GILBOA (Heb. גִּלְבֹּעַ), mountain ridge branching off to the N.E. from the Samarian Hills and lying on a S.E.–N.W. axis. The ridge is an upfaulted block that drops precipitously to the Beth-Shean Valley in the east and the Harod Valley in the northeast and more gradually to the southern Jezreel Valley in the west. Along the fault lines at the mountain's foot in the east and the northeast are some of the most plentiful natural springs in Israel. The entire length of the ridge is 10½ mi. (about 17 km.). The summit is 479 m. high, lying 1¼ mi. (about 2 km.) south of Kafr Faqūʿa. It is from this village that the Arabic name for the mountain, Jebel Faqūʿa, was derived.
Mt. Gilboa was the scene of the battle in which Saul and his sons were killed (I Sam. 31:1–6). David cursed the mountain in his lament over Saul and his sons (II Sam. 1:21): "Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits." The ancient name is preserved in the present-day Arab village of Jalbūn, situated southeast of Kafr Faqūʿa. Jalbūn is mentioned by Eusebius as Gelbous (Onom., 72:10). In September 1921 kibbutz *En-Harod was established at the foot of the mountain, next to the En-Harod spring (the kibbutz was transferred in 1929 to the northern side of the Harod Valley; on the side of the mountain itself is moshav Gidonah – established in 1949 – which initially bore the name Gilboa). In the time of the British Mandate, especially between 1936 and 1939, Gilboa served as a base for Arab raids on the Jewish settlements in the Harod and Beth-Shean Valleys. Similarly, the Arab Legion and irregulars fortified positions on Mt. Gilboa during the *War of Independence in the spring of 1948, with the aim of cutting off the Harod and Beth-Shean Valley settlements from the west. This danger was overcome with the occupation of the villages of Zarʿīn (see *Yizre'el) and Mazār by a *Palmaḥ detachment. The 1949 armistice border, following the military front,
Apart from the new villages founded in the 1950s and 1960s at the foot of Mt. Gilboa in the west, north, and east, five settlements came into being on the mountain proper – Nurit, established in 1950 as a moshav and later transformed into a *Gadna training camp and nature study center; Ma'aleh Gilboa, founded in 1962 as a Naḥal outpost, which became a civilian kibbutz affiliated with *Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati in 1967; Kibbutz Meirav, also affiliated with Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati; Malkisuaḥ, a drug rehabilitation village founded in 1990; and Gan Ner, a community founded in 1985. The Jewish National Fund planted a forest on Mt. Gilboa with over 3,000,000 trees – one of the country's largest – and built many access roads and paths opening the mountain for tourism. A large area has been declared a nature reserve where plant species exclusive to Mt. Gilboa are afforded protection.
Weitz, in: Bikat Beit-She'an (1962), 124–8; Levinsohn, ibid., 96–101; EM, 2 (1965), 486.