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The Valley of Jezreel and Plain of Esdraelon (Read 3914 times)
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The Valley of Jezreel and Plain of Esdraelon
Oct 7th, 2013 at 1:13am

The Valley of Jezreel is often identified as comprising only the eastern end of the Plain of Esdraelon, the valley between between Mount Gilboa and the Hill of Moreh and Mount Tabor (see Mount Tabor).  However, Jezreel is often used generally to refer to the entire flat and fertile plain stretching southeast from the coast north of Mount Carmel to the Jordan River at Beth-shan (outlined in red).  This area is the boundary between Samaria to the south and Galilee to the north.  Even today, as in ancient times, this area is the most fertile agricultural land in Palestine, which is reflected in the name Jezreel, which means "God sows."

In ancient times, this area had great strategic value as well, since the Jezreel/Esdraelon plain was the only east-west access between the coast and the Jordan Valley.  The main north and south trade routes between Egypt to the South and Mesopotamia to the North lay through this area.  With the desert to the east, the areas on both sides of the Jordan blocked by highlands, and difficult access to the Jordan Valley from the south because of the Dead Sea, most north-south travel led through the Valley of Jezreel.  The main route from Egypt, know as the Via Maris ("way of the sea"), ran northward along the coastal plains to the spur of mountains running to the sea at Mount Carmel just north of Caesarea.  It then turned eastward toward the Plain of Esdraelon past the fortress of Megiddo, through the Jezreel Valley to Beth-Shan, then northward through the Yarmuk River valley toward Damascus (route marked in blue).  A more difficult secondary route ran north from Jerusalem through Shechem and Samaria to Megiddo, then eastward toward the coast at Acco, then northward along the coast to the Phoenician ports at Tyre and Sidon.

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