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The Name.

The portion of Syria which was formerly the possession of the Israelites. It includes the whole of the country between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean as well as the country immediately to the east of the Jordan. The word represents the Greek form, Παλαιστίνη, of the Hebrew (Ex. xv. 14; Isa. xiv. 29, 31; Ps. lx. 10 [A. V. 8]), although in the Old Testament is applied only to the land of the Pelishtim (), or Philistines, and hence denotes merely the coast district south of Phenicia. It was the Greeks who began to denote the inland country as well by this term; such an application, by a foreign people, of the name of the coast to the interior is no rare phenomenon. As early as Herodotus, who is followed by other classical writers, as Ptolemy and Pliny, the phrase Συρίε ἡ Παλαιστίνη denotes both the littoral and the neighboring inland region (Judea and Palestine), as well as the entire interior as far as the Arabian desert. Josephus, however, usually limits the name to the land of the Philistines. In the course of time the term "Palestine" superseded the longer "Palestinian Syria," and it is used with this connotation by Josephus and Philo, while Vespasian officially designated the country as "Palestine" on the coins which he struck after the suppression of the Jewishinsurrection in 70 C.E., implying thereby the territory of the Jews. The name is used in this sense by Christian authors beginning with Jerome, as well as by the Jewish writers (), while the Arabic "Filasṭin" is more restricted in meaning, denoting only Judea and Samaria.


Although there was no inclusive name in antiquity for the country of the Israelites and the coast, the designation "Canaan" () is applied in the Old Testament to Palestine west of the Jordan. The meaning of the word "Canaan" (on the El-Amarna tablets "Kinakhni" or "Kinakhkhi"; Greek, Χνã) is uncertain, nor is it clear whether it was originally an appellative or not; for the usual explanation, that it means "the lowland," in contrast to "Aram" (the highland), is entirely without basis. Canaan is bounded on the west by the sea, on the east by the Jordan, the Lake of Tiberias, and a line drawn northward from that point (Num. xxxiv. 6, 11). While on the one hand the non-Israelitic plain of Philistia and Phenicia on the coast was included in Canaan, the east-Jordan district, on the other hand, was not Canaanitish, although it was held by the Israelites. The northern and southern boundaries of the region also extended beyond the territory of the Israelites, which reached from Dan in the north to Beer-sheba in the south (Judges xx. 1; II Sam. xxiv. 2, 15; et al.). The southern boundary of Canaan, on the contrary, ran from the southern end of the Dead Sea to Kadesh-barnea (the modern 'Ain Ḳadis), and thence to the "river of Egypt" (comp. Ezek. xlvii. 19; Num. xxxiv. 7), which corresponds to the present Wadi al-'Arish, where lay Rhinocorura (the modern Al-'Arish), the ancient frontier city between Egypt and Syria. The boundary of Canaan extended beyond that of Israel in the north. While the latter terminated south of the Lebanon (Dan = Tell al-Ḳaḍi, at the southern foot of Mount Hermon), Canaan included all Lebanon (Josh. xiii. 5; comp. Judges iii. 3), extending to a line drawn from the sea opposite "the entrance of Hamath" to that city (Num. xxxiv. 7 et seq.; Ezek. xlvii. 15-20).

This "entrance of Hamath" must be located a little south of the city, which corresponds to the present Ḥama on the Al-'Aṣi (the ancient Orontes). The natural boundary in this region is the Nahr al-Kabir, which separates the Lebanon from the Nuṣairi mountains on the north and forms the ascent from the coast to Ḥimṣ and Ḥama, thus corresponding in all probability to the boundary as indicated by the ancient statements, if these were based on the physical conformation of the country and not on a difference in the population or merely on a theory. Within these limits the west-Jordan district, or Canaan, was regarded as a country promised to the Israelites by God, as their possession in the Messianic time, although they never occupied it entirely. There are other passages, however, in which the boundaries of Canaan are described as less extensive, and from them all mention of the Lebanon is frequently omitted (comp. Gen. x. 19; Deut. i. 7; Josh. xi. 17, xii. 7). Canaan, as a matter of fact, had no definite boundaries, and opinions differ regarding the extent of territory promised to the Israelites.


The east-Jordan country, at least in so far as it was Israelitic, is called "Gilead" in the Old Testament. This name also was originally applied to a smaller territory, and has various connotations in the Bible. It designates, in the first place, a small mountainous region, the "mountains of Gilead," the modern Jabal al-Jal'ud, south of the Jabbok (Nahr al-Zarḳa). In a wider sense the name is applied to the region extending to the Yarmuḳ in the north, while the east-Jordan district is divided into Gilead and Bashan (Deut. iii. 10; Josh. xiii. 11; II Kings x. 33), and the term is finally used to designate the east-Jordan country in general, which otherwise had no special name (Gen. xxxvii. 25; Josh. xxii. 9; II Sam. ii. 9; II Kings x. 33; Amos i. 3; et al.).

As the country of Palestine was neither a geographical nor, in pre-Israelitic times, a political unity, the Egyptians and Assyrians had no special term to designate the region. The Egyptians borrowed the name of Canaan from the Semitic Syrians, however, and used it to denote all Egyptian Asia, including Phenicia, so that its application was very similar to that found in the Old Testament. Southern Syria was usually called "Kharu" by the Egyptians, and this term applies on the whole to the Israelitic territory of the west-Jordan district, including the coast of the Philistines, while the northern plateau, especially Lebanon, Cœle-Syria, and the region of the Orontes, was called "Rutennu." The oldest Assyrian name for the district was "Amurru," which included Palestine, Phenicia, and its inland region, as well as Cœle-Syria. Later, in the El-Amarna letters, the term "Kinakhkhi" (= "Canaan") was used, especially for southern Syria, while "Amurru," in a more restricted sense, was applied to the Lebanon and Phenicia. After the time of Tiglath-pileser III., Syria, beginning with the Taurus and including Palestine, was called the "Land of the Khatti" (the Hittites), this term, like that of Canaan, being an amplification of the original meaning of the name, since there were no Hittites in Phenicia or Palestine. The various names applied to the country and its different parts under Roman rule will be discussed below.

Boundaries and Extent.

The region now called Palestine is the southern-most part of Syria, and is included between two lines drawn from the Mediterranean eastward—the lower from the southeast corner of the Mediterranean through the southern end of the Dead Sea, and the upper from Tyre to the southern foot of Mount Hermon. This portion of Syria has certain natural boundaries to justify its historical individuality: the sea to the west, the Syrian desert to the east, and the desert of Al-Tih to the south. The desert boundary-lines vary, however, since these regions are not sandy wastes, like those in Egypt, but partially arable steppes. The line of habitation has, therefore, varied greatly, especially to the east, so that at times a settled population has advanced, under the influence of a strong and well-ordered polity, for a considerable distance into the steppes, only to be ultimately pushed back by the more powerful Bedouins. In the north the deep and wild Liṭani (called Nahr al-Ḳasimiyyah in itslower course) separates the upper Lebanon range from the lower hill-country of Galilee, and in the east Mount Hermon closes the country to the north. The sources of the Jordan are on the southern spur of this mountain.

Palestine extends, therefore, from 31° to 33° 20′ N. latitude. Its southwest point (at Raphia = Tell Rifaḥ, southwest of Gaza) is about 34° 15′ E. longitude, and its northwest point (mouth of the Liṭani) is at 35° 15′ E. longitude, while the course of the Jordan reaches 35° 35′ to the east. The west-Jordan country has, consequently, a length of about 150 English miles from north to south, and a breadth of about 23 miles at the north and 80 miles at the south. The area of this region, as measured by the surveyors of the English Palestine Exploration Fund, is about 6,040 square miles. The east-Jordan district is now being surveyed by the German Palästina-Verein, and although the work is not yet completed, its area may be estimated at 4,000 square miles. This entire region, as stated above, was not occupied exclusively by the Israelites, for the plain along the coast in the south belonged to the Philistines, and that in the north to the Phenicians, while in the east-Jordan country the Israelitic possessions never extended farther than the Arnon (Wadi al-Mujib) in the south, nor did the Israelites ever settle in the most northerly and easterly portions of the plain of Bashan. To-day the number of inhabitants does not exceed 650,000. Palestine, and especially the Israelitic state, covered, therefore, a very small area, approximating that of the state of Vermont.

Situation; Roads.

Palestine lies at the juncture of Africa and Asia, and its geographical position has determined its entire history, development, and culture. At the time of the earliest historical knowledge of Palestine great kingdoms with a high degree of civilization flourished on the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates. Since it was vital for a state on the Euphrates to have access to the Mediterranean and consequently to be in possession of the coast districts, Egypt had previously seized the only neighboring country amenable to culture. From that early period down to the days of the successors of Alexander the Great, Palestine was the bone of contention between Egypt and the power dominant in Syria; it was seldom entirely independent and free, but nearly always was subject to one of these two powers. Thus the formation of a great Palestinian polity was rendered impossible by its situation, which, on the other hand, offered all the advantages of close contact with the two great civilizations of ancient times. Palestine was traversed by the highways of antiquity, the great military and commercial roads leading from Egypt to the Euphrates and northern Syria passing through its territory. The highway from Egypt led along the coast to a point south of Mount Carmel; there it divided. One branch followed the coast-line across the "Syrian stair" north of Acre into Phenicia, to the Dog River (Nah ral-Kalb, north of Beirut)—where its course is marked by tablets cut into the rocks with inscriptions of Assyrian and Egyptian kings—and thence farther north. The other branch traversed the eastern end of Mount Carmel and the plain of Esdraelon, going along the side of Mount Tabor and Ḳarn Ḥattin to the Lake of Tiberias, crossed the Jordan south of Baḥrat al-Ḥulah, and thence led along the southern and eastern sides of Mount Hermon to Damascus and the Euphrates. At Ḳarn Ḥattin it met a road from Acre, called "Derek ha-Yam" (the Way of the Sea; Isa. viii. 23 [A. V. ix. 1]), which formed the shortest and most important connection between Damascus and the sea.

Another branch of this great road from Egypt ran north through the Jordan valley, leading through the Biḳa' (Cœle-Syria) and the valley of the Orontes by way of Ribla to Hamat and northern Syria. Another highway led from Damascus directly south through the east-Jordan district to southern Arabia and to Elath on the Red Sea.

Foreign culture entered with the armies and caravans which traversed the country along these highways. Too small and too poor, and also too disrupted politically, to produce an important culture of its own, middle and southern Syria willingly accepted the elements of foreign civilization brought to it, fusing them to suit its own requirements. The predominance of Babylonian culture in Palestine even as early as 1400 B.C. is indicated by the fact that in the El-Amarna letters the scribes of Palestinian vassal kings wrote to their suzerain, the Pharaoh of Egypt, in the Babylonian language and script. The statements frequently made in regard to the seclusion of Palestine by natural barriers can not, therefore, be substantiated. Only the southern part of the country, which later was called Judah had this character of seclusion, since it was not traversed by the highways already mentioned, but was closed in to the east by the deep basin of the Dead Sea, while the mountain slopes on the same side were steep and impassable. The country would be more accessible on the south were it not for the desert, which cuts off all commerce and gives approach only to a barren plateau that offers no inducements to settlers. Entry from the west is impossible except through narrow valleys flanked by steep mountains. Judea is really accessible only on the north; the single road connecting the southern with the northern country runs along the ridge of the mountain, almost on the watershed line between the Mediterranean and the Jordan valley. Judea is thus secluded by its physical conformation, so that a small state was able to maintain an independent existence there for a long time.

Physical Features.

