Great Rift Valley

The Geology of Israel


The Great Rift Valley (Syrian African Rift) what an amazing phenomenon! Once upon a time, about 25 million years ago when the two continents, Asia and Africa, started to drift away from one from the other; Then Syrian African Rift was beginning to form. Stretches 6,000km long and between 7-20 km wide you would not be able to miss it when you will get a private guided tour of Israel.

First, Israel is located in an area that is still geologically active. Primarily due to the fact it’s located exactly where three Tactotonical Plates meet each other: The Eurasian plate; The Arabian Plate; and The African Plate. In fact, Israel is located on the African Plate. And together with Arabian Plate The Great Rift Valley; an enormous Fault System was created; better known as the Syrian African Rift.

How Did The Great Rift Valley Was Created?

So the Great Rift Valley actually separates between the African Plate (Israel) with the Arabian Plate (Jordan). While the Arabian Plate kept moving northwards, today it’s located 105 km north. For example, you can find the same geological formations in Timna (on the west side of the rift) about 100 km north of it on the east side, in Jordan.

To clarify: both plates are still moving north. But the Arabian Plate, on the east side of the valley, is moving faster; gaining 4 mm a year (just to compare the San Andreas Fault in California gains 4cm a year).

The Climate in Israel

When I give a private tour in Israel and we pass in the Jordan Valley or the Arava Valley I point out to my guests that it is a part of a much bigger fault system; meaning The Great Rift Valley that starts in Syria; passes through Israel, and end in Africa. Also, two ancient lakes existed in it: Lake Ubeidiya and Lake Lisan that the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are the current remains of that much bigger body of water.

The Syrian African Rift in Israel

Another interesting feature that you can spot while going on a Dead Sea Private Tour is the steep cliffs on both sides of the Dead Sea Area. Both sides are a part of the bigger fault system. The Eastside is on the Jordanian side meaning located on the Arabian Plate; while the west side is within Israeli territory which is located on the African Plate. Because you still have ongoing tactical movement the area is susceptible to earthquakes. Some of them were registered in history like the 749 Galilee earthquake or the Galilee earthquake of 1837 which left the city of Safed in ruins.

The Known Valleys in Israel that form part of the Great Rift Valley are for example The Jordan Valley, the valleys around the Sea of Galilee; The Dead Sea Area. Without the formation of the Great Rift Valley the Mountains of Gilead and the Golan Heights, on the east side; would have formed one mass of land with the Mountains of Judea and the Mountains of Samaria alongside the Hills of the Galilee.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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Simon Peter


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