THE COASTAL PLAIN

The coastal plain, about 150 miles long, varies in width from about 1 mile at the north to 25 miles at the south; and narrows to a relatively few yards at two points north and south of the bay of Acca (now Haifa). Working from the north southward we have, first:

THE PLAIN OF TYRE. This area, dominated in Old Testament times by the wealthy Phoenician civilization and by the Baal worship which Jezebel brought from Tyre into Samaria when she married Ahab, was still in Jesus' time more pagan than Jewish. The Syro Phoenician woman was from this area. Jesus visited this plain with His disciples later in His ministry while He was avoiding the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. The southern boundary of the Plain of Tyre is called the ladder of Tyre. At this point the Galilean hills thrust out westward right to the very edge of the sea; and the traveler must go around a narrow and difficult road to pass southward from the Plain of Tyre to:

THE PLAIN OF ACCA. This plain, which runs as much as 10 miles inland, is restrained on the south by the sudden headland of Mount Carmel, which creates the harbor of Haifa.

The Plain of Acca is restrained on its eastern edge by low hills, rising up to the Galilean hills, and across these hills to the south-east the road carries over into the Plain of Esdraelon which we shall discuss in the next section.

At the base of the Mount Carmel headland we reach:

THE PLAIN OF SHARON, which is some 50 miles long and of varying width. Caesarea was in the center of it in Jesus' time. Herod the Great built here a harbor with a breakwater so wide that two chariots could drive along it side by side, and it curved like a hook to protect the whole bay. On the coast he built a citadel, a palace, a hippodrome, and other features of Graeco-Roman civilization. It was here that Pontius Pilate lived, except when he went to Jerusalem at the time of the Feasts to keep order. The Plain of Sharon was and is a place of great fertility. The rains of centuries have carried down the soil from the hills of Judea to this plain. The rains from the Mediterranean come down on these Judean hills and are carried down to irrigate the plain. The climate is warm and never really threatening. Oranges, lemons, grapes, almonds, figs and, on the foothills, olives, grow in rich abundance.

South of Caesarea on this same coast was the town of Joppa with its dramatic situations involving the apostle Peter. It is a fishing, importing and exporting town, but has now no harbor, only an open and rocky windbreak.

Last of all comes:

THE PLAIN OF PHILISTIA, that continues southward to the desert. Across the southern edge of this plain Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus passed on their way to Egypt. The cities of Gaza and Beersheba were there. The rich soil and climate of this area make it essentially a grain-producing area.

We now move on from this long series of broken plains on the coast to the third great feature that, in fact, makes Palestine.

Next THE CENTRAL MOUNTAINS PLATEAU

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