Palestine, being really a part of Syria, presents the same physical features as that country. The chief topographic characteristic of the district is a great chasm running from north to south through the entire length of the great chalk-bed abutting on the Syrian desert. This deep and rather wide chasm divides the country into an eastern and a western part. It begins to the northeast of the ancient Antioch and forms in its southern course first the Orontes valley (Al-Aṣi), then the depression between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon (Cœle-Syria), and finally the valley of the Jordan. Even a little south of Lebanon, at Lake Ḥulah, it is barely 2 meters above the level of the Mediterranean, and thence it descends rapidly to its greatest depth inthe Dead Sea. It then rises southward, continuing through the 'Arabah, and ending at the Gulf of Aila in the Red Sea. The rift dates from the end of the Tertiary period, but the view formerly held that the Dead Sea was once connected with the Red Sea, and that the sea flooded the valley, is now disproved, since the watershed in the 'Arabah, between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, rises to 250 meters above the level of the Mediterranean. The water in the Dead Sea, however, was formerly about 426 meters higher than now, and 32 meters above the present level of the Mediterranean. At this altitude has been found sediment left by the water, which was not so saline then as now. The rift divides the country into three longitudinal zones which differ widely in their conformations: the eastern mountain district, the chasm itself, and the western mountain district. The coastal plain, of varying width, although contained in the territory of Palestine, forms a fourth division.

The Coastal Plain.

This coastal plain is of relatively late origin. In some prehistoric period the level of the sea was at least 60 or 70 meters higher than at present, as may be seen by the deposits on the mountainsides in which are embedded the same varieties of Conchifera as are found in the Mediterranean, whose waves washed also the foot of the mountains in southern Palestine. The old coast-line was part of the great system of faults of the entire country. When the sea receded to the present coast-line the plain emerged, although it is covered by late deposits of the diluvial sea. It can not be determined whether the line has changed within historical times, but in several places, as at Tyre, Acre, and Gaza, it has been moved farther out to sea by alluvial deposits of Nile mud. The coast forms almost a straight line from the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean to the headland of Carmel, and is a continuous strip of flat coast with neither promontories nor indentations. Along this line the depth of the sea increases as gradually as the elevation of the country; and along a large part of the coast, frequently separating marshy strips from the sea, run dunes which reach a width of 6 kilometers between Gaza and Jaffa. North of Carmel the character of the coast changes, and plains and bluffs alternate. Thence the low coast extends to Acre, and in a straight line to the Ras al-Naḳura. From that point, as far as the Ras al-Abyaḍ, the rocks run down to the sea, and travelers along the coast were obliged to pass by way of the "Stairway of the Tyrians." Then follows a low coast with a small plain. Here also the formation of the sea-bottom corresponds to that of the coast. At the bluffs of Carmel and the Tyrian Stairway the height-line of 100 meters, which, at Gaza, is more than 30 kilometers distant from the land, approaches the coast to within 13 or even 10 kilometers, while shallow water is again found along the beaches north of Carmel and of the Tyrian Stairway. In consequence of this conformation of the coast there are no good harbors, and ships find no adequate anchorage, since the shallow water does not permit them to approach the land closely, and they have no protection against winds, especially against those from the west. Although the bluffs at Jaffa are nearly 300 meters long and form a natural breakwater, they also close the entrance to the harbor basin. The harbor of Ḥaifa, next to that of Beirut, is the best on the entire Syrian coast, being protected against the south and west winds. The formations at Acre, Tyre, and Sidon are unfavorable, and all ships are obliged to anchor in the offing.

The Plain of the Shefelah.

The coastal plain south of Carmel is divided by its conformation into two parts, which were distinguished as early as Old Testament times, the dividing line being the Nahr Rubin, immediately south of Jaffa. The southern part, the land of the Philistines, is the "Shefelah" lowland of the Old Testament (Deut. i. 7; Josh. ix.1, x. 40; Judges i. 9; et al.). This country is a rolling plain; and between the numerous ranges of hills running from the mountains toward the west and northwest are other plains of varying size and a number of wadis, including the Wadi Ghazzah, Wadi al-Ḥasi, Nahr Sukrair, and Nahr Rubin, the two last-named being perennial brooks in their lower courses. The boundary on the east is much less sharply defined than that in the northern part of the plain, since the hill-country rises very gradually to the mountain district proper. The Shefelah has, therefore, often been regarded as the hill-country adjoining the mountains, in contrast to the plain of Philistia itself. This view is incorrect, however, for the designation includes both the plain and the hill-country, as the conformation itself shows. South of Gaza the plain ends in the desert, and the Wadi al'Arish (the river of Egypt, mentioned above) traverses only a waste. The most southerly city on the plain is Gaza, a great oasis in the desert, which, although it has no harbor, since it was on the great highway from the Euphrates to the Nile has always been an important commercial center. It was important, moreover, strategically, both as a defense against Egypt and as the key to Syria. The other Palestinian cities of Ashkelon ('Asḳalan) and Ashdod (Asdud), on the coast, as well as Ekron ('Aḳir) in the interior, which once were prominent, are now insignificant, while the very site of Gath is unknown. The Shefelah is a fertile region except for a few districts on the sea; Gaza exports much barley, and the date-palm grows in the southern part of it, in addition to the other fruit-trees of Palestine. Altogether, the plain is to-day as it was in antiquity—populous and well cultivated.

Plain of Sharon. Map of Palestine.(From a Passover Haggadah printed at Amsterdam, 1695.)

The northern part of the coastal plain, called the plain of Sharon in the Old Testament, extends from the Nahr Rubin to Mount Carmel and is much more level than the southern part. It has few considerable elevations, one of these being the hill of Jaffa, which rises from the sea. The plain is about 100 kilometers long. On the north, along the ridge of Carmel, it is very narrow, and about 30 kilometers south of the edge of Carmel, on the Nahr al-Zarḳa, it has a width of only 3 or 4 kilometers, but from this point it widens suddenly, being 12 kilometers broad at Cæsarea and 20 kilometers at Jaffa. It ascends gradually toward the mountain on the east. It is well watered, since the streams from the mountains drain into it, and it is irrigated in the north by the rivers from Mount {-}Carmel, as well as by a series of perennial brooks. The Nahr al-Zarḳa is the Crocodile River mentioned by Pliny, and its marshes still harbor some of those reptiles. The Nahr Iskandarunah forms the outlet of the large valley leading from Nablus, and the short Nahr al-Falik was made by the water collected their piercing the sand-hills on the coast for an outlet. The Nahr al-'Auja, two hours north of Jaffa, is, despite its short course, the most copious river in Palestine, next to the Jordan. Sanddunes along the greater part of the coast, however, have closed the outlet of the streams coming from the mountains and have formed marshes in many places. More important than all these rivers is the abundant supply of good water which may be obtained everywhere a short distance below the surface, and which is used for irrigation both in the orange groves of Jaffa and in the Jewish colonies in the plain.

In consequence of this abundant supply of water the plain has always been a very fertile one, although no humus has formed on the alluvial land. The plain of Sharon was famous in antiquity for its rich vegetation (comp. Isa. xxxiii. 9, xxxv. 2), and was considered good pasture-land (I Chron. xxvii. 29), while in the spring it was brilliant with flowers (comp. Cant. ii. 1). The southern part of the plain is well cultivated, and there are famous orange groves extending for many miles around Jaffa. The German colony of Sarona and several Jewish agricultural colonies are in this part of the plain. In the northern portion there are still many acres of untilled land, which is used as pasture. Among the coast towns was the ancient Dor (the modern Ṭanṭurah), the most southern settlement of the Phenicians (Josh. xi. 2, xii. 23, et al.); it now lies in ruins, as well as Cæsarea, which, built by Herod the Great, was for a time the capital of Palestine, and in whose remains, still termed Ḳaiṣariyyah, a small colony of Circassians has settled. Jaffa alone has retained its importance as the port for Jerusalem and the entire southern part of Palestine, and is steadily developing, containing more than 40,000 inhabitants in 1904.

The most northern part of the coast-line is the plain of Acre, which extends for about 35 kilometers north from Carmel to the promontory Ras al-Naḳurah of the Jabal al-Mushaḳḳah. The southern part, between the cities of Ḥaifa, at the northern foot of Carmel, and Acre, on the northern end of the finely curved Bay of Acre, extends with a width of 6 kilometers along the bay, being separated from the plain of Esdraclon only by a slight elevation. This is traversed by the Kishon (the modern Nahr al-Muḳaṭṭa'), which, like the Nahr Na'man farther north (the ancient Belus), empties into the Bay of Acre. The greater part of this region is marshy and unhealthful, and only the more elevated edges are cultivated. The smaller, northern portion of the plain north of Acre is very narrow, but fertile and well cultivated.

The West-Jordan Mountain District.

The west-Jordan mountain district extends almost in a straight line from south to north as the connecting-link between the table-land of Al-Tih, in the Sinaitic Peninsula, and the Lebanon. In consequence of the rift described above, which caused the bed of the Jordan to sink, the cretaceous layer that was originally horizontal has taken the form of a flat arch, which declines much more steeply on the east than on the west. In distinction from a mountain ridge and a level plateau, the west-Jordan mountain district may be described as a table-land of highly irregular and diversified conformation. Its most important characteristic is in the fact that the axis of the mountain range lies much nearer to the Jordan than to the sea, so that about two-thirds of the west-Jordan country lies west of the watershed. This is highly important for the hydrographic conditions of the region, since it permits the development of longer and richer valley systems westward toward the sea, some of which widen into small though fertile plains. The descent toward the east, on the contrary, is much too steep to permit such conformations. The difference in the elevation is, moreover, much greater, in view of the low level of the Jordan valley. Thus, between Hebron and Jerusalem the elevation of the ridge is from 800 to 1,000 meters, while the level of the Dead Sea is 393 meters below that of the Mediterranean, so that the entire difference is between 1,200 and 1,400 meters, although the ridge is only about 25 kilometers distant from the Dead Sea. This makes a fall of 48 or 50 meters per kilometer.

Toward the north the conformation is somewhat more favorable as regards the difference in elevation, but toward Nablus the watershed approaches to within 15 or 20 kilometers of the Jordan. Naturally, the water can not sink into the ground there, and no level valleys can be formed; the torrents carry the soil and smaller rocks down with them while rushing through the deep and nearly perpendicular cañons which they have cut out. The force of these streams should not be underestimated, although these cañons were cut in remote prehistoric times, when more rain fell in Palestine than at present. The mountain ridge is the center of the country from a physical as well as a cultural point of view, for there all the important cities were situated: Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Beth-el, Shechem, and Samaria; and along this ridge ran the principal, or rather the only, commercial highway of the Israelitic kingdom. This circumstance, which seems strange at first sight, is easily explicable from the conformation, for there is no valley running from the north to the south, and numerous wadis, some of which are deep, run east and west from the ridge. This renders it difficult, if not impossible, to have roads north and south on the mountainsides, for they would be forced to either cross or go around the valleys; furthermore, access to the wadis was very difficult in the east and west, especially in the southern part of the country.

The Negeb.

