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Geography & Nature in Israel

Israel is located in Southwest Asia between the Mediterranean and the deserts of Syria and Arabia.

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Geography and Nature


Israel is located in Southwest Asia between the Mediterranean and the deserts of Syria and Arabia. The country's geographical borders are the Mediterranean to the West, the Jordan Valley Rift to the East, the mountains of Lebanon to the North with Eilat Bay marking the country's southern tip. Although small in territory, Israel's landscape and climate are varied, and its dense population does not interfere with a wealth of plants and wildlife, as well as many natural attractions.

Geographic regions

Israel is divided into three main regions lengthwise: the coastal plain, the mountain region, and the Jordan Valley Rift.


Coastal plain

The country's western strip, stretching from Rosh Ha-Nikra in the north to the Sinai Peninsula in the south. The plain is 4-7 kilometers wide in the north, expanding as it moves southward to about 50 kilometers.


The soil in the coastal plain is fertile; there are several water sources, and the region includes the country’s major transportation arteries. The coastal plain is densely populated with most of Israel's major cities, including Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The plain is divided from north to south into the Galilee Plain, the Acre Plain, the Carmel Plain, the Sharon Plain, the Mediterranean Coastal Plain, and the Southern Coastal Plain. East of the coastal plain are the lowlands – moderate hills that create a transitional region between the coast and the mountains.


Mountain region

The mountainous region stretches from Lebanon in the north to Eilat Bay in the south, between the coastal plain and the Jordan Valley Rift. Its highest peaks are the Galilee's Mt. Meron at 1,208 meters above sea level, Samaria's Mt. Ba’al Hatsor at 1,016 meters and the Negev's Mt. Ramon at 1,037 meters above sea level.


Most of the less densely populated mountainous region is stone or rocky ground. The climate in the northern mountainous regions is Mediterranean and rainy, while the southern sections are a desert. The key stretches of the mountainous region are the Galilee in the north, the Carmel, the hills of Samaria, the Judean hills, and the Negev highlands.

The contiguity of the mountainous region is interrupted at two points by major valleys – the Yizre'el (Jezre'el) Valley separating the Galilee mountains from the hills of Samaria, and the Be'er Sheva-Arad Rift separating the Judean hills from the Negev highlands. The eastern slopes of the Samarian hills and Judean hills are the Samarian and Judean deserts.


Jordan Valley Rift 

The rift extends the entire length of Israel from the northern town of Metula to the Red Sea in the south.

The rift was caused by seismic activity, and is part of the Afro-Syrian rift which extends from the Syrian-Turkish border to the Zambezi River in Africa. Israel's largest river, the Jordan, flows through the Jordan Valley and includes Israel's two lakes: the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the largest body of fresh water in Israel, and the salt water Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. The Jordan Valley is divided from north to south into the Hula Valley, the Kinneret Valley, the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea Valley and the Arava.


Golan Heights

The hilly Golan region is east of the Jordan River. The Israeli Golan Heights are the end of a large basalt plain, mostly located in Syria. North of the Golan Heights is Mt. Hermon, Israel's highest peak at 2,224 meters above sea level.


Israel is in a subtropical region, with two seasons: a hot, dry summer period and a cold, semi-wet to wet winter period. Nonetheless, under general influences such as Israel's position between a sea and a desert, and more localized influences such as altitude and distance from the sea, Israel's climate is varied, offering tourists the winter choice between skiing on Mt. Hermon and swimming in the Bay of Eilat.


Israel has three climatic regions: the prevalent climate in most of central and northern Israel is Mediterranean, characterized by hot summers and rainy winters. The coastal plain is humid during the summer and comfortable during the winter, while in the mountains summer is dry and winter can get quite cold. Southern and eastern parts of Israel have desert climates with hot, dry weather and substantial day-night temperature differences. Between the desert and Mediterranean regions, is the semi-arid zone, with a transitional climate.


Israel is a land of bright sunshine, and the amounts of light and radiation are among the highest in the world. This ensures a good suntan, but requires appropriate protection.


Most of Israel's precipitation is winter rains. Mt. Hermon gets snow every year and a few of the higher peaks see occasional snow in winter. In most of the Mediterranean climate zone, more than 400 millimeters of rain fall annually, while in the desert regions, rainfall is less than 250 millimeters. Rainfall in the semi-arid region ranges between 300 and 400 millimeters. Although the rainy season lasts from October through May, most of the rain falls between December and February.


