Planning your trip in the Lower Galilee
The Galilee is the mountainous area in the north of Israel that extends from the Mount Carmel- Mount Gilboa range in the south up to Israel’s northern border (although officially up to the east-west section of the Litani River within Lebanon), and from Israel’s coastal plain in the west to the Jordan Rift Valley in the east (including Lake Kinneret and the Hulah Valley). Traditionally, the Galilee is divided into the northern Upper Galilee and the southern Lower Galilee, with the dividing line being the Beit Hakerem Valley. The Jewish municipalities of Karmiel and Misgav are in this valley. The Lower Galilee has low mountain ranges less than 2,000 feet with shallow expanses between them, while the mountains in the Upper Galilee reach up to more than 3,000 feet and have sharper valleys.
The Lower Galilee consists of a series of ridges running east west, and in between these ridges are valleys. From south to north these are the Valley of Jabneel, the Valley of Turan, the Valley of Beth Netofa, the Valley of Sakhin, and the Valley of Beth-Kerem. Most of the roads in the Galilee traversed these valleys since travel in the north south direction was more difficult.
This website does not cover the coastal plain. The “Upper Galilee” (in brown on this website) and “Lower Galilee” (in green) are covered separately. All sites north of Lake Kinneret, including those close to the northern lake shore, are described in the section “Eastern Upper Galilee” (in purple). I did this because all places in the Rift Valley north of Lake Kinneret group naturally together as a tourist area. All other sites on Lake Kinneret are described in the section “Lake Kinneret and Jordan Valley” (in light blue). For the same reason, namely because this is a convenient tourist area, places in the Harod Valley and Eastern Jezreel Valley are also described in the section “Lake Kinneret and Jordan Valley,” although technically they could be considered part of the Lower Galilee. Megiddo in the western part of the Jezreel Valley is covered in the “Lower Galilee” section.
Copyright: Dolní_Galilea.svg: Daniel Baránekderivative work: TheCuriousGnome, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Some history of the Galilee
During the Biblical period the Galilee was occupied by the tribes of Zebulon, Naphtali, Issachar, and Asher. Following the split in the monarchy, this area became part of the Northern Israelite Kingdom. It was conquered by the Assyrians in the 8th century and much of its population was deported.
After Herod the Great died, his son Herod Antipas was appointed tetrarch of Galilee. He rebuilt the city of Sepphoris or Zippori and founded the city of Tiberius. These cities were centers of Greek and Roman influence, although they had predominantly Jewish populations.
The Lower Galilee experienced a large increase in population after the Bar Kochba Revolt when Judea was depopulated and its Jewish population was murdered, sold into slavery, died from starvation or forced to immigrate. A sizable proportion moved to the Lower Galilee, including the rabbinic leadership. Thus, Usha, Zippori and finally Tiberius became the seat of the Sanhedrin. This despite Zippori and Tiberius being pagan and subsequently Christian-run cities. During the Byzantine period when Israel became a Christian country, many Jews moved to the Upper Galilee and Golan in totally Jewish towns.
What is there to do in the Lower Galilee? Hiking! All the hikes described in this section are family hikes. The hikes in Yodfat, Karnei Hittin and Mount Tabor are all worthwhile and are relatively easy. The hike in Nahal Tabor is longer and a bit more difficult, but it is exceptionally beautiful and worth the effort. Tzippori and Megiddo are two places of historic interest worth visiting. Tel Yodfat is also of historic interest as it was the headquarters of the zealots during the Great Revolt against Rome. The mall area in Yodfat is nice to visit, with its restaurant and coffee shop and tourist-type stores.
Kiddy things are limited in this area. The Yodfat Monkey Forest, and workshops at the Marzipan Factory and Silk and Honey Farm may be appropriate, but call the latter two to check on when their workshops are offered.