Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


Afula (Heb. עִיר יִזְרְעֶאל ;עֲפוּלָה, Ir Yizre’el) is a city in the Jezreel Valley, Israel. It lies at the foot of both the southwestern and northwestern slopes of Givat ha-Moreh and received municipal status in 1972. Afula was founded in 1925 by the American Zion Commonwealth, which planned to make the town the urban center of the Jewish settlements in the Jezreel Valley. Old Afula’s location on a highway and railroad crossroads (N. and N.W. to Nazareth and to Haifa, N.E. to Tiberias, S.E. to Beth-Shean, S. to Jenin and Nablus, S.W. to Megiddo and Haderah) was seen as a promising asset. The hopes attached to Afula, however, only materialized to a small degree, because the kibbutzim and moshavim of the valley rarely used its facilities, except for the regional hospital of Kuppat Ḥolim (the first in the country). Instead they developed their own services or preferred to use those of Haifa. In addition, the speculative sale of building plots to absentee, mostly overseas, proprietors hampered the town’s development. In 1948 Afula had a population of 2,500.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, however, many immigrants were housed in Afula, and a new section, Afula Illit (Upper Afula), was laid out at a distance of 1.8–3.1 mi. (3–5 km.) from the older part of the town on Givat ha-Moreh, climbing to about 984 ft. (300 m.) above sea level. Industries – principally textile as well as a sugar refinery and a plastics factory – were opened in the city, which became the seat of the Jezreel subdistrict, its territory extending over 11 sq. mi. (28.6 sq. km.). The population of Afula grew to approximately 17,000 in the late 1960s and 38,500 in 2002. Among the city’s residents are recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and Ethiopia.

The name Afula, preserved by a small Arab village al-’Afula (which lay at the site until World War I), may come from the Canaanite-Hebrew root ofel ("fortress tower"), possibly mentioned in the list of Thutmose III. In excavations carried out at the ancient tell of Afula, remnants of the Middle and Late Canaanite and Early Israelite periods were discovered. A settlement of the transition period from the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Ages (c. 32nd century B.C.E.) was discovered in the vicinity. Near the site of the present-day town, Napoleon’s army defeated the Turks in 1799. The place became a station on the narrow-gauge railway built in 1905, from Haifa to Damascus, and a second railway was laid from Afula to Jenin and Nablus in 1913. The former ceased operating in 1948, and the latter in 1936.

[Efraim Orni / Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.