The hottest months of the dry season are July and August. During September-November and April-June, temperatures are comfortable and there is little rainfall, making for ideal beach going weather and pleasant hiking in the desert regions. Visitors to Israel in the summer should bring light clothing and bathing suits. Winter visitors should have warm clothes and umbrellas. Israel's winter is fairly comfortable and hiking outdoors is a pleasant option. In an unusually wet week, the southern port city of Eilat always offers refuge from the rain.


Additional information and regular weather reports are available at the Israel Meteorological Service internet site or at 972 – 3 – 968 2121

Recorded weather reports: 972 – 3 - 5600 600


Flora and Fauna

Due to its location at a climatic and geographical crossroads, Israel offers a surprising wealth of plant life. Israel boasts a total of approximately 2,380 kinds of flora, including many endemic varieties found only here. The variety of flora is much larger than many far bigger countries.


The largest concentration of plant life can be found in the Mediterranean region, mostly in the forms of thicket and undergrowth. Much of Israel has been deforested by mankind, although there are a few impressive remnants of indigenous forest in the mountainous regions (for instance on Mt. Carmel and Mt. Meron in the Galilee). In the desert regions, plant life is sparse, with a few enclaves of subtropical species such as at Ein Gedi and in the Jordan Valley. The semi-arid region has both desert and Mediterranean plant life.

Israel has several botanical gardens, such as at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Mt. Scopus campus, which is dedicated entirely to Israel's wild plant life.

Israel provides a habitat for rich wildlife, including animals originating in various zoogeographical regions that surround the country. This is particularly evident among insect and bird varieties, although reptiles and mammals are also well-represented. Israel has about 100 kinds of wild mammals, an impressive number in contrast to the 140 varieties of wild mammals living in all of Europe. Animals that originate in the cooler European region are found alongside mammals originating in desert regions of Arabia and Egypt with mammals that originate in Africa and in the Indian subcontinent. Although many Israeli mammals are rare or nocturnal, several are easily spotted including deer, ibex, hyrax and jackals. Among the country’s zoos are the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, the Safari Park in Ramat Gan and the Khai Bar Reserve near Yotveta in the Arava.

About 510 species of birds have been spotted in Israel, most of them migratory species that fly through in the fall and spring. Israel is a bottleneck on many migration paths, and millions of birds pass through in the two seasons. Migrations can be observed in the Hula Reserve, the bird site at Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin in the Beit She'an valley, as well as at the Kibbutz Lotan Bird Watching Center in the Arava and at the International Birding and Research Center in Eilat.

At Israel's southern tip, on the coast of the Red Sea, there is a rich world of marine life, including tropical fish and colorful coral. Many can be observed at Eilat's Underwater Observatory and Marine Museum, or by scuba diving in the area.

Rivers and Seas

With little rainfall, the water in most of Israel's streams is seasonal. Israel's largest river is the 250-kilometer Jordan which runs from the Hula Valley south through the Kinneret to the Dead Sea. The Jordan originates in three short tributaries – Dan, Hermon and Snir – which travel through lovely landscape and attract many tourists.


There are also a number of perennial rivers in the coastal plain, including the Taninim (crocodiles) and Yarkon Rivers. Several steep streams descend eastwards from the mountainous region, some creating beautiful canyons (including Amud, Tirtsa, Prat, Kidron and Arugot). Israel's largest streams cut impressive canyons through the Negev landscape. The most prominent southern streams include Tse'elim, Tsin, Paran, Besor and Ha-Arava. In the winter months, there is a danger of flooding in the Negev streams.


Israel's main bodies of water are the Kinneret and Dead Sea. The Kinneret is the largest body of fresh water, a popular swimming site and also the location of many of Christianity's holy sites. The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, attracts many nature-lovers as well as tourists interested in the waters' curative powers. The rest of Israel's bodies of water, including the remnants of the Hula Lake, are much smaller.


Sites & Attractions

Museum housed in the original Technion building in Haifa featuring over 400 hands-on ex...
Museum presenting the history of shipping in the Mediterranean basin, Red Sea and Nile ...
The winery was established in 1998 and it produces around 10,000 bottles annually. The ...
The winery was established in 2000 and it produces around 170,000 bottles annually. The...
The winery was established in 2006 and it produces 60,000 bottles annually, only 20,000...


Rooms and suites face the Dead Sea. The hotel's spa includes Dead Sea water pools, dry ...
Hotel with various rooms which face the sea, some with whirlpools on the terrace. Facil...
Spa hotel whose rooms face the landscape of the Dead Sea or the mountains of the Judean...
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