What is the terrain and geography like in Israel?
The topography ranges from the rugged mountainous desert in the Dead Sea area to the flat coastal plain where Tel Aviv and Caesarea are located. The Negev Desert, Judean Hills, and the higher hills and mountains of the Galilee add to the variety of the country’s landscape. Over thousands of years, the rains have carved spectacular wadis or ravines in the permeable clay terrain of the remote desert areas where members of various religious sects have constructed their dwellings through the ages. There are also many natural caves, which were carved by the flow of rivers and subterranean waterways. Alongside rocky deserts, pleasant fields roll with wheat, olive trees, and grapevines.
The country has many natural parks, such as Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea, where one can find hills, forest, desert, and waterfalls in the same area. The highest point in Israel (excluding the areas occupied as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War) is Mt. Meron, at almost 4,000 feet; the lowest point is also the lowest point on Earth—the Dead Sea, some 1,200 feet below sea level. The colors of the landscape vary dramatically, depending on the season and the play of sunlight.
The climate in Israel varies greatly from place to place. The coastal plain has wet, moderately cold winters with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to the mid-60s. Then comes a beautiful spring followed by a long, hot, and humid summer during which the temperature can be more than 100 degrees. Hot spells, known as "sharav" or "khamsin," are quite common during spring and summer and can cause significant discomfort to persons with respiratory problems. These often are accompanied by hot desert winds from the east or the south, carrying dust and sand from as far away as the Sahara. A cooler fall then leads to the beginning of the rainy season in late October or early November. Jerusalem, which is inland and in the Judean Hills, some 2,500 feet above sea level, is generally drier and colder throughout the entire year. In the summer, it gets very hot, but it remains less humid than the coast. In the winter Jerusalem temperatures regularly drop below freezing, and it snows occasionally. The Negev, in the south, is a hot, mostly barren desert. Throughout the country, the rainy season lasts from October or November until March or April. The rains often come in heavy downpours and thunderstorms.
With the first hint of summer, people go to the beach. Israelis love outdoor concerts in summer, and the spectacular ancient sites in Caesarea and Jaffa are used as open-air theaters. The high daytime temperatures are cooled off by evening breezes both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Outdoor dining is especially popular in summer.
Fall is somewhat like a southern U.S. fall, with cooler weather and leaves falling off of trees. Winter comes suddenly, and rain falls regularly. In some years, rainfall is sparse, causing water shortages. The northern mountains, particularly Mt. Hermon in the disputed Golan Heights, will often have snow. Toward the south and the Negev, the weather remains balmy, though the nights are cold.