The west-Jordan mountain district is divided into two unequal parts by the plain of Esdraelon—the mountain district of Galilee to the north, and that of Judea and Samaria to the south. A peculiarity in the conformation corresponds to this geographical division, Galilee, the northern country, being morediversified than the bare and monotonous southern part. The Judean mountains rise in the south from a bare plateau, which extends on the west side of the 'Arabah southward from the Dead Sea for about 100 kilometers. The Canaanitic portion of this area is called in the Old Testament the Negeb, or "Barren Country," a territory of indefinite boundaries. On the east the declivities toward the Dead Sea southward are comprised in the "wilderness of Judah" (see below), so that the "Salt City" (the modern Khirbat al-Milḥ), only 25 kilometers east of Beer-sheba, is occasionally included in the desert of Judah. In the north the Negeb extends as far as the mountain district proper, about half-way between Beer-sheba and Hebron, where the mountains at Al-Dahariyyah and Khirbat 'Attir (Jattir) reach an elevation of 600 or 650 meters, this entire region being much more inviting in character on account of the vegetation resulting from the greater abundance of water.

The Negeb is rightly called "barren land." Today it is a steppe on which some small cattle are raised. Only Bedouins, the Azaziwah Arabs, pitch their tents here. In ancient times it was more populous, and a number of its cities are mentioned in the Old Testament (Josh. xv. 21-22, xix. 2-8; comp. I Chron. iv. 20-33). The best known is Beersheba, the famous old sanctuary (Gen. xxi. 33, xxvi. 33, xlvi. 1), which was still a place of pilgrimage in the time of Amos, visitors coming even from the Northern Kingdom (Amos v. 5, viii. 14). This city is regarded as the southernmost frontier city of the Israelites, since no Israelites were living in places farther south in the Negeb. The city derives its name from its wells, which were of great importance in antiquity and were an object of contention between Israel and the Philistines (Gen. xxi. 30, xxvi. 34). Beer-sheba was still an important place at the time of Jerome and Eusebius, and had a Roman garrison. The old name has been preserved in its modern appellation, Khirbat Bir al-Saba'. The city of Ziklag, on the other hand, mentioned in the story of David (I Sam. xxvii. 6), has not yet been definitely identified. There are many evidences, such as terraced slopes, and dams for water-works in the valleys, that this region was formerly cultivated, at least in part.

The Judean Plateau.

The characteristic features of the west-Jordan mountain district (see above) are most prominent in Judea. This region is a plateau with a compact mass of mountains whose ridge runs in an approximately straight line northward from Hebron to Baitin, with larger or smaller plateaux to the west. There are no definite natural boundaries separating the northern part of this district from the mountains of Samaria, although the traditional boundary, set for political reasons, finds its justification in the geographical conformation. Within the Judean hill-country the group of mountains about Hebron in the south and those of Baitin in the north are marked by an elevation which sometimes reaches 1,000 meters, while the less lofty mountain district of Jerusalem does not exceed 800 meters. In the group of mountains surrounding Hebron the ridge rises in the Ṣirat al-Balla', somewhat north of the city, to an elevation of 1,027 meters, being the highest point in southern and middle Palestine. The mean elevation of the plateau is 900 meters. There are two fertile plateaux of considerable size on the west close to the watershed: in the south the plateau of Hebron, with the famous old city of Hebron, the modern Al-Khalil; and farther north the plateau of Ḥalḥul and Bet Ṣur (the Halhul and Beth-zur of Josh. xv. 58; see II Chron. xi. 7; I Macc. iv. 29, 61, et al.; Beth-zur was an important fortress during the wars of the Maccabees). The latter plateau is drained by the Wadi 'Arrub, whose source fed the aqueduct leading to the so-called "Pools of Solomon" and to Jerusalem.


The middle district of the hill-country of Jerusalem is much lower, its highest point being the Nabi Samwil, northwest of Jerusalem, 895 meters high (perhaps the ancient Mizpah in Benjamin and Samuel's seat of judgment; Josh. xviii. 25; I Sam. vii. 5 et seq.; see Ramah). At Jerusalem the watershed sinks to 817 meters, but to the north rises again to 881 meters at Baitin, where the fertility of the country is due to a number of smaller plateaux west of the watershed, as at Bethlehem and Bait Jala (a large, flourishing Christian village, half an hour northwest of Bethlehem, where the country still justifies its name [Bait Laḥm = "house of bread"]). Southwest of Jerusalem lies the plateau of Al-Biḳa', probably the plain of Rephaim, fertile in grain (Isa. xvii. 5).

Farther north from Jerusalem, somewhat more distant from the watershed, is the plain of Yalo (the Ajalon of Josh. x. 12; I Sam. xiv. 31, etc.). The water from this plain collects on the north in the Wadi Bet Ḥaninah, and on the south in the Wadi al-Ward, both of which join the Wadi al-Ṣarar, the principal valley of Judea. The railway between Jaffa and Jerusalem runs through this valley. The cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem lie somewhat east of the watershed, while farther north, on the ridge of the mountain, are the following well-known places: "Gibeah of Saul" (I Sam. xi. 4), on the hill Tall al-Fal; Ramah in Benjamin (I Kings xv. 17; see Ramah), the modern Al-Ram; Beeroth (II Sam. iv. 2), probably the modern Al-Birah; and finally Beth-el, the pre-Israelitic sanctuary (Gen. xxviii. 11, 19) and the modern Baitin. East of Ramah lay a second Gibeah, in Benjamin (or Geba; I Sam. xiii. 16, xiv. 16, etc.), the present Jaba', and opposite it on the north side of the deep valley Wadi al-Suwainiṭ was Michmash (I Sam. xiii. 23; Isa. x. 28 et seq.), now the deserted Makhmas, while west of Ramah was situated the great Gibeon (the modern Al-Jib, with eight springs), with its famous altar (Josh. x. 2 et seq.; I Kings iii. 4 et seq.).

The third northern group, the mountain district of Beth-el, is less regular than the two preceding. Since the watershed is somewhat to the east, the road northward runs to the west of it in the parallel Wadi al-Jib. In the Tell 'Aṣur the mountain ridge again reaches an elevation of 1,011 meters. Near the watershed lies the famous old sanctuary of Shiloh (I Sam. i. 3 et seq.), the modern Sailun.

The western declivity of the Judean mountain district, at least that of the two southern groups, is differentiated from that of the more northern region by the fact that in the north the mountains slope abruptly toward the plain, while in the south there is a hill-country between the mountains and the plain of the Philistines which, as already noted, approaches the coast and is designated by the Hebrew name "Shefelah." About half-way down the slope, and between 20 and 25 kilometers west of the ridge, the mountains are cut off from the plain by a series of secondary valleys, which meet the principal valleys running east and west at right angles and form together, as members of the same system, a line from north to south, parallel to the great rift of the Jordan.

The Desert of Judah.

The eastern slope of the Judean mountain district also shows these lines running north and south. It has three terraces in the south, while the northern system has but two, these also being generally parallel to the watershed and corresponding to the conformation of the country. In the Old Testament this eastern slope is called the "wilderness" of Judah (Josh. xv. 61), which has never been of importance in history. It is for the greater part a barren desert, only a few small plains being covered with sparse grass in the spring, while elsewhere the calcareous rock with its strata of flint lies bare. Cañons pierce the declivity, and the passage downward is difficult.

The mountains of Samaria form, as noted above, a continuation of those of Judea, but since its physical conformation is different, a geographical separation is justified. Instead of a narrow plateau sloping toward the west and east with sharply defined boundary-lines, one finds, on going farther northward, a conformation of increasing variety. Central Palestine (Samaria) is, therefore, the natural transition between Judea and the mountains of northern Palestine. The change becomes apparent in southern Samaria, which may be said to extend northward as far as the Wadi al-Sha'ir, the principal valley of Samaria, connecting the mountains with the coast (see above). There the watershed no longer runs in a straight line north and south, but changes its direction frequently. North of Tell 'Aṣur it turns at first to the northeast, approaches within 15 or 20 kilometers of the Jordan, and then runs north until near Nablus, turning toward the west at Gerizim, the present Jabal al-Ṭur (870 meters). Then it traverses as a very low ridge the plain between Gerizim and Ebal, east of the present Nablus, ascends the Ebal (Jabal Aslamiyyah, 938 meters), and runs thence farther north. While Ebal is entirely bare, a number of large springs are found at the northern foot of Gerizim, which make the vicinity of Nablus one of the most fertile regions of all Palestine.

The northern foot of Gerizim also is covered with vegetation, so that Ebal was the mountain of cursing, while Gerizim was the mountain of blessing (Deut. xi. 29, xxvii. 12 et seq.). Shechem lay on the watershed ("shekem" = "shoulder"), east of the present Nablus, which corresponds to the ancient (Flavia) Neapolis, a name given to the city when it was rebuilt after the war of Vespasian, this being one of the rare cases in which a Roman local name has replaced the ancient Semitic one. On the eastern slope of Gerizim, and before the great gate to the west between it and Ebal, spreads the large plain of Al-Makhnah, with an area of about 20 square kilometers; and on the northeast, and connected with it, is the plain of Salim, a fertile grain-country, surrounded by finely formed mountains covered with olive-trees.

Mount Ebal marks the southern boundary of the mountains of northern Samaria, whence the ridge extends first north and then northeast to the Jabal Faḳu'ah, the Old Testament mountains of Gilboa (I Sam. xxxi. 1; II Sam. i. 21). This elevation, extending in the shape of a crescent from southeast to northwest, forms in a certain sense the terminal point of the range. It slopes steeply toward the Jordan, and to the brook of Jalud (see below) and the plain of Jezreel. On the northern side, however, there are numerous small plains set in the mountain-side, such as those of Al-Fandaḳumiyyah, 'Arabah with Tell Dotan (the Dothan of Gen. xxxvii. 14-17), and Marj al-Gharaḳ, which forms in winter a large marshy region with no drainage, although it dries up in the summer, leaving a field for cultivating grain. The eastern slope of the mountains of Samaria is more varied than in the south; instead of the terraces parallel with the ridge, four mountain ranges about 20 kilometers long run from northwest to southeast, almost to the Jordan. The beautiful wide valleys between them are very fertile, the most important one being the Wadi Far'ah, south of the Ḳarn Ṣarṭabah. The most southern of these ranges ends in the Ḳarn Ṣarṭabah, 379 meters above the sea, and about 679 meters above the Jordan valley, of which it forms the great landmark.

Mount Carmel.

On the northwest there is another outlying range of hills, reaching an elevation of 518 meters in the Shaikh Iskandar, which, together with its continuation, the Bilad al-Ruḥah, connects the mountain country with Mount Carmel. Otherwise Carmel occupies a position apart, being separated from the rest of the mountains by two deep valleys, the Wadi al-Milḥ and the Wadi al-Maṭabin. It consists of a wooded range with its axis running from southeast to northwest; it is widest at the southeast end and narrows to a point at the northwest. It reaches its highest elevation in the southeastern part, near the wide base of the mountain at Asfiyyah (552 meters). Thence the ridge declines slowly and evenly to the convent of Carmel on the northwestern point (169 meters), sloping abruptly to the sea at an angle of 35 degrees. The slope toward the plain of Esdraelon also is a steep one, while it is merged into wooded hills on the southwest. Owing to its abundant supply of water, and especially to the heavy dew, it is covered with luxuriant vegetation, remaining green even through the summer, hence its name Carmel (= "garden," "grove"; comp. Amos i. 2; Jer. iv. 26; Isa. xxxv. 2). It is covered with holm-oaks and pine-trees, although here, as elsewhere in Palestine, the trees are for the most part small. In spite of its fertility Mount Carmel is now deserted, having only two villages, Asfiyyah and Daliyyah, although but a century ago there were numerous others here. There are many caves in the gray calcareous rock,especially on the side toward the coast, so that in olden times Mount Carmel was considered a safe place of refuge for the persecuted (Amos ix. 3). Much game is found there, as gazels and partridges, deer and tiger-cats.

The Plain of Esdraelon.

