"YE mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings. . . ." David's famous curse after the death of King Saul came naturally to mind not long ago as I traveled the length and breadth of Israel's Jezreel Valley, in the shadow of the Gilboa Mountains. I had known in an abstract sort of way that the events associated with any square mile of Israeli soil are sufficient to provide an ample history for a medium-sized planet, but it's quite another matter actually to be there on the ground, finding resonance in every country stream and hilltop settlement.
It was in the Jezreel Valley, beneath Mount Gilboa, that King Saul fell upon his sword rather than risk capture by the Philistines. A few miles from Mount Gilboa is the Spring of Harod, where, at the Lord's insistence, the judge Gideon winnowed his army from 32,000 to 300 men before successfully attacking the Midianites. Visible to the north is Mount Tabor, below whose slopes the prophet Deborah led the Israelites to victory over the Canaanites. In the middle distance lies the village of Endor, where before his final battle Saul consulted a witch (to his deep regret), and the village of Nain, where Jesus brought a widow's only son back to life. Just off the road is the mound, or tel, that harbors the remains of Jezreel, the winter capital of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. A half dozen miles to the west, where a strategic pass opens onto the Jezreel Valley, lies Tel Megiddo, the earliest of whose twenty-five occupational layers dates back to the Bronze Age. The final battle between the forces of good and evil is supposed to take place in the shadow of Mount Megiddo--Har Meggido, that is to say, or Armageddon. The most recent battle in the area was of less apocalyptic consequence: it occurred during the First World War, in September of 1918, when Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby surprised and routed a Turkish army at Megiddo Pass. Elevated to the peerage a year later, Allenby would thereafter be known as 1st Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe.