Galilee (Hebrew: הגליל HaGalil, lit: the province, Ancient
Greek: Γαλιλαία, Latin: Galileia, Arabic: الجليل al-Jaleel),
is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with
much of the administrative North District of the country.
Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee (Hebrew: גליל עליון
Galil Elyon), Lower Galilee (Hebrew: גליל תחתון Galil
Tahton), and Western Galilee (Hebrew: גליל מערבי Galil
Ma'aravi), extending from Dan to the north, at the base of
Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the ridges of Mount
Carmel and Mount Gilboa to the south, and from the Jordan
Rift Valley to the east across the plains of the Jezreel
Valley and Acre to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and
the Coastal Plain in the west.
Most of Galilee consists of rocky terrain, at heights of
between 500 and 700 meters. There are several high mountains
including Mount Tabor and Mount Meron in the region, which
have relatively low temperatures and high rainfall. As a
result of this climate, flora and wildlife thrive in the
region, while many birds annually migrate from colder
climates to Africa and back through the Hula–Jordan
corridor. The streams and waterfalls, the latter mainly in
Upper Galilee, along with vast fields of greenery and
colorful wildflowers, as well as numerous towns of biblical
importance, make the region a popular tourist destination.
Due to its high rainfall (900–1200 mm), mild temperatures
and high mountains (Mount Meron's elevation is 1,000–1,208
meters), the upper Galilee region contains some unique flora
and fauna : prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), Lebanese
cedar (Cedrus libani), which grows in a small grove on Mount
Meron, cyclamens, paeonias and Rhododendron ponticum which
sometimes appears on Meron.
According to the Bible, Solomon rewarded Hiram I for certain
services by giving him the gift of an upland plain among the
mountains of Naphtali. Hiram called it "the land of Cabul".
In Isaiah (8:23/9:1), the region is referred to as "the
District of the Nations" (גְּלִיל - הַגּוׁיִם; lit:Glil HaGoyim),
with much of this name being retained in its present name of
Galil or HaGalil. According to one view, during the
Hasmonean period, with the revolt of the Maccabees and the
decline of the Seleucid Empire, Galilee was conquered by the
newly independent state of Judaea, and the region was
resettled by Jews. However, according to another view there
were not particularly large-scale population movements
during this period, Galilee became Jewish because its
population decided to recognize the authority of the
Jerusalem temple rather than the Samaritan temple.
In Roman times, the country was divided into Judea, Samaria,
and Galilee, which comprised the whole northern section of
the country, and was the largest of the three regions. Herod
Antipas, son of Herod the Great, ruled Galilee as tetrarch.
The Galilee region was presumably the home of Jesus during
at least 30 years of his life. The first three Gospels of
the New Testament are mainly an account of Jesus' public
ministry in this province, particularly in the towns of
Nazareth and Capernaum. Galilee is also cited as the place
where Jesus cured a blind man.
After the Arab caliphate took control of the region in 638,
it became part of Jund al-Urrdun (District of Jordan). Its
major towns were Tiberias - which was capital of the
district-Qadas, Baysan, Acre, Saffuriya and Kabul. The
Shia Fatimids conquered the region in the 10th century; a
breakaway sect, venerating the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim,
formed the Druze religion, centered in and to north of,
Galilee. Eastern Galilee, however, retained a Jewish
majority for most of its history. During
the Crusades, Galilee was organized into the Principality of
Galilee, one of the most important Crusader seigneuries.
The Jewish population of Galilee increased significantly
following their expulsion from Spain and welcome from the
Ottoman Empire. The community for a time made Safed an
international center of cloth weaving and manufacturing, as
well as a key site for Jewish learning. Today it remains
one of Judaism's four holy cities and a center for kabbalah.
In the mid 18th century, Galilee was caught up in a struggle
between the Bedouin leader Dhaher al-Omar and the Ottoman
authorities who were centered in Damascus. Al-Omar ruled
Galilee for 25 years until Ottoman loyalist Jezzar Pasha
conquered the region in 1775.
In the early 20th century, Galilee was inhabited by Arab
Christians, Arab Muslims, Druze and Jews, whilst the
Ottomans also settled minorities from elsewhere in their
empire including Circassians and Bosniaks. Two Circassian
villages exist in the Galilee region today. The Jewish
population was increased significantly by Zionist
After the 1948 Arab–Israeli war nearly the whole of Galilee
came under Israel's control. A large portion of the
population fled, leaving dozens of entire villages empty;
however, a large Israeli Arab community remained based in
and near the cities of Nazareth, Acre, Tamra, Sakhnin and
Shefa-'Amr, due to some extent to a successful rapprochement
with the Druze. The kibbutzim around the Sea of Galilee were
sometimes shelled by the Syrian army's artillery until
Israel seized the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War.
During the 1970s and the early 1980s, the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO) launched several attacks on
towns of the Upper and Western Galilee from Lebanon. Israel
initiated Operation Litani (1979) and Operation Peace For
Galilee (1982) with the stated objectives of destroying the
PLO infrastructure in Lebanon and protecting the citizens of
the Galilee. Israel occupied much of Southern Lebanon until
1985 when it withdrew to a narrow security buffer zone.
Until the year 2000, Hezbollah, and earlier Amal, continued
to fight the Israeli Defence Forces, sometimes shelling
Upper Galilee communities with Katyusha rockets. In May
2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak unilaterally
withdrew IDF troops from southern Lebanon, maintaining a
security force on the Israeli side of the international
border recognized by the UN. However, clashes between
Hezbollah and Israel continued along the border, and UN
observers condemned both for their attacks.
The 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict was characterized by round-
the-clock Katyusha rocket attacks (with a greatly extended
range) by Hezbollah on the whole of Galilee, with long-range
ground-launched missiles, hitting as far south as the Sharon
plain, Jezreel Valley, and Jordan Valley below the Sea of