1902 Encyclopedia > Galilee


GALILEE (_______), the most northerly of the three provinces into which Palestine was at the Roman period divided, was bounded on the E. by the Jordan, on the S. by Samaria, on the W. by the Mediterranean, on the N.W. by Phoenicia, and on the N by the Leontes, the extreme length being about 60 miles, the extreme breadth 30, and the area 1000 square miles. The Galilee thus denned, however, though doubtless the Galilee of Herod's tetrarchy and of later centuries, was hardly that of ordinary parlance at the beginning of the Christian era. Josephus himself, while substantially giving these boundaries (B. J., iii. 3, 1, and elsewhere), yet incidentally in one place speaks of Upper Galilee as constituting the whole of Galilee proper (Ant. xx. 6, 1), and elsewhere in giving Xaloth (Iksal) and Dabaratta (Deburieh) as boundary towns, seems to exclude from Galilee the plain of Esdraelon. In the early period of the history of Israel, the word h'b.i or meaning a circle, was hardly a proper name at all, but was applied to several districts with considerable generality. Thus in Josh. xiii. 2 and Joel iv. 4 reference is made to the "borders" or "coasts" (Geliloth) of the Philistines. In Josh. xxii. 10, 11, however, the "Geliloth" of Jordan means the plain of Jordan referred to in Ezekiel xlvii. 8 as "the eastern Gelilah" (compare Josh, xviii. 7); while in Josh. xx. 7, xxi. 32, hag-Galil denotes the north portion of the territory of Naphtali westward of Merom, where Kadesh, one of the six cities of refuge, lay. Here were situated the twenty " worthless" cities which Solomon gave to Hiram (1 Kings ix. 11; 2 Chr. viii. 2); and here, not-withstanding the conquests made successively by Joshua, several of the judges, David, and Solomon, the population seems to have retained a prevailingly ethnic character; for even in Isaiah's time " the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali" is called " Galilee of the Gen-tiles" (Isa. ix. 1). After the deportation by Tiglath Pileser (2 Kings XV. 29), in which it is to be presumed that chiefly Israelites were carried away, this ethnic character would most probably be intensified and extended rather than diminished either in area or in amount; and already in the time of the Maccabees, accordingly, we find the word appar-ently used in a considerably wider sense than in earlier times (1 Mace. v. 14, 15, x. 30; cf. Tob. i. 2). The later extension of the designation cannot be more particularly traced, but we know with considerable exactness what the limits were at the time of the Talmudists. The southern boundary was defined by the towns of Bethshean (Beisán), Ginaea (Jenin), Caphar Utheni (Kefr Adan), and by the ridge of Carmel; on the east the Jordan formed the limit; while on the west and north the line ran from Carmel to Aecho (Akka), and thence ascended eastwards by a great valley just south of Achzib (ez Zib) extending 8 miles, past Kabartha (el Kábry), Gathin (J'athun), and Beth Zanita (Zueinita), to Gelila (Jelil), where it turned north near M'alia, probably the Melloth which Josephus notices as on his boundary (B. J., iii. 3, 1). From Melloth it ran 12 miles north to Kania and Aiya (probably Kánah and Aiya), and then appears to have run east along a high ridge by Berii and Tirii (Berius and Tireh), and thence, after a course of 5 miles, it trended north-east by Tifni (Tibnin), Sifneta (Safed el Battikh), Ailshitha fAtshith), and Aulam (Almón), arriving thus at the deep gorge of the Leontes. Turning east it passed Migdol Kherub (el Khurbeh) and the "hollow of Ayun" (Merj 'Ayün), past Takra (unknown) to Tortalga (" the snowy mountain," or Hermon), and to Kisrin and the bounds of Iitir—that is, to Caesarea Philippi (now Banias), and thus to beyond Jordan. The boundary between Upper and Lower Galilee was natural, being marked on the east by the town of Caphar Hananya (Kefr Anán), situated at the foot of the high ridge which formed the actual line; Bersobe, on the same boundary (Josephus, B. J., iii. 3, 1), is not as yet known.

