but the twists and turns of the river more than double this.
The Beit She’an Valley is a wider part of the Jordan Valley in northern Israel. At its center is the modern-day town of Beit Shean. The Beit She’an Valley is bordered at its southwest aspect by the Gilboa Mountain Range and it opens westward into the Harod Valley. The Harod Valley is like the narrow shaft of an arrow leading to the wide Jezreel Valley further to the west.
The Beit She’an Valley is endowed with many springs and flowing rivers, and some of these are popular swimming and picnic areas such as Gan HaShlosha (Sachne) and Park HaMa’ayanot. In the Harod Valley is the Harod Spring (Ein Harod) in the Harod National Park.
As for the rest of the Jordan Valley and around Lake Kinneret, this area is below sea level and is very hot and humid during the summer. Nevertheless, its attractive swimming areas and other sites more than make up for this.
For this book, sites such as Megiddo which are in the western part of the Jezreel Valley are covered in the section on the Lower Galilee, while Tel Jezreel in its eastern part is in this section. Sites around Lake Kinneret are also located in this section, while sites around its northern shore are in the section on the Eastern Upper Galilee.
Vacationing in the Beit Shean Valley and around Lake Kinneret
There is a lot to see and do in the Beit Shean Valley. Many people head straight to the fabulously beautiful Gan HaShlosha (Sachne). But don’t forget the adjacent Park Hama’ayanot, which contains the three most abundant water sources of the valley. Entry is free. For kids' swimming, the Harod National Park is a good choice. Gan Ugam is a kids-friendly version of Gan HaShlosha. Kids and even adults will enjoy Gan Garoo Zoo, which is next to Gan HaShlosha. To appreciate the splendid architecture of an ancient Roman city, ancient Beit She'an is the place to go. Consider also visiting Naharayim at Gesher to capture some inspiring pre-state history. This can be seen with a tour and you will need to pre-arrange the best timing. Crusader castles often seem as if they are one to the dozen in Israel, but the castle and views at Kochav Hayarden are very impressive. Two interesting, easy walks just below Lake Kinneret close to the mouth of the River Jordan are described on this website. There is also a very nice, not-difficult hike described on the Gilboa Mountain Range. Many people drive through Tiberias without giving it much thought, but a number of places there are worth visiting.
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