The Lowlands, or the Shfela as they are called in Hebrew, are the transitional foothills between the country’s central mountains and the coastal plain. It is a mostly rural area of low rounded hills, broad valleys and villages, which now includes many tourist attractions. The region is crossed by several rivers and wadis such as the Ayalon, Sorek and the Elah. Parts of the hills are covered with Mediterranean bush and forest; others have the vegetation of more arid zones. Large parts are now covered by pine forests planted by the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet) with many camping grounds, archeological sites and other tourist attractions.
It is a fertile region with a fascinating history that revolves around its economic importance and strategic position throughout the ages. This is the region where Bar Kokhva, the Jewish military leader, dug into the ground with his troops during the great rebellion against the Romans between the years 132 and 135 CE. It was one of the most important olive growing regions in the country and the countryside has many ancient oil presses. Today it is the site of the wine route that goes through the dozens of boutique wineries in the region.
Parts of the region are green all year around with many springs and brilliant displays of wildflowers in the spring. The region’s moshavim have dozens of restaurants and home cooking business that specialize in many ethnic cuisines. It also is a region known for good hiking and bicycle trails, art galleries and other attractions.
The most ancient site in the region is the Beit Govrin-Maresha National Park, with its spectacular bell caves, columbarium and the remains of two ancient cities. Many ancient tels are scattered through the lowlands including Tel Azeka, Tel Tsafit, Tel Goded, all of which have remains of ancient civilizations.
One striking new tourist attraction is the Mini Israel, a scale model of many important sites in the country from the Hermon to Eilat, with the Old City of Jerusalem, the Bahai Garden of Haifa, the Caesarea National Park and even the national football stadium in Ramat Gan.
There are several interesting monasteries in the region including Beit Jamal, Deir Rafat and Latrun. Near Latrun one can find the ruins of Emmaus, so important in the Christian tradition, where Jesus reputedly met Simon and Cleopas after his resurrection. Emmaus was an important place from the time of the Macabeans around 2,000 years ago till the crusader era (less than 1,000 years ago.)
Some of he most important parks in the area include the Ben Shemen park with its special money park, The Ayalon Park, also known as the Canada Park, the Britain Park and Lahav Park – all sites of special wild beauty.