View category Central High Lands
Ancient empires could spread for hundreds of miles through the plains, but they had a hard time ruling uphill. This was the secret of the central highlands. They stretch like a loaf of bread from north to south. On them settled those who wished to avoid the empires, notably the ancient Israelites. In order to grow enough food they had to terrace the limestone slopes, an operation requiring a high degree of social organization at the level of clans and tribes. The northern section remained vulnerable, nonetheless, because of the mountain passes at Megiddo, Dothan and Shechem. But Judah, the section south of Jerusalem, was a landed peninsula, protected by deserts on the east and south and by a natural moat on the west. Its geography helped David of Bethlehem consolidate his power, and it helped his descendant Hezekiah survive the Assyrian onslaught of 701 BC. Judah could not withstand the Babylonians a century later, but by then the crucial First Testament texts had been gathered there, so that Torah could "go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).

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