PALESTINE (Palestine, Philistia), or the HOLY LAND, a country of south-western Asia, comprising the southern portion of Syria, and bounded on the w. by the Mediter. ranean, e. by the valley of the Jordan, n. by the mountain-ranges of the Lebanon and the glen of the Litany (Leontes), and s. by the desert of Sinai; lat. 31° 15' to 33° 20' n., long. 31° 30' to 35° 30' east. Within these narrow limits, not more than 145 m. in length by 45 in average breadth—an area less than that of the principality of Wales—is comprised the " Land of Israel " or "Canaan," the arena of the greatest events in the world's history. The principal physical features of Palestine are, (1) a central plateau or table-land, with a mean height of 1600 ft., covered with an agglomeration of hills, which extend from the roots of the Lebanon to the southern extremity of the country; (2) the Jordan valley and its lakes; and (3) the maritime plain, and the plains of Esdraelon and Jericho. On the e., the descent from time central plateau is steep and rugged, from lake Hutch to the Dead sea. On the w. k is more gentle, but still well marked, towards the plains of Philistia and Sharon. The ascertained altitudes on this plateau, proceeding from s. to n., are Hebron, 3,029; Jerusalem, 2,610; mount of Olives, 2,724; mount Gerizim, 2,700; mount Tabor, 1900; Safed, 2,775 ft. above the. sea. Nearly on the parallel of the sea of Galilee, the range of Carmel extends from the central plateau n.w. to the Mediterranean, where it terminates abruptly in a promontory surmounted by a convent. It rises from 600 ft. in the w., to 1600 ft. in the e., and is composed of a soft white limestone, with many caverns. Beyond the'boundary of Palestine on the n., but visible from the greater part of the country, mount Hermon rises to 9,381 ft., and is always snow-clad. From the formation of the central plateau, the drainage is nearly always e. and w., to the Jordan and the Mediterranean. The streams of the plateau are insignificant, and generally dry in summer.
The geological formation of the country consists of jurassic and cretaceous limestone, often covered with chalk, and rich in flints, with occasional interruptions of tertiary, basaltic, and trappean deposits. The upper strata consist of limestone of a white or pale-brown color, containing few fossils, but abounding, in caverns, which form one of • the peculiaritieg of the country. The general features of time landscape exhibit soft rounded hills, separated by narrow glens or valleys of denudation; the strata are occasion ally level, but more frequently violently contorted, as seen on the route from Jerusalem to Jericho, where the fissures are often 1000 ft. deep, and only 30 or 40 ft. wide. Iron stone occurs in small quantities; rock-salt. asphaltum, and sulphur abound near the Dead sea, where, as also near the sea of Galilee, there are many hot springs. Volcanic agency is evident in the obtruded lava of former ages, arid in frequent earthquakes of modern times. Time vast crevasse through which the Jordan flows, and which cleaves the land from n. to s., is one of the most remarkable fissures on the surface of the globe; it is from 5 to 12 in. wide, and of the extraordinary defmth of 2,630 ft. at the bottom of the Dead sea. Through this the river descends at the rate of 11 ft. in a mile, with a course so tortuous that it travels 132 m. in a direct distance of 64, between the sea of Galilee and the Dead sea. It is the only perennial river of Palestine, except the Kishon, which is permanent only in its lower course, and the Litany on its northern border. See JORDAN. The only lakes of Palestine are in the valley of the Jordan.
Sed GENNESARET, SEA OF, and DEAD SEA.
Time plain of Philistia extends from the coast to the first rising ground of Judah, about 15 m. in average width; the soil is a rich brown loam, almost without a stone. It is in many parts perfectly level; in others undulating, with mounds or hillocks. The
towns of Gaza and Ashdod, near the sea, are surrounded by groves of olives, sycamores, and palms.. This plain is still, as it always was, a vast corn-field, an ocean of wheat, without a break or fence; its marvelous fertility has produced the same succession of crops, year after year, for forty centuries without artificial aid. The plain of Sharon is about 10 m. wide in the s., narrowing towards the n., till it is terminated by the but tress of Carmel. Its undulating surface is crossed by several streams; the soil is rich, and capable of producing enormous crops; but only a small portion of it near Jaffa is cultivated, and it is rapidly being encroached on by the sea sand, which, between Jaffa and Ctesarea, extends to a width of 3 in. and a height of 300 feet. The famous ancient cities of this region, Clesarea, Diospolis, and Antipatris, have vanished. Jaffa (Joppa) alone remains, supported by travelers and pilgrims from the w. on the way to Jerusa lem. The great plain of Esdratllon, or Jezreel, extends across the center of the country. from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, separating the mountain-ranges of Carmel and Samaria from those of Galilee. Its surface is drained by the Kishon, which flows w. to the Mediterranean at Haifa. The plain is surrounded by the hills of Gilboa and Little Hermon; the isolated Mount Tabor rises on its n.e. side. It is extremely fertile in grain where cultivated, and covered with gigantic thistles where neglected. It is richest in the central part, whin slopes e. to the Jordan—the battle-field where Gideon tri umphed, and Saul and Jonathan were overthrown. It is the home of wandering Bedou ins, who camp in its fields, and gallop over its green-sward in search of plunder. Many places of deep historical interest are connected with this plain. Shunem, Fain, Endor, Jezreel, Gilboa, Bethshan, Nazareth, and Tabor are all in its vicinity. The plain of Jericho is a vast level expanse, covered with the richest soil, now quite neglected. Around the site of Jericho, the city of palm-trees," there is not now a single pales; but a recent experiment proved its capability of producing in abundance all the crop; for which it was formerly famous. The climate of Palestine is very varied; January is the coldest and July the hottest month. The mean annual temperature of the year at Jesu salem is 65° Fahr., resembling that of Madeira, the Bermudas, and California. The extreme heat of the summer months is modified by sea-breezes from the n.w. In the plain of Jericho and the Jordan valley it is extremely hot and relaxing. The sirocco, a s.e. wind, is often oppressive in early summer. Snow falls in the uplands in January and February, and 'thin ice is often found at Jerusalem, where the annual rainfall is 61 inches. Heavy dews fall in summer, and the nights are cold. Violent thunder-storms occur in winter. In the s., Judah and part of Benjamin, is a dry, parched land; the hare limestone rock is covered here and there with a scanty soil, and the vast remains of terraces show how assiduously it must have been cultivated in ancient times to support the teeming population indicated by the ruins of cities with which every eminence is crowned. To the n. of Judea the country is more open, the plains are wider, the soil richer, and the produce more varied, till at Nablous the running streams and exuberant vegetation recall to the traveler the scenery of the Tyrol. Even in its desolation, Pales tine is a land flowing with milk and honey. There is no evidence of its climate having changed or deteriorated, nor any reason to suppose that it would fail to support as great a population as ever it did, provided the same means as formerly were used for its culti vation. It has the same bright sun and unclouded sky, as well as the early and hints rain, which, however, is diminished in quantity, owing to the destruction of trees.