The mountain country of Samaria is separated from Galilee by a deep plain extending from the sea to the valley of the Jordan. The central portion was the ancient plain of Esdraelon, its modern name being Marj ibn 'Amir. On the west it is connected with the plain of Acre. Spurs of the mountains of Galilee extend toward the southeast foot of Carmel, separating the two plains, and leaving only a narrow passage for the Kishon. Toward the east the plain continues in the valley of the Nahr Jalud, where the range of Gilboa is again connected with the mountains of Galilee by a low ridge, with an altitude of 123 meters, running northward and forming the eastern boundary of the plain. On it lies the ancient royal city of Jezreel (I Kings xviii. 45 et passim), the modern Zar'in. There the Nahr Jalud, which has its source half an hour east of Zar'in, begins to descend in a rapidly widening bed, reaching the valley of the Jordan at Baisan. This sloping bed of the brook of Jezreel is referred to in the Old Testament under the name of the "valley of Jezreel" (Josh. xvii. 16; Hos. i. 5), while the plain now bearing that name and extending west of Zar'in to the coastal plain corresponds to the ancient "valley of Megiddo" (II Chron. xxxv. 22), or, simply, the "great plain" (I Macc. xii. 49).

This latter plain is in form a rectangular triangle; the shortest side on the east running almost directly from south to north, and extending along the ridge of Zar'in (see above) from Janin to Mount Nabi Daḥi, or little Mount Hermon, and to Mount Tabor, the northeast corner. Its northern edge runs almost directly west along the southern edge of the mountain of Nazareth to the bed of the Kishon (see above) and Mount Carmel. The hypotenuse extends thence southeast along the slope of Carmel, the Bilad al-Ruḥah, and the other Samaritan mountains. It rises eastward gradually and evenly from the bed of the stream at an elevation of about 25 meters, and at Zar'in reaches a height of 123 meters. The plain itself is drained by the Nahr al-Muḳaṭṭa', the ancient Kishon (Judges v. 19 et seq.), which, with its network of tributaries, gathers up all the water from the mountain slopes. The river is continuously full only to the point where it breaks through the mountains; in the plain it dries up in the summer, while in winter the drainage there is not sufficient, and numerous large morasses are formed. There are, consequently, no settlements in the plain itself, all villages being built, now as in antiquity, in thehigher districts. In the southeast corner of the plain, near a large spring and amid gardens and palms, lies the city of Janin, the Ginæa mentioned by Josephus, and perhaps the En-gannim (Josh. xix. 21, xxi. 29) and Beth ha-Gan (II Kings ix. 27) of the Old Testament. Zar'in on the eastern edge has already been mentioned.

Farther north are Sulam—the ancient Shunem (Josh. xix. 18; I Kings i. 3; et al.)—on the southern foot of the Nabi Daḥi, the wretched village of Nain on the northern foot of the same mountain (Luke vii. 11 et seq.), and toward the east the small Endur (the ancient En-dor; Josh. xvii. 11; I Sam. xxviii. 7). Along the northern edge are Daburiyyah (the Daberath of Josh. xix. 12), Iksal (the Chesulloth of Josh. xix. 18), and Jabatah (the ancient Gabbatha). On the southern side the ancient Jokneam (Josh. xii. 22) rises near the western corner of the Tell Ḳaimun. Then follow the two principal towns of the plain, Megiddo and Taanach, both of them ancient fortresses. Megiddo, called "Maketi" by the Egyptians and "Legio" by the Romans, corresponds to the modern Al-Lajjun. The great highway from Egypt entered the plain there, protected by the fortresses. In pre-Roman times the city lay on the neighboring hill of Tell al-Mutasallim (recently excavated by the German Palästina-Verein; comp. Josh. xii. 21; II Kings xxiii. 29 et seq.). Taanach (Judges v. 19; I Kings iv. 12; et al.), the modern Tell Ta'anuk, three or four Roman miles east of Legio, protected the eastern portion of the road. The entire plain, with its dark-brown soil, broken in many places by black basalt, is very fertile and well cultivated, and looks like a sea of grain in summer. In antiquity it was the great battle-field of Palestine (comp. Judges v. 19 et seq., vii. 1 et seq.; I Sam. xxxi. 1 et seq.; I Kings xx. 26 et seq.; II Kings xxiii. 29); the French, under Kleber, also fought a bloody battle there with the Turks in 1799.


The mountains of Galilee, as already stated, are but loosely connected with Samaria by the low ridge of Zar'in. This conformation of the country has left its mark in history, for it is no accident that Galilee has always preserved an attitude of comparative independence toward the more southern districts. Since the time of Josephus, Upper Galilee in the north has been separated from Lower Galilee in the south, the two being entirely different in character.

The most peculiar characteristic of southern Galilee is the system of four parallel ridges which form the mountain country and run from west to east at right angles to the more southerly mountains and the line of the watershed. These ridges are separated from one another by wide valleys and small plains. The most southerly ridge is the Nabi Daḥi, also called Little Hermon, in which the range reaches an elevation of 515 meters. The hilly plateau slopes abruptly toward the Jordan, rising sharply in the west from the plain of Esdraelon, and is bounded on the south by the valley of the Nahr Jalud, and on the north by the Wadi al-Birah. The second ridge is the hill-country of Nazareth; it begins with the low hills at the gap of the Kishon, rises in the Jabal al-Sikh, north of Nazareth, to an elevation of 560 meters—the highest point being Tabor, a finely rounded cone rising in almost complete isolation from the plain of Esdraelon to an elevation of 562 meters—slopes to 358 meters in the outer mountains on the Jordan, and then falls abruptly to the valley. The small plain of the Wadi al-Rummanah, which flows toward the west, and, farther east, the larger and lower Sahal al-Aḥma divide this group from the third group, the hill-country of Ṭur'an. This reaches its highest elevation in the mountain of the same name; on the east the Ḳarn Haṭṭin (316 meters) and Al-Manarah (294 meters), above the Lake of Tiberias, belong to it, the slope of both being toward that lake. In the east all these ranges bend in a crescent toward the south, thus producing a remarkable parallelism to the ranges of northern Samaria which run from the ridge toward the Jordan (see above).

The fourth or northernmost group is the plateau of Al-Shaghur, which is separated on the south from the hill-country of Ṭur'an by the plain of Sahal al-Baṭṭuf (the ancient plain of Asochis in Josephus) and the deep Wadi al-Ḥammam, which extends to the Lake of Tiberias. The range begins in the west at the large village of Shafa 'Amr. Its highest tops are the Jabal al-Daidabah (543 meters) and the Ras Kruman (554 meters). The plateau north of this range is the plain of 'Arabah, which is bordered on the north by a rather low ridge. The northern boundary of this plateau of Al-Shaghur, and of southern Galilee as well, is the plain of Ramah, about 370 meters above sea-level, and which drains toward the sea and the Lake of Tiberias. It is evident from the preceding description that the watershed of Lower Galilee does not run in a straight line, but winds east and west.

Upper Galilee is a plateau in the form of an irregular square, bordered on all four sides by chains of hills and intersected by two mountain ranges. It is highest and widest in the south and slopes gradually but perceptibly toward the north to the Nahr al-Ḳasimiyyah. The most southerly range begins near Acre and rises in a steep grade to a considerable height in the Nabi Haidar (1,049 meters) and the Jabalat al-'Arus (1,073 meters). There lies Safed, the highest city in Palestine (838 meters), mentioned as early as the Talmud and inhabited chiefly by Jews, who look upon it as a holy city, since, according to tradition, it is there that the Messiah will appear. The western edge begins somewhat west of Nabi Haidar (see above), and runs northward almost parallel to the coast. The declivity toward the slope is somewhat steep, although several valleys break through it and connect the plateau with the coast. The eastern edge begins at the mountains at Safed and runs in part in parallel ridges with small plains interspersed to the Jabal Hunin (900 meters), where the northern edge, sloping toward the Nahr al-Ḳasimiyyah, turns west. Among the mountain ranges in the interior of the plateau the one which runs northwest from the Jabal al-'Arus is especially noteworthy, for to it belongs the highest mountain of Palestine, the Jabal Jarmaḳ (1,199 meters), west of Safed. The watershed in Upper Galilee runs for a considerable distance along the mountains of the eastern border, so that the ridge of the mountain slopes without intersecting ranges toward the plain of the Jordan.

The Jordan Valley and Sources.

The origin and extent of the great dip have been discussed above. The Hebrews called the valley from the Lake of Tiberias to the Red Sea the 'Arabah Steppe. The Arabs term the valley from the Lake of Tiberias to the Dead Sea, and the district on the southern end of the latter, Al-Ghur, and its continuation toward the south is still designated as Al-'Arabah. The Jordan itself (Ha-Yarden) is commonly said to have derived its name (= "the descender") from its rapid course, although this etymology is very doubtful. It is also called Al-Urdunn by the Arabs, although its more usual name is Shari'at al-Kabirah (= "the great watering-place"), or simply Al-Shari'ah (= "the watering-place").

The Jordan has three sources, all of them at the foot of Mount Hermon. The most distant one lies outside of Palestine near Ḥaṣbaiyah, on the western foot of Mount Hermon, 520 meters above the sea. The Nahr Ḥaṣbani, as the stream is there called, flows rapidly southward along the eastern edge of the plain of Marj 'Ayun (perhaps the Ijon of I Kings xv. 20). The second source is the Nahr al-Laddan, called by Josephus the Lesser Jordan, which is fed by two sources from the Tell al-Ḳaḍi, the ancient Dan (see above), 154 meters above the sea. This source is the largest, having three times as much water as the Ḥaṣbani and twice as much as the Nahr Baniyas. This latter source emerges as a large brook from a grotto (329 meters), formerly sacred to Pan, at the foot of the mountain of the Castle of Baniyas, the ancient Paneas, which was subsequently called Cæsarea Philippi. About 8 kilometers south of the Tell al-Ḳaḍi, 43 meters above the sea, these three streams unite, forming a river about 14 meters in width.

The Lake of Ḥulah.

As far as the Lake of Ḥulah the valley of the Jordan is a beautiful plain, 10 kilometers wide, called Arḍ al-Ḥulah; it is watered by numerous brooks, with many marshy places, covered with reed and papyrus plants, in the central district, although otherwise it is very fertile. The marshy country ends in the south in the Baḥr al-Ḥulah, a triangular basin with its surface about 2 meters above the sea and with an extreme width of 5.2 kilometers and an extreme length of 5.8 kilometers, its depth varying from 3 to 5 meters. Josephus calls the entire district Ulatha (Οὐλαθά), and the lake, Samachonitis. The "waters of Meron," which are frequently placed there (Josh. xi. 5, 7), are, however, the springs and brooks near Merom in Upper Galilee (Meron in the Jabal Ṣafad). The great caravan highway which traverses the coast (see above) crosses the Jordan about 2 kilometers south of the lake on the old Jisr Banat Ya'ḳub ("bridge of Jacob's daughters"), where a ford has always existed. From Ḥulah to the Lake of Tiberias (208 meters below sea-level) the Jordan falls 210 meters in a distance of 16 kilometers, or about 13 meters per kilometer, wearing its bed deep into a great stream of lava and forming rapids in many places.

Lake of Tiberias.