Lower Galilee.—The whole of Galilee presents country more or less disturbed by volcanic action. In the lower division the hills are all tilted up towards the east, and broad streams of lava have flowed over the plateau above the sea of Galilee. In this district the highest hills are only about 1800 feet above the sea. The ridge of Nazareth rises north of the great plain of Esdraelon, and north of this again is the fertile basin of the Buttauf, separated from the sea-coast plains by low hills. East of the Buttauf extends the basaltic plateau called el Ahma (" the inaccessible "), rising 1700 feet above the sea of Galilee. North of the Buttauf is a confused hill country, the spurs falling towards a broad valley which lies at the foot of the mountains of Upper Galilee. This broad valley, running westwards to the coast, is the old boundary of Zebulun—the valley of Jiphthah-el (Josh. xix. 14). The great plain of Esdraelon is of trian-gular form, bounded by Gilboa on the east and by the ridge which runs to Carmel on the west. It is 14 miles long from Jenin to the Nazareth hills, and has a mean measure-ment of 9 miles east and west. It rises 200 feet above the sea, the hills on both sides being some 1500 feet higher. The whole drainage is collected by the Kishon, which runs through a narrow gorge at the north-west corner of the plain, descending beside the ridge of Carmel to the sea. The broad valley of Jezreel on the east, descending towards the Jordan valley, forms the gate by which Palestine is entered from beyond Jordan. Mount Tabor stands isolated in the plain at the north-east corner, and rather further south the conical hill called Neby Duby rises between Tabor and Gilboa. The whole of Lower Galilee is well watered. The Kishon is fed by springs from near Tabor and from a copious stream from the west side of the plain of Esdraelon. North-west of Nazareth is Wady el Melek, an open valley full of springs. The river Belus, just south of Acre, rising in the sea-coast marshes, drains the whole valley of Jiphthah-el. On the east the broad valley of Jezreel is full of magnificent springs, many of which are thermal. The plains of Esdraelon, and the Buttauf, and the plateau of el Ahma, are all remarkable for the rich basaltic soil which covers them, in which corn, cotton, maize, sesame, tobacco, millet, and various kinds of vegetable are grown, while indigo and sugar-cane were cultivated in former times. The Nazareth hills and Gilboa are bare and white, but west of Nazareth is a fine oak wood, and another thick wood spreads over the northern slopes of Tabor. The hills west of the great plain are partly of bare white chalk, partly covered with dense thickets. The mountains north of the Buttauf are rugged and covered with scrub, except near the villages, where fine olive groves exist. The principal places of importance in Lower Galilee are Nazareth (10,000 inhabitants), Sepphoris (now Seffurieh), a large village standing above the Buttauf on the spurs of the southern hills, and Jenin (En Gannim), a flourishing village, with a palm garden (3000 inhabitants). The ancient capital, Jezreel (Zerin), is now a miserable village on a precipitous spur of Gilboa; north of this are the small mud hamlets, Solam (Shunem), Endur (Endor), Nein (Nain); on the west side of the plain is the ruin of Lejjun (the Legio of the 4th century, which was then a place of importance). In the hills north of the Buttauf is Jefat, situated on a steep hill-top, and representing the Jotapata defended by Josephus. Kefr Kenna, now a flourishing Christian village at the foot of the Nazareth hills, south of the Buttauf, represents the probable site of Cana of Galilee, and the ruin Kana, on the north side of the same plain, represents the site pointed out to the pilgrims of the 12th and 13th centuries.

