Hula Valley (Hebrew: עמק החולה, translit. Emek
Ha-Ḥula; also transliterated as Huleh Valley) is an agricultural
region in northern
Israel with abundant fresh water. It is a major
stopover for birds migrating along the Syrian-African Rift Valley
between Africa, Europe, and Asia. The marshland around Lake Hula, a
breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying malaria, was drained in the
1950s. A small section of the valley was later reflooded in an attempt
to revive a nearly extinct ecosystem. An estimated 500 million
migrating birds now pass through the
Hula Valley every year.
2 Geography and climate
4 Swamp drainage
5 Hula Nature Reserve
6 Hula Lake Park
7 Return of Hula painted frog
9 Cultural references
10 See also
12 External links
Lake Hula was historically referred to by different names. The 14th
century BCE Egyptians called the lake Samchuna, while the Hebrew Bible
records it as Merom. In the 1st century CE, the Jewish-Roman historian
Flavius Josephus termed it Semechonitis (ancient Greek
John Lightfoot writing it as Samochonitis,
while in the
Talmud it is called Yam Sumchi – i.e. Sea of Sumchi.
Currently the lake is called Buheirat el Huleh in Arabic and Agam
ha-Hula in Hebrew, stemming from the
Aramaic Hulata or Ulata. The
"Waters of Merom" has sometimes been used in scientific literature,
although that term refers specifically to springs on the western side
of the valley.
Geography and climate
Water buffalo grazing in Hula Valley
For geological aspects see Dead Sea Transform#Hula Basin
Hula Valley lies within the northern part of the Syrian-African
Rift Valley at an elevation of about 70 meters above sea level, and
covers an area of 177 square kilometers (25 km by
6–8 km).[dubious – discuss] On both sides of the valley are
steep slopes: the
Golan Heights to the east and the Upper Galilee's
Naftali mountains to the west rise to 400 to 900 meters above sea
Basalt hills of about 200 meters above sea level along the
southern side of the valley intercept the Jordan River, and are
commonly referred to as the basalt "plug", the Korazim block, or
Korazim plateau (actually a temporary geologic base level), as they
restrict water drainage downstream into the Sea of Galilee.
Hula Valley has a
Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and
cool rainy winters, although its enclosure within two mountain ranges
leads to more extreme seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations than
in coastal areas. Annual rainfall varies greatly between different
parts of the valley and ranges from about 400 millimeters in the south
of the valley, to up to 800 millimeters in the north of the valley.
More than 1,500 millimeters of precipitation falls on the Hermon
mountain range, only a few kilometers north of the valley, mostly in
the form of snow, feeding underground springs, including the sources
of the Jordan River, all eventually flowing through the valley. The
wind regime is dominated by regional patterns in the winter with
occasional strong north-easterly wind storms known in Arabic as
Prior to its drainage in the early 1950s, Lake Hula was 5.3 kilometers
long and 4.4 kilometers wide, extending over 12-14 square kilometers.
It was about one and a half meters deep in summer and three meters
deep in winter. The lake attracted human settlement from early
Paleolithic archaeological remains were found near
the Bnot Yaakov ("Daughters of Jacob") bridge at the southern end of
the valley. The first permanent settlement, Enan (Mallaha), dates from
9,000-10,000 years ago and was discovered in the valley.
Hula Valley was a main junction on the important trade route
connecting the large commercial centre of
Damascus with the eastern
Mediterranean coast and Egypt. During the Bronze Age, the cities of
Hazor and Laish were built at key locations on this route
approximately 4,000 years ago. At some point the area came under
Israelite control until it was captured by the Assyrian armies of
Tiglath-Pileser III and its inhabitants were driven away. The Bible
records lake "Merom" as the site of a victory of
Joshua over the
Throughout the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and early
(fourth century BCE to eighth centuries CE) rural settlement in the
Hula Valley was uninterrupted. During the Seleucid Empire, the town
Seleucia Samulias was founded on the lake shore.
Traditional crops were rice (as early as the Hellenistic period),
cotton and sugar cane (brought by the Arabs following their conquest
in 636), sorghum and maize (brought after the discovery of the
Americas). Water buffalo were introduced in the eighth century
supplying milk and serving as beasts of burden.