The Lake of Tiberias, called Chinnereth in the Old Testament, and Gennesaret, or the Sea of Galilee, in the New, has the form of an irregular oval, with an extreme width of 10 kilometers in the northern half, an extreme length of 21 kilometers from north to south, and an area of 170 square kilometers. It is 208 meters below the Mediterranean, and its depth varies from 50 to 70 meters, according to the season. Its brachiate form is due to the fact that the steep southern coast recedes slowly toward the south in consequence of the erosive activity of the waters of the Jordan, while the silt of the river is deposited in the north. It does not derive its name Chinnereth from its shape, which resembles the form of a "kinnor" (= "harp"), but from the city or district of that name (Josh. xix. 35; I Kings xv. 20). Similarly, Gennesar was the name of a small district on the western side, probably the same plain that was once called Chinnereth, although it now bears the name of Baḥr Ṭabariyyah, after the city of Tiberias. On the eastern side the mountains approach very closely to the lake, but in the north, where the Jordan empties into it, there is a small plain called Al-Abṭiḥah, or Al-Baṭiḥah, about 7 kilometers from east to west and between 2 and 5 kilometers in width, well watered and fertile, where stood the city of Bethsaida Julias. The bank on the west is wider, and in ancient times it contained a number of towns. In the north lay Capernaum, with a Roman toll-gate and garrison. This city, frequently mentioned in the New Testament as a center of the activity of Jesus, and called Kephar Nome by Josephus, is the modern Tell Ḥum, 4 or 5 kilometers west of the mouth of the Jordan. The plain of Gennezar (the modern Al-Ghuwair) extends from Khan Minyah southward to the deep Wadi al-Ḥamam, 5 kilometers in length by 1.5 kilometers in width, and once famous for its fertility, being praised by Josephus and in the Talmud. Gennezar, Magdala, and Taricheæ are the best-known places there. Farther south, where the mountains again approach the lake more closely, lies Tiberias (Ṭabariyyah, called Raḳḳat in the Talmud), being separated from the plain to the north by a rocky headland; an hour farther south are the hot springs of Hamath. The Castle of Sennabris (the modern Sinn al-Nabra) defends the road against the southern end of the lake.

Lower Course of the Jordan.

From the Lake of Tiberias to the Dead Sea the Jordan has a length of about 110 kilometers in a straight line, with a fall of 186 meters—from 208 to 394 meters below sea-level. This results in a number of very sharp turns in the soft marly and loamy soil; and as the river carries away a large amount of this soil it has a muddy-yellow color. The valley varies in width; at the head of Lake Tiberias it is only about 4 kilometers wide; on the east side of the river it widens gradually; and on the west side it broadens at intervals into plains, as those of Baisan, Phasælis, and Jericho, with a width of 24 kilometers, while in other places it contracts to a narrow strip where the mountains approach the river. The stream has made a bottom for itself without sharp turns in this soft soil, about 15 meters deep, although the width and depth vary. The channel itself is between 3 and 4 metersdeep, with an average width of 30 meters, and with very sharp turns, the course varying greatly in consequence of the soft soil and the large fall, so that the bridge at Al-Damiyah, built in the thirteenth century (see below), is now 38 meters from the water. The river-bottom of the Jordan is called Al-Zur by the Arabs, as contrasted with Al-Ghur, which, as already stated, designates the entire dip. The valley is covered with a thick growth of trees and shrubs, in which animals abound, including wild boars, while lions were found there in antiquity (Jer. xlix. 19). It is also called the "pride of Jordan" by the prophet (Zech. xi. 3) on account of the contrast between its refreshing verdure and its barren surroundings. This bottom is frequently inundated in the rainy season, but the river does not enter the plain above, even during very high water, so that the valley has always been barren and unproductive. Settlements are possible, now as in antiquity, only along the edge of the valley, where other springs and brooks come from the mountains.

The intercourse of the two banks of the river is facilitated by fords, of which there are five between the Lake of Ḥulah and the Lake of Tiberias, while between the latter and the Dead Sea there are fifty-four. The ford of Al-Damiyah, near the mouth of the Nahr al-Zarḳa, corresponds to the Ma'beh ha-Adamah of I Kings vii. 46, and that of Makhaḍat 'Abarah, north of the mouth of the Nahr Jalud, corresponds to the Bethbara of Judges vii. 24 (which is to be emended accordingly) and John i. 28. These fords, however, can not be used in the winter, when the river is full. There are two bridges, in addition to the one already mentioned, dating from the Middle Ages: the "bridge of Jacob's daughters" and the Jisr al-Mujami', about 10 kilometers south of the Lake of Tiberias. A small bridge has recently been built at Jericho by the Turkish government.

Tributaries of the Jordan.

Most of the numerous wadis which enter the Jordan valley from the western and the eastern mountain district are only winter brooks, and even the perennial streams carry little water down to the Jordan, for much of it evaporates in the valley or sinks into the soil. The following two may be mentioned on the left or eastern side: the Shari'at al-Manaḍirah and the Nahr al-Zarḳa. The Shari'at al-Manaḍirah enters the Jordan a short distance south from the point where the Jordan leaves the Lake of Tiberias. This river, the Hieromyces of the Greeks and the Yarmuḳ of the Talmud, rises in the Ḥauran, and is the largest tributary of the Jordan, containing nearly as much water as the latter. The Nahr al-Zarḳa ("Blue River"), the ancient Jabbok (Gen. xxxii. 22; Num. xxi. 24; Josh. xii. 2), enters the Jordan farther south, about half-way between the Lake of Tiberias and the Dead Sea. Before crossing the plain to enter the Jordan it flows for quite a distance parallel to that river and along the foot of the mountains.

The plain of the right or western side broadens out triangularly where the larger brooks come down from the mountains. Thus the famous oasis of Baisan, the Scythopolis of the Greeks and the Beth-shean of the Old Testament (Judges i. 27; I Sam. xxxi. 7 et seq.), is formed at the mouth of the Nahr Jalud (see above); this is a well-watered and fertile plain in the form of a rectangular triangle, whose sides run from east to west and from north to south and are about 20 kilometers long. Much smaller are the two plains north and south of the mouth of the Ḳarn Ṣarṭabab (see above). On the north the Wadi Fari'ah comes down from the region of Nablus, and on the southwest the Wadi al-Ifjim. The former runs for a long stretch parallel to the Jordan before it is able to break through the high banks of the river. The oasis of the ancient Phasælis, now the ruins of Khirbat Fasa'il, belongs to the district of the mouth of the Ḳarn Ṣarṭabah. From this point the plain of the Jordan continues wide on the west side, for the plain of Jericho, traversed by the lower course of the Wadi al-Ḳalt, joins it without intervening mountains. In the time of Herod the plain was well watered and settled, and famous for its balsam and other products. The spring of 'Ain al-Sulḥan, according to tradition the spring of Elisha mentioned in II Kings ii. 19 et seq., is the most important of the perennial springs to which the oasis has owed its existence since ancient times. In the Old Testament this most southern part of the Jordan valley is called 'Arbot Yeriḥo (plains of Jericho), or, on the other side east of the Jordan, 'Arbot Mo'ab (plains of Moab). In like manner Abel-shittim (acacia meadow) must have been east of the Jordan. For further details see Jericho.

Dead Sea.

The reservoir for the waters of the Jordan, the Dead Sea, occupies the lowest portion of the valley, its surface being 393.8 meters below sea-level. It has an extreme depth of 399 meters, so that the extreme depth of the rift is 792.8 meters below the level of the Mediterranean. The northern part is deeper than the southern, which is only from 1 to 6 meters deep and is separated from the northern by the peninsula Al-Lisan, running out from the east. The water-level varies from 4 to 6 meters, according to the season. The area of the southern part is considerably enlarged in the rainy season, when the entire Sabkhah is flooded. The extreme length of the Dead Sea, from north to south, is 76 kilometers, and its greatest width, south of the Wadi Mujib, is 15.7 kilometers, while the peninsula of Al-Lisan reduces its width at that point to 4.5 meters (comp. the Lashon in the south of the sea, mentioned by Josh. xv. 2 et seq.). On the north and south the country behind the banks is entirely level, but on the east and west the steep mountains approach the sea so closely that in some places there is not even space for a foot-path. The eastern edge runs in a straight line from north to south; here the mountains rise between 800 and 1,100 meters above the Mediterranean, or from 1,200 to 1,400 meters above the Dead Sea, toward which they slope steeply. The western edge is more diversified and is considerably lower, being only between 500 and 570 meters above the Dead Sea, from which it recedes somewhat in most places. The fresh-water springs 'Ain Fashkhah and, farther south, 'Ain Jidi (the ancient Engedi) produce small oases in the plain along the bank. The mountain fortress of Masada, opposite the peninsula of Al-Lisan, built byJonathan Maccabeus and refortified by Herod, is famous in later Jewish history. An interesting object at the extreme southwest point of the sea is the isolated salt mountain of Jabal Usdum, 11 meters long and about 45 meters high, which consists almost entirely of pure salt, and where, according to Josephus, was shown Lot's wife turned to a pillar of salt (comp. Gen. xix. 29; Wisdom x. 7). Fresh water is carried to the Dead Sea only by a few rivers from the east, the most important, next to the Jordan, being the Wadi al-Mujib (the ancient Arnon). It is but natural that legends of all kinds should have become connected with so strange a natural phenomenon as the Dead Sea. The stories of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah may, for instance, have been based on prehistoric geological events, but the problem can not be discussed here. On the origin of the Dead Sea and the curious composition of its water compare the article Dead Sea.

The East-Jordan Country.

The northern part of the east-Jordan country has been surveyed by the German Palästina-Verein, although most of the maps and reports are as yet unpublished, while only a small section of the southern part has been surveyed by the Palestine Exploration Fund, by which maps have been issued. A description of the country on the basis of the material now accessible is merely a repetition of a few known facts. The Wadi al-Ḥaṣa (or al-Aḥṣa), the ancient Zared or Zered, forms the southern boundary, as explained above, since it is the natural dividing line between the ancient Moab and Edom (Num. xxi. 12; Deut. ii. 13; comp. verse 18). The region extending from the Wadi al-Ḥaṣa to the Wadi al-Sha'ib may be taken together as the most southerly portion, which has a uniform character. In the Old Testament (Deut. iii. 10, Hebr.) this district is called Mishor (corresponding to the Moabitic plain), in contradistinction to the more northerly region; only the northern part of this plain was, temporarily, in the possession of the Israelites. The name correctly characterizes the nature of the country; it is a plateau, with an elevation of about 1,000 meters in the southern and 800 or 900 meters in the northern part; it slopes to the desert in the east with no sharp dividing line, although it falls steeply toward the west. Three large wadis start in the east as low rifts, but soon develop into deep chasms, with almost vertical sides where they reach the Dead Sea. These are: in the south, the Wadi al-Karak, receiving its name from the city of Al-Karak (the ancient Kir Moab), which it passes; in the north, the Wadi al-Mujib (the ancient Arnon), already mentioned, and the largest of the three; and finally the Wadi Zarḳa Ma'in, containing the hot springs of Callirrhoe a few hours above its mouth. For details concerning the district and its cities see Moab.

The Mountain of Gilead.

The small district extending northward to the Nahr al-Zarḳa is called Jabal Jil'ad, a form which preserves the ancient name of Gilead. The highest point of this range running from west to east lies in the western part, and is the Jabal Usha', 1,096 meters high, with a magnificent view over a large part of Palestine. On the west the ridge slopes down to a somewhat extensive plateau, the Al-Buḳai'ah, about 610 meters high, with mountains of considerable altitude on its southern border. The Nahr al-Zarḳa flows at the foot of the Jabal Jil'ad, along the northern and eastern sides and a part of the southern, since in its upper course it runs from west to east, turning with a large bend, at the southeast end of the plateau, to the north, where it descends the moderately steep northern slope of the mountains of Gilead and runs thence west to the Jordan. The district between the Nahr al-Zarḳa on the north and the Wadi al-Mujib on the south is now called Al-Balḳa.


