The Western Galilee is the true essence of a Galilean landscape: Green mountains covered with beautiful Mediterranean forests extending all the way down into the sea, beautiful beaches, ancient towns, and hidden mountain villages.
The Galilee is not a large region. mere 100 kilometers separate it: northern border — the peak of Mount Hermon — from its southernmost boundary along the Jezreel Plain, the site of biblical Armageddon. Its eastern reaches, or the far edge of the Golan plateau, lie only 70 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea in the west. But these 7,000 square kilometers encompass amazingly beautiful, and contrasting scenery: mountains and valleys; fertile plateaus and stark cliffs: and a glimmering seacoast.
Not only is it a drive of just one hour from one end of the Galilee to the other, but it is also a short hop from major attractions all around Israel: a two-hour drive to Tel Aviv, under three hours to Jerusalem or the Dead Sea.
But what makes the Galilee an outstanding travel destination is more than its scenery or convenience. This is a region where it is possible to trace the long ascent of man from his early beginning to what he has become today. Prehistoric skeletons found in the Galilee show that in this place, man developed the ability to speak. Here, too, man made the transition from hunter and gatherer to farmer — and the very first permanent villages were erected.
Six thousand years ago, the Galilee was already thriving with human activity. The natural forests that covered Galilee mountains were cleared and replaced with farms and villages. On the plains, large cities rouse up. About 4,000 years ago, Hazor, of biblical fame, was a world-famous trading center.
Some 3,500 years ago, Joshua and the Israelite tribes conquered the Galilee and settled there, side by side with the pagan indigenous population. The haunting mountains of the Galilee were the abode of Elijah, the greatest of all biblical prophets. Later on, the Galilee became the home of the elusive "men of deeds" —Jewish healers and miracle workers. The Galilee is prominent in the Scriptures. Jesus came from the Galilee, as did Peter, Andrew, John, and Bartholomew.
The Galilee mountains were the birth-place of Jewish mysticism. Shimon bar Yochai, regarded as the first Jewish mystic, lived in the Galilee in the second century CE. In the sixteenth century, the small town of Safed became the birth-place of Kabbala. The charismatic Yitzhak Ashkenazi Luria, the Lion of Safed, drew hundreds of followers. They flocked to the forested mountains of the Galilee to learn from him how to unravel the mystery of the Godhead.
The Galilee today is still a relatively unknown destination. Its tourism facilities have developed slowly. But in the past few years, the hospitality of its people, and the growing worldwide interest in agro-tourism and eco-tourism, have made the region increasingly popular. The Galilee as a Israel tour destination is a place to take in things slowly, a place to sit in the shade of an ancient olive tree, bask in the sun on a quiet beach, or walk along a cobblestone road still echoing with the foot-steps of centuries. Its mystical atmosphere takes the visitor far away from the frenetic world we live in today.