Tel Jezreel (the Jezreel Mound) is located on the southern ridge of the beautiful Jezreel Valley in the Lower Galilee region of northern Israel. The tel (which is an archaeological mound in Hebrew) sits 100 meters above the valley and covers approximately 60 dunams (22 acres). The beautiful surrounding landscape is a beautiful patchwork of agricultural fields which are nourished by the ample water supplied by natural springs in the area. With its strategically location close to the ancient Via Maris trade route running from north to south the city at Tel Jezreel was an important stop along the way.
History of Tel Jezreel
Tel Jezreel. Image: Israel MOT
After extensive excavation of the mound artifacts were uncovered dating as far back as the Charcolitic Era, Bronze Age and Iron Age. An Iron Age moat, gate and towers were uncovered. An Omride enclosure which was found indicates that this was the site of an ancient fortified settlement in the 800s BC built for King Omri.
Saul camped at the foot of the Tal with his troops next to the Yezreel Spring while preparing to go into battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 29:1). Biblical references suggest that the mound was the site of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s palace (Kings), the capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel and again in Hosea the Tel features as the site of the Jehu Revolt. In Kings 21:1 the Bible tells of the northern Israelite capital located on the Tel until the Assyrians destroyed the city (2 Kings 15:29).
During the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods the city continued to be an important gateway along the main road from north to south. In fact it is more than likely that Jesus passed through the city on Tel Jezreel on his journey from the Galilee to Jerusalem. The Crusaders who followed also left structures and remains of a medieval church which were uncovered in excavations. The Ottomans inhabited the Tel in the 19th century and in more recent history the Tel was the site of major battles in 1948 when the State of Israel was established. On the Tel you can see a memorial to the Palmach fighters who died in the battle.
Visiting Tel Jezreel
Tourists visiting the Tel arrive at the parking lot on the southern side or on the south easterly side where hike trails start. The Jezreel Spring is at the end of one of these trails in the foothills on the northeastern side of the Tel. At the foot of the western side of the Tel is Kibbutz Yizreel.
On the mound you can see the remains of several structures including the Biblical walls which are mentioned several times in the Bible. The walls once enclosed the ancient fortress complex. One of the famous Biblical scenes is of Queen Jezebel being thrown over the walls: “The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the walls of Jezreel”. Other remains are of the 19th century Zar’in Arab village and a well preserved Roman wine press, cisterns and mosaic floors.
Visitors to Tel Jezreel can explore the well marked hike trails and splash in the Jezreel Spring in the winter. The spring leads into a small pond which is surrounded by tall Eucalyptus trees. If you’re wondering what the strange abandoned building in the middle of the pond is, it’s what’s left of a British mandate era water pump house.
Other attractions around the Tel include the Gilboa Ski Resort (it’s artificial of course, not real snow) whilst there are many things to do in the Jezreel Valley.
Tel Jezreel can be explored independently by following the hike trails, enjoying the natural surroundings and exploring the archaeological remains of the ancient city. Alternatively there are guided tours of northern Israel which make a stop here along the route.