The district of 'Ajlun extends north of the Nahr al-Zarḳa to the Yarmuḳ, and the ridge of the range of Jabal 'Ajlun runs from north to south, toward which it rises. Being situated in the eastern part of the district, it forms the watershed between the streams flowing west, directly to the Jordan, and the tributaries of the Yarmuḳ. This river also rises on the eastern side of the mountains, rather far to the south, and runs as the Wadi Warran and the Wadi Shallalah for a considerable distance to the north, forming a deep bed before it turns to the west. In a small valley near the banks of the river and somewhat above the place where it leaves the mountains to enter the plain of the Jordan are the hot springs of Al-Ḥammi, 176 meters below the Mediterranean. On the east the Jabal 'Ajlun is merged in a rolling hill-country about 12 or 15 kilometers wide, which is called Bilad al-Ṣuwait in the north and Jabal Kafkafa in the south. The steppe Al-Ḥamad adjoins it on the east. The Jabal 'Ajlun is, on the whole, well wooded and has many springs, like the plateau, which extends west of the ridge to the steep and generally bare declivities on the Jordan.

The Jaulan.

The final portion of the east-Jordan country, the district of the Yarmuḳ, extends farther east than any other part of the cultivable strip between the Jordan and the desert, reaching to the mountains of the Ḥauran. On the north Hermon is the boundary, as already stated, while farther east the district of Jaidur separates it from the plain of Damascus. This northern portion of the east-Jordan country has never had a general name, but the following four districts, from west to east, may be distinguished: Jaulan, Al-Nuḳrah, Lajah, and Jabal Ḥauran, which differ radically from one another. The Jaulan derives its name from the ancient city of Golan (Josh. xx. 8), called Gaulanitis by Josephus, while in the Old Testament the districts of Geshuri and Maachah (Josh. xiii. 1; II Sam. x. 6, 8, etc.) correspond to it. It forms a plateau between the Yarmuḳ and Hermon; it is highest in the north, and slopes toward the south, its mean elevation being about 700 meters. Its highest points are a number of extinct volcanoes, which run in a chain parallel to the Wadi al-Ruḳḳad and include Tell al-Shaikhah (1,294 meters) and Tell Abu al-Nada (1,157 meters). Broken pieces of lava from these volcanoes cover the northern and middle portions of the Jaulan, so that the "stony" Jaulan is distinguished from the "level" Jaulan inthe south. Despite its name, the stony Jaulan offers good and abundant pasture in the spring, and it is cultivated and very fertile where it is free from stones. In the level Jaulan the masses of lava have become decomposed, producing an extremely rich and dark-brown lava soil, which is found also in the Nuḳrah. East of northern Jaulan, beyond the Wadi al-Ruḳḳad and north of the Nuḳrah, extends the plateau of Al-Jaidur, whose southern slope toward the Nuḳrah is perhaps included in the Bashan of the Old Testament.

Bashan, Lajah, and the Ḥauran.

Bashan proper is identical with Al-Nuḳrah, or the plain of the Ḥauran, so called in contradistinction to the mountains of the Ḥauran. It practically corresponds to the ancient provinces of Batanæa and Auranitis, and the name Bashan (Greek Basanitis or Batanaia) designates a fertile plain free from stones. Among the Bedouins the word "nuḳrah" designates the hollow in the tent for the fireplace, and it has been given to this region on account of its sunken situation among the hills. On the references in the Bible see Bashan. The Nuḳrah, which is bounded on the east by the Lajah and the mountains of the Ḥauran, and on the south by the steppe of Al-Ḥamad, is a wide plain, gradually rising from an elevation of 550 meters in the west to 880 meters in the east, a distance of about 42 kilometers. Large perennial streams are found in the southern part, the Wadi al-Zaidi (the southern boundary toward the steppe) and the Wadi al-Dahab, rising in the mountains of the Ḥauran and emptying into the Yarmuḳ. There are few springs in the plain, but a heavy dew falls in the summer, and it is covered, moreover, by the fertile red-brown loam resulting from the decomposition of the lava from the craters of the Ḥauran, which gives a loose and easily arable soil that drinks in all moisture with avidity. The plain is famous, therefore, for its fertility, and is the granary of Syria. The wheat grown there, which is nearly transparent, brings the highest price, while barley, durrah (white maize), and "kursannah" (a food for camels) also are cultivated.

The Lajah, which borders the Nuḳrah on the northeast, is the ancient Trachonitis, a rugged, almost inaccessible plateau covered with lava from the crater of the Ghararat al-Ḳibliyyah (1,211 meters). South of the Lajah and east of the Nuḳrah rise the mountains of the Ḥauran (Jabal Ḥauran, called also Jabal Druz, or mountain of the Druses, since many Druses from the Lebanon sought refuge there in 1861). It may be the Salmon of the Old Testament (Ps. lxviii. 15 [A. V. 14] et seq.) and the Asalmanos of the Greeks. The Ḥauran forms a somewhat wide plateau, part of which has an elevation of 1,500 meters, but the various peaks rise considerably above it, the central and northern portions having the highest—Tell al-Jainah (1,802 meters), Jabal al-Ḳulaib (1,724 meters), Tell Juwailil (1,749 meters), and others, all of which are extinct volcanoes.


All the mountains of Palestine are composed of chalk formations. The oldest strata, in the so-called Nubian sandstone, appear only in the fractures along the eastern edge of the Dead Sea and of the 'Arabah. Under this are sandstone and dolomitic limestone of the Carboniferous age, beneath which appears a breccial conglomerate stratified by lodes and veins of porphyrite and diorite. These are the oldest rocks of Palestine. Elsewhere the rocks which are exposed to view belong to the Cenomanian, Turonian, and Senonian divisions of the Upper Cretaceous. Frequent mention is made of the extensive basalt beds, part of which may belong to the Tertiary period, especially those which are found in the higher chalk plateaux, while those in the deep valley-plains belong to the later diluvian epoch, since these valleys were not formed until after the Dead Sea acquired its present level. No lava is found in the west-Jordan district south of the plain of Esdraelon, which, however, contains basalt from the crater of the Tell al-'Ajjul, in Al-Daḥi. North of that point basalt occurs more frequently in the eastern half, so that northeast of Tabor and between Nazareth and Tiberias there are large stretches of reddish-brown, decomposed lava, while the Ḳarn Ḥaṭṭin (see above) is a basalt peak.

The Jabal Ṣafad contains the principal crater, from which immense streams of lava flowed eastward. Volcanic action is most apparent in the east-Jordan country. The northern Jaulan and the mountains of the Ḥauran contain many craters, which inundated large districts with their lava, such as that of the Lajah (see above). Basalt is also scattered over several portions of the Moabitic plain, as at Diban and the Jabal Shiḥan, while the hot springs already mentioned are also proofs of volcanic activity. This was doubtless pre-psychozoic, even in so far as the formation belongs to the late diluvian epoch. Finally, the immense diluvial deposits must be mentioned. The entire coastal plain of Sharon and the Shefelah are covered with such deposits, which extend in the south beyond Beer-sheba, although they occur also throughout the lower Jordan valley, and owe their origin to the great lake which once existed there (see above). To this must be added the alluvial dunes on the coast, and the river deposits.

There are numberless caves found in the calcareous surface of the country, the best known being those at Bait Jibrin; many of these have been artificially enlarged to serve as habitations, as was frequently the practise in remote antiquity. These caves have always been used as burial-places also.


The arable land varies greatly in quality. The soil produced by the decomposition of lava is fertile, though, like the plain of Al-Nuḳrah, it requires much moisture. The alluvial land of the coastal plain, being reddish sand with reddish clay, is well adapted to the cultivation of many plants, such as lemons and oranges. In the mountain district west of the Jordan the formation of humus by the decomposition of animal or vegetable matter is out of the question, and it is also inconsiderable in the east-Jordan country. A red clayey soil is formed, however, by the decomposition of the soft stone under the influence of air and moisture, and this remains wherever it finds a bed in the hollows of the rock which save it from being washed away by the rains of winter. It becomes one of the principal tasks of agriculture to retain it on the slopes by means of terraces andwalls. This soil, which constitutes the principal element, repays cultivation where it has sufficient water, although it is only moderately productive, for Palestine has never been a very fertile country. In the mountains of Judah wheat generally produces a double or treble crop in the year; but there the land is very level and dries out quickly. Under favorable conditions wheat produces fourfold and barley fivefold in fertilized soil; indeed, in the rich, fertilized, and well-cultivated soil of the plain of Sharon (in the German colony of Sarona) wheat produces on the average an eight-fold and barley a fifteenfold crop. The reference to "a land flowing with milk and honey" does not allude to the fertility of the soil, but to a country with good pasturage for cattle, the land, probably, not being cultivated in antiquity at all (comp. Isa. vii. 15, 21-25).

Unknown treasures may be hidden below the surface, for in this respect the country has not yet been sufficiently explored. Traces of an old ironmine, Mugharat al-Wardah, have recently been found in southern 'Ajlun. Phosphates of a high percentage exist in the plateau of the east-Jordan country, and are about to be exploited. The mineral treasures of the Dead Sea are also under consideration; for this body of water occasionally throws out large masses of asphalt, many pits of which exist also in the desert of Judah, as well as deposits of mineral salt, sulfur, and chalk phosphates. The water of the Dead Sea holds in solution chlorate of potassium, chlorate of magnesium, bromid of magnesium, and iodid of potassium.


Palestine is deficient in water in that the arable land has not a quantity sufficient for its productive capacity. Much water is completely lost, as far as irrigation is concerned, especially in the case of the few perennial streams. Why this is so in the case of the Jordan has been shown above. The streams of the coastal plain, as the Nahr al-'Auja, Nahr al-Zarḳa, and Kishon, run through a low country which requires no artificial irrigation, since there is everywhere sufficient water underground, and in places a superabundance, resulting in swamps (see above). The same statement applies to the springs, which on the whole abound in Palestine, although there are only a small number in some parts of the country. In general, there are fewer in the south than in the north; the Negeb is a dry region, but there are numerous large springs in the vicinity of Mount Hebron. There are very few in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem, but Nablus is well supplied with them, and Galilee, like the east-Jordan mountain district, does not lack water. The springs generally emerge from the ground at the foot of the mountains, and are, therefore, unavailable for the mountain slopes, on which the greater part of the arable land is situated. The ruins of dams in the valleys show that attempts were made here and there in olden times to collect this water in reservoirs, but now scarcely anything is done in this direction, so that farmers and fields are entirely dependent on the yearly rainfall. If sufficient rain does not fall in time many of the springs dry up, and the land can not be properly cultivated; the crops wither, there is no harvest, and a general scarcity of grain results, so that the price of bread is closely connected with the rainfall.

Map of Palestine According to Talmudic Sources.

Most of the hot springs have been mentioned above: those of Tiberias (58-63° C.), those in thevalley of the Yarmuḳ (25-48° C.), and those of Callirrhoe, in the Wadi Zarḳa Ma'in (62.8° C.). There are also some hot springs where this river empties into the Dead Sea. Numerous other springs with lukewarm water seem to be thermæ that are gradually losing their heat. As all these springs are in the vicinity of the great rift of the Jordan, their origin must be connected with that of the rift.


