The North is a large area which is divided into the Upper Galilee and the Lower Galilee. The Lower Galilee is close to the coastal plain, while the Upper Galilee is close to the Lebanese and Syrian borders. The Upper Galilee is known for its high mountains and its cool climate, while the Lower Galilee is characterized by valleys and a damp and pleasant climate.
Throughout history, the Lower Galilee was more populated than the Upper Galilee. The Arab population that lived in the Land of Israel settled at the foothills of the mountains and farmed the land. There was little agriculture in the Upper Galilee and it was the home of a persecuted minority, the Druze. The city of Safad, in the Upper Galillee is considered one of the four holy cities and so it always attracted religious people.
With the birth of Israel, settlement of the Galilee began. Towns were built for new immigrants and over the years a number of programs to settle Jews were carried out. In the 1980s, many community settlements were established in the Galilee in an attempt to change the area’s demography. This program was called Judaization of the Galilee and it was carried out because the percentage of minority groups in the Lower Galilee was high and that could result in a weakening of Israel’s control in the area. Since then, many attempts have been made by government institutions to bring Jews to the area and to create a Jewish majority.
Kiryat Shmona: The Northernmost City
Kiryat Shmona is the northernmost city in Israel, located in the Galilee Panhandle. On December 26, 1949, it was established as a transit camp on the lands of the Arab village, al-Khalisa, whose residents had fled during the War of Independence. At first, the town was called Kiryat Joseph after Joseph Trumpeldor. Later, it was called Kiryat Shmona to memorialize the rest of the Tel Chai members that had been killed during the same period. In its early days, immigrants from Yemen and Romania were sent there, followed by immigrants from North Africa. The city was built without a master plan. With each new wave of immigrants, new neighborhoods were added.
Because it is the biggest city in the Galilee Panhandle and because of its location off route 90, it serves as a regional center in a number of areas for all the surrounding settlements, including health, industry, business and commerce. Because of its proximity to the Lebanese border, the city has suffered since the 1960s from terrorist attacks and from katyusha rocket ks. On April 4 1974, terrorists from Lebanon penetrated the city and murdered 16 people. This situation led to the First Lebanon War and subsequent operations: “Operation Accountability” and “Grapes of Wrath”.
The Hilltop Settlements of the Galilee – Judaization of the Galilee
The plan to build hilltop settlements in the Galilee was a comprehensive plan to build Jewish settlements in the Galilee in the years 1979-1980. The program was called “Judaization of the Galilee”. In the framework of the program, a large number of small Jewish hilltop settlements, called “Mitzpim” were established in a short period of time. The decision to carry out the plan was reached in April, 1979 at a joint meeting of the government and the settlement department of the Jewish Agency. and the administration for rural construction at the Housing Ministry. The decision approved building 30 hilltop settlements over a period of 6-8 months. The goal of the program’s initiators was to spread out the Jewish population throughout the mountainous areas of the Galilee in order to increase the percentage of Jews in the Galilee and to prevent Arabs from gradually taking over government lands in the area. The plan was mainly funded by the settlement department of the Jewish Agency. By 1981, 26 settlements had been populated. (Hoshaya, Kamon, Abirim, Mitzpe Hila, Hararit, Kalil and Mattat are among the settlements.
The Golan Heights
During the Six Day War, the IDF captured the Golan heights from the Syrians, who had shelled the settlements of the Hula Valley and Rosh Pina. Syrian tanks had even tried to advance towards Kibbutz Dan. After the war, about 80,000 Syrians left the Golan Heights. Syrian Druze remained in the northern Golan. They chose not to accept Israeli citizenship when Israel annexed the Golan in 1981.
The first settlements established on the Golan Heights were based on security considerations. The Kibbutz Movement and the Religious Moshav Movement took part in settling the Golan Heights. The first settlement, Marom Golan was established just one month after the war, on July 14, 1967. After the Yom Kippur War, a new regional council was established, the Golan Regional Council. Since 1967, 33 Israeli settlements have been built on the Golan.
In the Yom Kippur War, despite great efforts, the Syrians did not succeed in recapturing the Golan. After a few days of fighting characterized by fierce battles, especially, The Battle of the Valley of Tears, they were repulsed. In 1976, the city of Katzrin was established adjacent to an ancient Jewish settlement from the period of the Second Temple. Today, approximately 20,000 Jewish people and 21,000 Druze live on the Golan> the residents of the Golan work in farming, tourism and industry.