It took 5 years from when I set my heart to cross by train this enchanting valley, and until my wish was materialized today.
I heard about the reconstructed rail- line, of this historic Valley Train, being connected to the main Israeli railway greed, long ago, yet life has always intervened...
I already wrote in several previous posts, and most extensively in the one from Sept. 7/2020, on the beauty and importance of the fertile Jesreel valley, being the most productive agriculture bread and butter supplier, of the country,
The Historical Tail-Line
The historic Jezreel Valley railway, built at the beginning of the 20th was a railroad that existed in Ottoman and British Palestine, a segment of the longer Haifa–Dera'a Line, which was itself a branch of the larger Hejaz railway. connecting the Port of Haifa with the main part of the Hejaz railway, the Damascus–Medina line.
More on the rail way is mention in my post, from March 11/2021, to the Golan.
Like the entire Hejaz railway, it was a 1,050 mm (3 ft 511⁄32 in) narrow gauge line.
The last stop of the Haifa–Dera'a line within the Mandate Palestine borders was at al-Hamma, today Hamat Gade., further up north at the Golan Heights.
It operated providing regular service from 1905, until 1948.
The Modern Rail-Line
The deserted old line, despite several renewal attempts, lay dismantled for decades, until the 21c. when the modern Israeli railways, resuscitated it.
Construction on a large-scale project by Israel Railways started, in 2011 to build a new 1,435 mm (4 ft 81⁄2 in) standard gauge railway along roughly the same route of the historic valley railway..
Finally, 65 years after it stopped working, passenger service began on the new Valley Railway, Oct. 16, 2016.
It runs from the Mediterranean coast inland, along the length of the Jezreel Valley.
from Haifa's Merkazit Hamifratz - Bay Central to Beit She'an.
Considering the high volume of traffic of the Haifa area, the train enables people to travel across the land, in under an hour.
An extension of the railway line to Israel's border with Jordan, and maybe into Jordan, itself, to where goods will be able to travel from Haifa, and maybe beyond, .is currently being considered.
See video of the modern line.
Boarding in Merkazit Hamifratz -
The large passenger train station in Haifa, ( it is much larger in terms of passenger numbers), where we parked the car, and boarded the Valley Train, is co-located with the Haifa Bay central bus station.
It is surrounded by an ugly and often polluted industrial zone in the northeast of Haifa, .and serves Lev HaMifratz Mall.
The modern station is friendly to passengers who arrive there by bus or train,
However access to its entrance, is very user unfriendly to passengers arriving by private cars, who need to circle by foot, the long fenced station, from the distanced parking lot.
Following a short ride along and parallel the eastern foothills of the verdant Carmel Mt, the train leaves behind the busy industrial scenery of Haifa Bay, with its collapsed iconic tower refinery (built during the British Mandat)
Then the Train veered sharply to the left, and a complete magical metamorphosis change, unveiled, upon its entering the green and yellow cultivated agricultural landscape, of the wide pastoral sleepy valley.
In addition to a breath-taking stretched tapestry of cultivated fields, low verdant hills dotted with red roof houses , and blue water reservoirs, colorful carpets of wild flowers with all their beauty, unveiled all the way along the 40 minutes ride.
The ride consists of 4 stops, at which one can get off, explore, hope back, on the next train, toward Haifa or Beit-Shean., or take the ride, all the way from end to end as we did..
First Stop - Kefar Yahoshua
The first stop 15 minutes into the ride was at Kfar Yehoshua, a moshav founded in 1927,
Over 1000 inhabitants, many whom were the first pioneers of the valley, still engage in agriculture, reside there
Near the village there is an archaeological site called Tell esh Shemmâm.
The train station in Kfar Yehoshua operated for close to 50 years on the Jezreel Valley Railway, 7 stone buildings from this period were restored by the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, and original railroad tracks have been returned to the site.
Lullaby for the Valley (see video)
Elie Shamir a native Arttist of the village, and a graduate/staff of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, about whom I learnt from the beautiful recommended doco film A Lullaby for the Valley paints mesmerizing valley's scenery, from his studio balcony..
His paintings of fields stretching to the horizon, ancient oak trees, and a generation of farmers , disappearing from the vistas of the Jezreel Valley, are haunting and captivating in their beauty and homage.
More on Elie Shamir
Second Stop - Migdal Haemek -Kefar Baruch
Migdal Haemek - Tower of the valley - a small city of over 25,000 which was founded in in 1953 as a ma'abara for Jews from Arab countries, before becoming a development town. Now a days it provides services to the valley's inhabitants and hosts many Israeli and global high tech companies, which are located in three industrial parks among them are Tower Semiconductor, and KLA-Tencor.
Kefar Baruch - a moshav near Afula founded in 1926 by immigrants from the Bulgaria, Caucasus, Kurdistan and Romania. and consist of of over 600 inhabitants, who still live of agriculture and also tourism.
Third Stop - Afula
Often known as the "Capital of the Valley" due to its strategic location in the Jezreel Valley Afula-the larger city consist of about 55,000
An ancient mound or tell known as Tell 'Afula, located in the heart of modern Afula (which was founded in 1925), suggests almost continuous habitation from the the 4th BCE
Ancient Israelite, Persian, Roman rule, Samaritans, Ayyubid period in the 13th c, then Crusader/Mamluk and Ottoman, all left their historical hand prints,
In the beginning of the 20th c, the community was served by the Jezreel Valley Railway, a side branch of the larger Hejaz Railway. Since 1913 it had also been the terminus station of the branch connecting it to Jenin and later also to Nablus.
Sabotage actions of Jewish underground militias in 1945, 1946 and 1948 debilitated progressively the entire Valley Railway, Repairs to the Jezreel Valley Railway after 1948 restored service to Haifa, but only until 1949 when it was abandoned.
The city gained its fame for the excellent "Afula Sunflowers' seeds", grown in its valley's surroundings and supplied to the entire country.
Last Stop - Beith Shean
The station is situated away from the city, about 15 minutes bus ride, to the center.
Thus only a view of a small reservoir can be seen from the station.
As well as onion fields with onion pickers working in them
More on the ancient and modern city of Beith Shean can be read in my post from Feb26/2021
Apparently we were stricken by a latent cold, which burst in full intensity, much later in the day. However we felt its brunt, and low energy, while on the train ride, thus had no stamina to leave the station, as to take a bus to city center and further explore Beit Shean by foot..
So we hang out at the station for 30 minutes, and took the same train, which got us there ,back, this time in reversed direction, to Bay Central, and enjoyed the unfolding beautiful vistas, on this second ride back, as we did, the first time around.
For the next 3 days we spent, almost motionless in bed, suffering of intensive cold, not sure where it was contracted,, which knocked us off badly,, but kept us stationary, yet only for short...