Climatically, Palestine is divided into three zones: the subtropical zone of the coast, the continental mountain district, and the tropical Jordan valley. In general there are only two seasons, the summer season, dry and hot, and the winter season, cool and rainy. They follow each other abruptly, the European and American spring being represented only by a few weeks following the close of the rainy season. Rain is rare as late as the second half of May, and no rain whatever falls between June and September. The rainy season sets in at the end of October, or, more frequently, in November. It begins with the "first rain" of the Old Testament (Deut. xi. 14 et al.), which loosens the dry earth for plowing. Then, after a period of mild weather, the heavy winter rains set in, toward the middle of December, soaking into the ground and filling the wells and cisterns. They are heaviest in January. The "latter rain," in March and April, promotes the growth of the grain. The crops depend not only on the quantity but also on the proper distribution of rain. The most profuse latter rain will not compensate for a lack of the early and the winter rains; and, conversely, the latter rain is necessary, even after abundant winter rains, to enable the growing crops to withstand the warm days of the early summer. The mean duration of the entire rainy season for Jerusalem is 192 days (the longest, 217; the shortest, 126); the mean rainfall is 581.9 millimeters during 52.4 days of rain. The vegetation withers early in the summer, since the dry season coincides with the hot, although the ill effects are somewhat modified by the heavy dews caused by the moist sea-winds. Snow frequently falls in Jerusalem during the winter, though it melts quickly, and occasionally there is hail. At Jerusalem the mean temperature is 17.2° C.; the highest temperature recorded is 44.4°, and the lowest—4°. Between the months of March and May the thermometer rises quickly from 11.8° to 20°, falling as rapidly to 11° between October and December. The great variations in a single day are characteristic, amounting on the average to 12.95° in the summer and 8.7° in the winter. The changes in the east-Jordan country are greater still.


The principal winds are the trade-wind and the antitrade-wind. The former blows in the Mediterranean countries in the summer, from a northerly and northwesterly direction, and as it comes from cooler latitudes it is a dry wind; hence Jerusalem is swept between May and October for the most part by dry, cool winds coming from the north and northwest. In the winter the antitradewinds prevail in the region of the Mediterranean, bringing rain; so that Jerusalem gets its rain-winds from the southwest and west. The regular alternation between sea-winds and land-winds is another important factor. During the day the calcareous mountains get heated much more quickly than the sea, so that the cooler lower strata of the air are blown toward the land, where the hot air rises. The reverse takes place at night, and the entire process is repeated on a larger scale in the summer and winter. Thus in the summer a light sea-wind rises every morning about nine or ten o'clock, reaches Jerusalem about noon, and blows until after sunset, when the cooler land-wind sets in. This daily sea-wind is highly important for men, beasts, and plants. At Jerusalem the cool north and northwest winds blow on an average during 114 days, and the west winds, which bring rain, blow during 55 days. The less frequent south wind is warmer. The east wind is dry; while it is welcomed in the winter, it is dreaded in the summer on account of its heat and parching effect. The southeast wind, the sirocco, which often blows for several days in succession, especially in May and October, is destructive. At such times there is an oppressive sultriness; the air is filled with fine dust, drying up the mucous membrane of the bronchial tubes and causing lassitude, headache, and even fever. If it sweeps through fields of growing grain in the spring it often withers them completely (comp. Jer. xviii. 17; Ezek. xxvii. 26; Job i. 19, xv. 2).

The climate of the coastal plain is warmer, the mean temperature being 20.5° C., but this region also gets more of the fresh sea-wind, and the number of rainy days as well as the quantity of rain is also larger, while less rain falls in the Jordan valley and no snow falls at Jericho. The mean temperature is estimated theoretically at about 24° on the northern shore of the Dead Sea, which nearly corresponds to the tropical heat of Nubia. In the Jordan valley the harvest begins between three and four weeks earlier than in the mountains, but there are no reliable records for any length of time for that district.

It is frequently asserted that the climate has changed within the historic period, and as the fertility of the country in former times is often mentioned, more favorable natural conditions must be assumed to have existed. All the references of the Old Testament, however, which bear on this question apply exactly to modern climatic conditions, and even if there were then more forests than at present, as is frequently asserted, this could not have been the case to an extent great enough materially to influence the climate.


On account of the diversity of its topographic and climatic conditions Palestine is rich in the variety of its flora. Three plant-zones may be distinguished. (1) The vegetation of the coast region and the west-Jordan mountain district is most closely related to that of Italy, Sicily, Greece, Algeria, etc., the so-called flora of the Mediterranean. It is characterized by a number of evergreen shrubs, and of vernal herbaceous plants which wither quickly. There are also orange-, lemon-, olive-, and pine-trees, oleanders, myrtles, anemones, hyacinths, and tulips. (2) The subtropical flora of the Jordan valley recalls that of Abyssinia and Nubia. Peculiar to the Jordan valley are the 'oshr (Calotropis procera), bearing thetrue apple of Sodom; the false apple of Sodom (Solanum sanctum); the seyal acacia (Acacia Seyal; abounding also on Sinai), from which gum arabic is obtained; the zachun (oil-tree; Balanites Ægyptiaca), a thorny shrub with edible berries; the rose of Jericho (Anastatica Hierochuntina), which no longer grows in Jericho, but only at Masada; and the sidr- and nubk-trees (Zizyphus lotus and Zizyphus Spina-Christi) with their great thorns. The true African papyrus (Papyrus antiquorum) is also found at Lake Tiberias and Lake Ḥulah. (3) The Oriental steppe and desert vegetation is found especially in the Negeb and along the frontier of the cultivated region in the east-Jordan country, as well as on the eastern slopes of the west-Jordan district. Characteristic of this flora are the comparative lack of trees, the preponderance of small, thorny shrubs (Poterium), the wealth of species of astragalus (small, thorny plants), and of peculiar species of the thistle (Cousinia) in the summer, as well as of the quickly fading, brilliant little spring plants. On the fruit-trees, which are found in small groves at nearly every village, see Fig and Fig-Tree; Horticulture; Olive. Real forests are seen only in the east-Jordan country; the forest-trees, which are found but seldom and then in small groves in the west-Jordan district (at Mount Carmel and at Tabor in Upper Galilee), include several species of oak, the terebinth (Pistacia Terebinthus; Arabic, "buṭun"), and more rarely the cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), the Aleppo pine (Pinus Halepensis), and the wild St.-John's-bread-tree (Ceratonia Siliqua; Arabic, "kharrub"). Most of these species occur merely as bushes, since the goats which pasture in these "forests" do not allow the trees to attain full size. On the field and garden plants see Horticulture.


The fauna is no less varied; there is scarcely any other region of equal size in which so many different kinds of mammals may be found as here. Northern Palestine, together with Syria, belongs to the Palearctic region, while southern Palestine forms part of the Ethiopian region (Sinai, Egypt, Nubia). The approximate boundary-line runs from the southern edge of Carmel to the southern shore of the Lake of Tiberias. As some species overlap from one region to the other, there is a narrow, mixed district, while in both there are importations from the Indo-Mesopotamian zone. Representative of the Palearctic region are the deer, buck, snow-mouse, field-mouse, marmot, dormouse, polecat, ermine, stone-marten, badger, bear, and others; while characteristic of the Ethiopian fauna are the African mouse, jerboa, running mouse, fat sand-mouse (Psammonis obesus), and Eliomys melanurus; among the hares the Lepus sinaiticus and Lepus œgypticus; the rock-badger (Hyrax syriacus), a species of ibex (Capra beden), the gazel (Gazella dorcas), the desert-cat (Felis manicalata), the leopard (Felis pardus), the Nile fox (Vulpes niloticus), and the ichneumon (Herpestes ichneumon). The Indian fauna is thought to be represented by a species of field-rat, and the wolf, jackal, and hyena of Palestine are also supposed to be related to the Indian fauna. On the domestic animals see Ass; Cattle; Dog; Horse; Mule; etc.

Most of the birds belong, probably, to the Palearctic region, although there are many species of the Ethiopian and a few of the Indian region. The ornithological wealth of Palestine may be due to the fact that many migratory birds pass over the country in their flight. Among the reptiles 33 species of snakes and 44 of lizards are enumerated by Tristram. The African crocodile is found in the swamps of the Crocodile River, as already noted, and one was killed as late as 1901. The Lake of Tiberias and the Jordan abound in fish, of which Tristram enumerates 43 species; in the former, curiously enough, some exist that otherwise are found only in the Nile (Chronus niloticus and Cerrias macrocanthus). There is a superabundance of insects: flies, gnats, fleas, spiders, scorpions, etc., and more than 40 species of locusts. See Insects.

Political Geography.

The names given to Palestine by the Egyptians and Assyrians have already been enumerated, but a number of additional place-names are found in the Egyptian lists of Thothmes III., Rameses II., Shoshenḳ (the Shishak of the Bible), and Sethos I., including those of Megiddo and Taanach, Sharon, Beeroth, Ashtaroth, Joppa, Lod, Ono, Soco, Negeb, and many others. The boundaries of the Israelitic settlement have been mentioned above, as well as the division of the country in the Israelitic time and the names of the different divisions. The extent of the Jewish territory immediately after the return from the Exile was a very limited one. Its detailed discussion belongs to the history and not to the geography of the country, and the same statement holds true regarding the history of the enlargement of its boundaries under the Hasmoneans.

At the beginning of the present era Palestine was divided into the following districts: (1) Judea (with Idumea); (2) Samaria, extending from the southern boundary of Judea to the southern edge of the plain of Esdraelon; (3) Galilee, including the plain of Esdraelon; (4) Perea, the east-Jordan country, to the district of Jarash (Gerasa) and 'Amman (Philadelphia) in the east, and from the Wadi al-Mujib (Arnon) in the south to Khirbat Fahil (Pella) in the north; (5) the districts of the tetrarchy of Philip, comprising Gaulanitis (Jaulan), Batanea (Al-Nuḳrah), Trachonitis (Al-Lajah), and Auranitis (the mountains of the Ḥauran). The Hellenistic cities in the east-Jordan district (Damascus, Gerasa, Philadelphia, and others), together with Scythopolis (Baisan), were combined under the name of Decapoils. See Galilee; Samaria.

After the revolt of 66-70 the country became the Roman province of Judea under a pretorian prefect; and Hadrian gave it the name of Syria Palæstina after the insurrection of 132-135, when it was placed under a consular legate. The boundaries of this district varied, especially the line separating it from the province of Arabia, which had been formed by Trajan from the country of the Nabatæans. Septimius Severus (193-211) or Diocletian (285-305) incorporated Philadelphia, Gerasa, and other cities of the east-Jordan district with Arabia; but for a time Petra was united with Palestine, until it became, in 358, a separate province under the name of Palæstina Salutaris, including the Negeb and the country south of the Dead Sea. In the fifth century there were the following provinces: (1) Palæstina Prima (capital Cæsarea) = Judea and inland Samaria; (2) Palæstina Secunda (capital Scythopolis) = Judea and Perea; (3) Palæstina Tertia, or Salutaris (capital Petra) = the Negeb and the east-Jordan country south of the Arnon; (4) Phenicia Maritima (capital Tyre) = the coast region; (5) Phenicia ad Libanum (capital Emesa) = Cœle-Syria and the region of the Lebanon, together with Damascus and Palmyra; (6) Arabia (capital Bostra), the region of the Ḥauran, in the south.

Present Divisions.

In 636 the calif Omar divided Syria into five military districts, of which Filisṭin included the west-Jordan country as far as the plain of Esdraelon; Al-Urdunn (the Jordan) included Galilee and the Jordan valley; and the district of Damascus included the east-Jordan country. The discussion of the formation of small principalities under Turkish rule belongs to history. The country is now divided into the following administrative districts: (1) the vilayet of Beirut, comprising the territory between the sea and the Jordan, extending about as far south as Jaffa, and including the districts of Nablus and Acre; (2) the independent district of Jerusalem, directly under the Ottoman government, and including the remaining portion of the west-Jordan country; (3) the vilayet of Damascus, embracing the entire east-Jordan country and including the district of the Ḥauran (capital Shaikh Sa'd), which extends to the Nahr al-Zarḳa, and the district of Ma'an (capital Al-Karak). For the Medeba mosaic see Medeba.