Upper Galilee.—The mountains are tilted up towards the sea of Galilee, and the drainage of the district is towards the north-west. On the south the rocky range of Jebel Jermftk rises to 4000 feet above the sea; on the east a narrow ridge 2800 feet high forms the watershed, with steep eastern slopes falling towards Jordan. Immediately west of the watershed are two small plateaus, covered with basaltic debris, near el Jish and Kades. On the west are rugged mountains with deep intricate valleys. The main drains of the country are—first, Wady el Ayun, rising north of Jebel Jermuk, and running north-west as an open valley, and secondly, Wady el Ahjar, a rugged precipitous gorge running north to join the Leontes. The district is well provided with springs throughout, and the valleys are full of water in the spring time. Though rocky and difficult, Upper Galilee is not barren, the soil of the plateaus is rich, and the vine flourishes in the higher hills, especially in the neighbourhood of Kefr Birim. The principal town is Safed, perched on a white mountain 2700 feet above the sea. It has a population of about 9000, including Jews, Christians, and Moslems. It is one of the four sacred cities in Pales-tine revered by the Jews, to which nationality the majority of the inhabitants belong. Among the smaller towns we may notice Meirun, near Safed, a place also much re-vered by the Jews as containing the tombs of Hillel, Shammai, and Simeon bar Jochai. A yearly festival of most curious character ishere celebrated in honour of these rabbis. The site of Hazor, one of the chief towns of Galilee in Bible times, has also been lately recovered. It was situated according to Josephus, above the Lake Semechonitis (Bahr ei Huleh), and the nameHudireh, identical with the Hebrew Hazor, has been found by the survey party in 1877 applying to a mountain and plain, near an ancient ruin, in the required position. The little village of Kades represents the once important town of Kadesh Naphtali (Josh. xix. 37). The ruins are here extensive and interesting, but belong apparently to the Greek period.

The population of Galilee is mixed. In Lower Galilee the peasants are principally Moslem, with a sprinkling of Greek Christians round Nazareth, which is a Christian town. In Upper Galilee, however, there is a mixture of Jews and Maronites, Druses and Moslems (natives or Algerine settlers), while the slopes above the Jordan are inhabited by wandering Arabs. The Jews are engaged in trade, and the Christians, Druses, and Moslems in agricul-ture ; and the Arabs are an entirely pastoral people.

The principal products of the country are corn, wine, oil, and soap (from the olives), with every species of pulse and gourd.

The antiquities of Galilee include cromlechs and rude stone monuments, rock-cut tombs, and wine-presses, with numerous remains of Byzantine monasteries and fine churches of the time of the crusades. There are also re-mains of Greek architecture in various places, but the most interesting buildings are the ancient synagogues. These have not been found in other parts of Palestine, but in Galilee eleven examples are now known. They are rectangular, with the door to the south, and three rows of columns forming four aisles east and west. The architecture is a peculiar and debased imitation of classic style, attributed by architects to the 2d century of our era. The builder of the examples at Kefr Birim, el Jish, and Meirun is known to have been the famous Simeon bar Jochai, who lived about 150 A.D., and built 24 synagogues in Galilee. The similarity of style renders it probable that the other examples at Tell Hum, Kentzeh, Nebartein, Umm el Amed, and Sufsaf were also his work. Both at el Jish and at Kefr Birim there are two synagogues, large and small. Irbid, above Tiberias, is another synagogue of rather different character, which is said to have been built by Babbi Nitai, Traces of syna-gogues have also been found on Carmel, and at Tireh, west of Nazareth. It is curious to find the representation of various animals in relief on the lintels of these buildings. Hebrew inscriptions also occur, and the carved work of the cornices and capitals is very rich. These synagogues were erected at a time when the Galilean Jews were flourishing under the Roman empire, and when Tiberias was the central seat of Jewish learning and of the Sanhedrin.

In the 12th century Galilee was the outpost of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, and its borders were strongly protected by fortresses, the magnificent remains of which still crown the most important strategical points. Toron (now Tibnin) was built in 1104, the first fortress erected by the crusaders, and standing on the summit of the mountains of Upper Galilee. Beauvoir (Kaukab, built in 1182) stood on a precipice above Jordan south-west of the Sea of Galilee, and guarded the advance by the valley of Jezreel; and about the same time Chateau Neuf (Hunin) was erected above the Huleh lake. Belfort (esh Shukif), on the north bank of the Leontes, the finest and most important, dates somewhat earlier; and Montfort (Kalat el Kurn) stood on a narrow spur north-east of Acre, completing the chain of frontier fortresses. The town of Banias, with its castle, formed also a strong outpost against Damascus, and was the scene, in common with the other strongholds, of many desperate encounters between Moslems and Christians. Lower Galilee was the last remaining portion of the Holy Land held by the Christians. In 1250 the knights of the Teutonic order owned lands extending round Acre as far east as the Sea of Galilee, and including Safed. These possessions were lost in 1291, on the fall of Acre. (c. E. C.)

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