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Notes on the Geography of Israel: Cultural Intersections

People in this part of the world have rarely been inclined to celebrate diversity. The natural inclination has instead been to declare that the winner takes all, whether the winners are Egyptians at Armageddon, Crusaders at Antipatris, or Israelis fighting Arabs.

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Glacial debris? Nope: Armageddon--or at least the ruins of it. They form a hill much dug by archaeologists to reveal the remnants of cities that stood here in a gap in the hills stretching from the West Bank to the sea at Haifa. Through that gap passed the ancient route between Mesopotamia and Egypt.

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Cultural stratification at Armageddon, or Har Megiddo, in Hebrew. This was an Egyptian town in the second millennium B.C. Later, David built a city here--and the Assyrians after him. It lasted until the settlement's final abandonment in the 7th century B.C.

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The city depended on a spring within its walls: the spring still flows. Nearby is an Israeli kibbutz called Megiddo or Mountain. It stands on the land of what until 1948 was a Palestinian village.

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Another way-station on the ancient path between Egypt and Mesopotamia, this is Antipatris, between the head of the Yarkon River and the hills of Samaria, or the northern West Bank. The city's name was bestowed by Herod, who built a city here on the ruins of an earlier settlement. Herod's city was destroyed by a 4th century earthquake, bit a Crusader fortress was rebuilt by the Ottomans in the 16th century: those are the ruins here.

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One of the entrances to Antipatris. The site is now a park.

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Herod would have been appalled by the sloppy Turkish rubble and only less disapproving of the Crusader blocks. His own style of monumental construction--nothing less than square-cut one-ton blocks--can be seen today in parts of Jerusalem and Hebron.

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Ruins of a truck along the highway to Jerusalem. It's one of several left as reminders of the Israeli struggle in 1948 to hold Jerusalem. The picture was taken on April 30, 1998, Israel's 50th anniversary; hence the flag. Many like it fluttered far and wide that day.

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A different cultural collision: this time, the invasion of global brands. This shopping center is only a few miles south of Har Megiddo or Armageddon.

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Now I'm confused. The hills of Samaria branch in the north, with a stubby northeastern prong that terminates in the Mountains of Gilboa. The northern end of those mountains is shown here, sternly overlooking the Jezreel valley and a kibbutz with this spring-fed outlier of yet another culture.

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