  • A bibliography from the fourth century to 1877 is given by R. Röhricht, Bibliotheca Geographica Palœstinœ, 1890, and for the following years in the annual bibliographies of the Z. D. P. V. (1878 to 1896) and the Rev. Bib. (1892 et seq.).
  • Periodicals dealing with Palestine: Pal. Explor. Fund, Quarterly Statement, 1865 et seq.;
  • Z. D. P. V. 1877 et seq.;
  • Rev. Bib. 1892 et seq.
  • Works upon Palestine (only the most important of which are noted here): H. Reland, Palœstina ex Monumentis Veteribus Illustrata, Utrecht, 1714;
  • Robinson, Researches, 3 vols., 1841;
  • idem, Later Researches, 1852;
  • idem. Physical Geography of the Holy Land, 1865;
  • Ritter, Erdkunde, 2d ed., vols. xiv.-xvii. (Sinaitic Peninsula, Palestine, and Syria), 1848-55;
  • Neubauer, Géographie du Talmud, 1868;
  • Victor Guérin, Déscription de la Palestine: I., Judée 3 vols., Paris, 1868-69;
  • Samarie, 2 vols., 1874-75;
  • Galilée, 2 vols., 1880;
  • The Survey of Western, Palestine, Memoirs of the Topography, etc., 3 vols., 1881-83;
  • Arabic and English Name Lists, 1881;
  • Trelawney Saunders, An Introduction to the Survey of Western Palestine, Its Waterways, Plains, and Highlands, 1881;
  • Thomson, The Land and the Book, 3 vols., 1881-86;
  • M. Lortet, La Syrie d'Aujourd'hui, 1884;
  • G. Ebers and H. Guthe, Palästina in Bild und Wort, 2 vols., 1883-84;
  • O. Ankel, Grundzüge, der Landesnatur des Westjordanlandes, 1887;
  • G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 1891;
  • Guy le Strange, Palestine Under the Moslems, 1890;
  • M. Blankenhorn, Die Strukturlinien Syriens und des Roten Meeres, 1893.
  • Works on single districts: W. F. Lynch, Narrative of the U. S. Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea, 1849;
  • F. de Sauley, Voyage Autour de la Mer Morte, etc., 1853;
  • A. Duc de Luynes, Voyage d'Exploration à la Mer Morte, à Petra et sur la Rive Gauche du Jourdain, 3 vols., 1871-76;
  • I. G. Wetzstein, Reisebericht über den Hauran und die Trachonea, 1860;
  • G. Schumacher, Der Dsholan, 1886;
  • idem, Across the Jordan, 1886;
  • idem, Northern 'Ajlûn, 1890;
  • idem, Das Südliche Basan, 1897;
  • Tristram, The Land of Moab, 1874;
  • The Survey of Eastern Palestine (Pal. Explor. Fund), 1889.
  • Works on geology, botany, zoology, climate: O. Fraas, Aus dem Orient, 2 vols., 1867-78;
  • C. Diener, Libanon, 1886;
  • Ed. Hall, Memoir on the Physical Geology and Geography of Arabia Petrœa, Palestine, and Adjoining Districts (part of the Survey of Western Palestine);
  • Celsius, Hierobotanicon, 2 vols., 1845-47;
  • Edm. Boissier, Flora Orientalis, 5 vols. and Supplement, 1867-88;
  • I. Löw, Aramäische Pflanzennamen, 1881;
  • Leo Anderlind, Die Fruchtbäume in Syrien, in Z. D. P. V. 1888;
  • G. E. Post, Flora of Syria, Palestine, and Sinai, 1896;
  • H. B. Tristram, Natural History of the Bible, 3d ed., 1889;
  • idem, The Fauna and Flora of Palestine, 1884 (part of the Survey of Western Palestine);
  • H. Chichester Hart, Some Account of the Fauna and Flora of Sinai, Petra, and Wady Araba, 1891 (part of the Survey of Western Palestine);
  • S. Bochart, Hierozoicon, 3 vols., 1792-96;
  • L. Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talmuds, 1858;
  • J. G. Wood, Bible Animals, 1883.
  • Maps: Map of Western Palestine, in 26 sheets, scale 1 inch (Pal. Explor. Fund, 1880; also reduced to ⅜-inch scale, 1881). Partial maps of the country east of the Jordan are contained in Survey of Eastern Palestine and in the works of Schumacher.
J. I. Be.Fruit Produce. —Modern Commerce:

West of the Jordan, around Jaffa, the main products of Palestine are grapes and oranges, and, in the vicinity of Safed, olives and olive-oil. Grain is produced principally in the south, Gaza being the center of the barley country, and in the Ḥauran district, east of the Jordan, which is the center of the wheat-producing territory. Grain production is still in the hands of the native Arabs with their ancient mode of cultivation and lack of proper milling facilities. Consequently, though Ḥauran wheat is considered among the best in the world, it does not make fine flour, which must be imported from Russia and America. "Durrah," a kind of maize, and "ḥimmiṣ," a species of pea, are easy to cultivate and are largely exported. Palestinian olives and olive-oil are equal, if not superior, to the Italian products, but the growers lack facilities for purifying the oil and extracting its "bitterness." Sesame (), which produces a sweet-oil, is much appreciated by the natives, and is exported in large quantities to France. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and watermelons are exported to Egypt. The largest item of export is oranges from the groves at Jaffa. From Oct., 1898, to April, 1899, 338,000 boxes (containing about 50,000,000 oranges) were exported, of which England received 278,000 boxes. The average price in that year was $1.25 per box of 100 to 160 oranges. The orange export trade developed immediately upon the establishment of direct connection with Liverpool in 1892.

Wines and Cognac.

The center of viticulture was Hebron, where the oldest and best wines are still found; but since the Jewish colonies were established the center of that industry has been removed to Rishon le-ẓiyyon, near Jaffa, where the Rothschild wine-presses are located. The export of wines and cognac is chiefly from the Rothschild vineyards. The Palestinian wine received the gold medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900. The high quality of the wine (mostly "Sauterne," "Malaga," and "Muscatel") and cognac from Palestine is evidenced by their increasing exportation, in the last few years, to various parts of the world.

The colocynth-plant (in Arabic, the "ḥanṭal") is a bitter apple, and its dried pulp is used as a purgative, also in the brewing of beer and for other purposes. The colocynth grows wild and abundantly on the plains between the mountains and the shore of the Mediterranean. The plant is sold in Gaza and Jaffa, where it is peeled, the pulp being dried in the sun and then closely packed in boxes for shipment, generally to England. Theaverage annual export from Jaffa is 10,000 pounds; the price being about 30 cents per pound, on board, at Jaffa. The trade in honey has been developed by the Baldenberger family since 1880, at Ramlah, near Jaffa, where the bees have the benefit of the orange- and lemon-trees and of the wild thyme. Good markets are found in Germany, Switzerland, and England for all the honey produced.

Wool, Silk, and Soap.

Apart from the agricultural products, Palestine is suited for raising cattle and sheep, though the export of animals is now prohibited by the Turkish government. The principal grazing-places are near Hebron, Nablus, and Gaza, and in the Moabite countries across the Jordan. The sheep are all of the Barbary, broad-tailed variety. The fleece averages about five pounds per head, and is valued, unwashed, at about eight cents per pound. In 1900 the export from Jaffa reached 166,000 kilos (365,000 pounds) of wool. Very little of the wool is utilized for domestic purposes, as nearly all the weaving in Palestine is done on hand-looms. Waterproof cloaks called "'abayah" are made for the peasants' wear; the garment has black-striped borders and resembles the ṭallit. The Jewish Colonization Association has established a weaving-factory at Jerusalem, and in 1901 introduced a process of dyeing.

The silk produced in northern Palestine (Syria) exceeds 5,000,000 pounds and is exported via Beirut. A factory has been established at Rosh Pinah colony (near Safed) for the manufacture of silk floss, and there are several looms for silk ribbon. The factory buys the cocoons at about 30 cents each from the colonists in the neighborhood. The silk is shipped to Marseilles and Lyons.

Another article of export is soap, made chiefly at Nablus. Mrs. Finn, representing an English society, introduced into Jerusalem the manufacture of soap from olive-oil by the Yemenite Jews. The product is exported to England. The manufacture of sacred mementos from mother-of-pearl and bituminous limestone is conducted by Christian Arabs at Beth-lehem. But the carving of olive-wood and the pressing of flowers upon cards in the bazaars of Jerusalem are nearly all done by Jews. Most of the mementos of a Christian character are exported to England and America. In 1902 this export amounted to nearly $20,000. Beirut is next to Jaffa in importance as a seaport. One firm at Beirut is exporting to the United States over $1,000,000 worth of merchandise annually, mostly olive-oil and licorice-root. The Turkish duty on exports is 1 per cent and on all imports 8 per cent.

The principal hindrance to the development of Palestinian commerce comes from the Turkish government, in local taxation, the indirect exactions of the Turkish officials and neighboring sheiks, and the irades against all electrical appliances. Another drawback is the want of railways, the Jaffa-Jerusalem and Beirut-Damascus-Ḥamah-Muzerib railways being the only lines in operation.

Principal Articles of Import and Export at Jaffa During 1898-1902, as Reported by the British Consul.
Cotton Goods56,60061,500115,050100,600112,900
Fancy Goods12,15014,8755,6802,0502,210
Wines and Cognac2,5003,3755,8203,3503,550
Other Articles48,50052,50046,37586,05036,690
Wines and Cognac20,5002,90021,84035,35018,400
Other Articles33,75036,80038,69534,65020,770
Total Imports and Exports at Jaffa During 1900-2, According to Countries.
Great Britain38,00040,00065,00077,00074,50070,000
Other Countries42,30584,7109,05012,15030,4356,390

Palestine is rich in minerals, as of old (Deut. viii. 9). There are asphalt-mines in the vicinity of Ḥasbaya, salt deposits in the Dead Sea, and phosphate deposits on either side of the Jordan. There are opportunities also for the cultivation of the sugarcane near Jericho, in the valley of the Jordan, where there are still found some ruins of ancient sugar-mills and where the soil is well suited for this purpose. The same soil may be cultivated for cottonand tobacco. Lately, experiments have been made by the Jewish colonists in planting tobacco, in which they have met with some success. See Agricultural Colonies in Palestine; Agriculture.

  • British Diplomatic and Consular Reports, Annual Series, Nos. 2217, 2405, 2584, 2822;
  • United States Consular Reports: Commerce and Industry, xxxiv. 683;
  • Sheep and Wool, xxxv. 594;
  • Fuel, xxxviii. 338;
  • Poultry Industry, xliii. 576;
  • Colocynth Plant, xlvii. 545;
  • United States Products, lix. 16;
  • John Dickson, Report, in Luaḥ Ereẓ Yisrael, 1903, ix. 166-179;
  • Eisenstein, Products and Industries of Palestine, and Commerce Between the United States and Palestine, in The Maccabean, 1901, i. 1, 2;
  • Zangwill, The Commercial Future of Paletstine, in English Illustrated Magazine, 1902, xxvi. 352-360, 421-430;
  • Nossig and Trietsch, Palästina, vol. i., Berlin, 1902.
J. J. D. E.