In the 19th century, the valley, mainly marshy ground and a shallow
lake, was inhabited by Ghawaraneh Bedouin who wove matting from the
papyrus with which they built their homes. John MacGregor, a Victorian
adventurer, was captured with his boat, the "Rob Roy", by dark-skinned
Bedouin living in the Hula marshes. He was responsible for the first
modern maps of the area. Mortality rates were very high due to the
spread of malaria. In 1882, a traveler wrote that the
region was "among the finest hunting grounds in Syria," home to
"panthers, leopards, bears, wild boars, wolves, foxes, jackals,
hyenas, gazelles and otters." During World War II, officers of the
British Army wrote about hunting birds there.
In 1908, the Ottoman government granted a concession to drain the
marsh to a French firm, which sold it to Lebanese businessmen. In
1933, during the British Mandate, the Palestine Land Development
Company took over this concession and drew up plans to drain and
irrigate the valley which brought scientific expeditions to the
A visitor to the area in the 1930s reported that the villages in the
area harvested the papyrus for weaving. They used two distinct styles
of loom: one for fine mats for interior use, and a second producing
longer, coarser mats which were used for constructing huts and
The first modern Jewish settlement in the Hula Valley, Yesud HaMa'ala
on the western shore of the lake, was established in 1883 during the
First Aliyah. In 1948 there were 35 villages in the Hula Valley, 12
Jewish and 23 Arab.
Buildings circa 1885
Malaria clinic, 1938
Gideon Mer in the centre with hat)
Fishermen at Lake Hula
Al-Salihiyya circa 1936. Woman weaving papyrus mat
Buffalo soaking in a mud hole, 1946
View of the Hula national reserve from Keren Naftali
The draining operations, carried out by the Jewish National Fund
(JNF), began in 1951 and were completed by 1958. It was achieved by
two main engineering operations: the deepening and widening of the
Jordan River downstream; and two newly-dug peripheral canals diverting
the Jordan at the north of the valley. The drying out caused the
extinction of the unique endemic fauna of the lake, including the
cyprinid fish Acanthobrama hulensis and cichlid fish Tristramella
Though perceived at the time as a great national achievement for
Israel, with the advent of the modern environmental movement, it
became evident that the transformation of the swamp into agricultural
land involved significant trade offs and had effects on the ecosystem
that had not been perceived in the first half of the twentieth
century, when the major concerns had been the reduction of
malaria-bearing mosquitoes and improving economic productivity. In
1963, a small (3.50 km²) area of recreated papyrus swampland in
the southwest of the valley was set aside as the country's first
nature reserve. Concern over the draining of the Hula was the impetus
for the creation of the Society for the Protection of Nature in
Draining the Hula turned out to be a mixed blessing. Water polluted
with chemical fertilizers began flowing into Lake Kinneret (Sea of
Galilee), lowering the quality of its water. The soil, stripped of
natural foliage, was blown away by strong winds in the valley, and the
peat of the drained swamp ignited spontaneously, causing underground
fires that were difficult to extinguish. Eventually part of the
valley was transformed back into a wetland habitat.
Hula Nature Reserve
Common crane in Agamon Hula Nature reserve
Thanks to the foresight of a number of scientists and nature lovers,
at least a small part of Hula's wetlands could be preserved and in
1964 the Hula Nature Reserve was officially inaugurated. The Hula
Nature Reserve is listed by the
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, as a
Wetland of International Importance.
Hula Lake Park
Flocks of migrating birds
Hula Lake Park, known in Hebrew as Agmon HaHula (Hebrew: אגמון
החולה), is located in the southern part of the Hula Valley,
north of the nature reserve and distinct from it. It was established
as part of a JNF rehabilitation project. In the early 1990s part
of the valley was flooded again in the wake of heavy rains. It was
decided to develop the surrounding area and leave the flooded area
intact. The new site has become the second home for thousands of
migrating birds in the autumn and spring. The lake covers an area
of one square kilometer, interspersed with islands that serve as
protected bird nesting sites. It has become a major stopover for
migrating birds flying from
Africa and back, and also a
major birdwatching site. In 2011, Israeli ornithologists confirmed
that Lake Hula is the stopover point for tens of thousands of cranes
migrating from Finland to Ethiopia every winter. In Israel, farmers
set out food for them to keep them from damaging crops near the
Return of Hula painted frog
Female of the
Critically Endangered Hula painted frog
In November 2011 the Hula painted frog, classified as extinct since
1996 by the IUCN as a result of the marsh drainage, reappeared to park
patrollers in HaHula. The reappearance was confirmed by the Israel
Nature and Parks Authority. Since the discovery of the first specimen
at least ten more have been found, all in the same area. The IUCN has
accordlingly reclassified the species as Critically Endangered.
Archaeological findings in 2009 show that the hominids who inhabited
the area exploited Lake Hula fish. Analysis of the fish remains
recovered from the archaeological site of Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov (GBY)
have shown that they exploited a wide range of fish including catfish,
tilapia and carp. Some of the carp were over a meter long. Tools
to light fires and crack nuts were also discovered at the site.
In December 2007
Israel issued a set of three stamps featuring the
Hula nature reserve.
View of the Hula valley from the south.
Battle of Lake Huleh
Prehistory of the Hulah Valley
^ The Hula Reserve[permanent dead link]
^ John Lightfoot, From the
Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. 1, p. 139
^ Thomson, W.M. (1872) The Land and the Book; or Biblical
Illistrations drawn from the manners and customs, the scenes and
scenery of The Holy Land. T. Nelson & son. p. 253
^ a b History of the
Hula Valley Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback
^ Larsson, Theodore (October 1936). "A Visit to the Mat Makers of
Huleh". Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement:
^ Tucker, Spencer; Roberts, Priscilla Mary (2008). The Encyclopaedia
of the Arab-Israeli conflict: A Political, Social, and Military
History. One, A–H. ABC-CLIO. p. 458.
^ Crevelli, A.J. (2006). "Acanthobrama hulensis". The IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
^ Goren, M. (2006). "Tristramella intermedia". The IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
^ Tal, Alon (2002). Pollution in a Promised Land: An Environmental
History of Israel. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
p. 115. ISBN 978-0-520-23428-4.
^ The Hula Reserve[permanent dead link]
^ Official webpage of the Hula Nature Reserve at the
Parks Authority website "Archived copy". Archived from the original on
2016-06-17. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
^ "The Hula Valley- Bird Watching Site". 25 March 2008 – via
^ "The Hula Valley- Bird Watching Site". Haaretz. [dead link]
^ "Israeli ornithologists confirm flight path of migrating cranes".
^ Yong, Ed (2013-06-04). "'Extinct' frog is last survivor of its
lineage". Nature. Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
^ Alperson-Afil, Nira; Sharon, Gonen; Kislev, Mordechai; Melamed,
Yoel; Zohar, Irit; Ashkenazi, Shosh; Rabinovich, Rivka; Biton,
Rebecca; Werker, Ella; Hartman, Gideon; Feibel, Craig; Goren-Inbar,
Naama (18 December 2009). "Spatial Organization of Hominin Activities
at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel". Science. 326 (5960): 1677–1680.
doi:10.1126/science.1180695. PMID 20019284. Retrieved February 7,
^ Goren-Inbar, Naama; Alperson, Nira; Kislev, Mordechai E.; Simchoni,
Orit; Melamed, Yoel; Ben-Nun, Adi; Werker, Ella (30 April 2004).
"Evidence of Hominin Control of Fire at Gesher Benot Ya`aqov, Israel".
Science. 304 (5671): 725–727. doi:10.1126/science.1095443.
PMID 15118160. Retrieved February 7, 2001.
^ "Hula Reserve series" (in Hebrew). israelphilately.org.il. Archived
from the original on 2011-07-23.
Media related to
Hula Valley at Wikimedia Commons
Lake Hula and Lake Agmon, Jewish Virtual Library
Photos of birds at Hula Valley
Photos of Hulah Valley
The Story of
Hula Valley Swamps - Man Versus Nature
Coordinates: 33°6′12″N 35°36′33″E / 33.10333°N
35.60917°E / 33.10333; 35.60917
Nature reserves of Israel
Dor Beach and Ma'agan Michael Islands
Gamla nature reserve†
Hermon nature reserve†
Kerem Ben Zimra
Ashdod Nitzanim Sand Dune Park
Craters in the Negev
Coral Beach Nature Reserve
† Located in the Israeli-oc