||Rosh Nanikra, on Israel's northern coast (Photo: M. Horneman)
Israel may be divided into four geographical regions: three parallel strips running north to south and a large, mostly arid, zone in the southern half.
The coastal plain runs parallel to the Mediterranean Sea and is composed of a sandy shoreline, bordered by stretches of fertile farmland extending up to 25 miles (40 km.) inland.
In the North, expanses of sandy beach are occasionally punctuated by jagged chalk and sandstone cliffs. The coastal plain is home to more than half of Israel's 7 million people and includes major urban centers, deep-water harbors, most of the country's industry, and a large part of its agriculture and tourist facilities.
Several mountain ranges run the length of the country. In the northeast, the basalt landscapes of the Golan Heights, formed by volcanic eruptions in the distant past, rise as steep cliffs overlooking the Hula Valley. The hills of Galilee, largely composed of soft limestone and dolomite, ascend to heights ranging from 1,600 to 4,000 feet (500 to 1,200 m.) above sea level. Small perennial streams and relatively ample rainfall keep the area green all year round. Many residents of Galilee and the Golan are engaged in agriculture, tourism-related enterprises, and light industry.
The Jezreel Valley, separating the hills of Galilee from those of Samaria, is Israel's richest agricultural area, cultivated by many cooperative communities (kibbutzim and moshavim). The rolling hills of Samaria and Judea (the West Bank) present a mosaic of rocky hilltops and fertile valleys, dotted with groves of age-old, silver-green olive trees. The terraced hillsides, first developed by farmers in ancient times, blend into the natural landscape. The population is concentrated mainly in small urban centers and large villages.