Afula Mini Guide
What is so Special About Afula?
Many people won’t have heard of Afula but it’s a very important city, both historically and politically. Known as the capital of the Jezreel Valley, the modern city is built on the ancient city of Ofel, home of the biblical judge, Gideon. Later in history, the city was replaced with Al-Fulah by the sultan Saladin. It was captured by the crusaders who built a castle there to defend the territory. The Emperor Napoleon, in expanding his empire tried to take control of Syria by fighting and winning the Battle of Mount Tabor, just outside the city. In modern times, Afula has come to symbolise the feud between Arab and Jew with appropriated land and eviction of Arab farmers.
How do I get to Afula?
The closest airport to Afula is Haifa International Airport, some twenty miles away. Currently taking only domestic flights from Eilat and Ovda, the airport has recently undergone a multi-million dollar upgrade and is actively seeking international flight partners. For now, international arrivals can fly from many European and Middle Eastern cities to Eilat
before connecting for Haifa
. Local bus company Egged, can take you to Afula from Haifa.
What is There to See and Do in Afula?
The Jezreel Valley has some beautiful scenery and this is best seen from the top of Givaat Ha’more which translates as ‘hill of the instructor’ You can walk the gently rising route to the summit or cheat and take the Kavim bus up to the top. For more mountaineering, ten minutes away you’ll find Mount Tabor. Mentioned many times in the bible, the mountain has become a place of Christian pilgrimage and coachloads of people visit it daily. In the city, a popular attraction is the arts and culture centre where theatre, music and dance is performed and regular exhibitions of work by local artists are held.
What Should I eat in Afula?
Afula is famed throughout Israel for its falafel, a vegetarian ‘meatball’ made from chickpeas, vegetables and spices. A key feature of Middle Eastern cuisine, it’s reputed that the best are made in the city. The main place to try them is at the restaurant called Falafel Golani although in the same area many other outlets produce falafel of equal quality.
What is There to buy as Souvenirs in Afula?
There are a lot of souvenirs aimed at the pilgrim including models of Mount Tabor, statuettes and icons of Gideon, stones and rocks from Mount Tabor or carvings made from wood collected around Mount Tabor. If you want to avoid religious souvenirs then the best buys there are leather products, including sandals and other footwear. For the wealthy, a number of jewellers in the city specialise in Israeli cut diamonds.
What About Festivals and Celebrations?
Many festivals take place in the city but almost all are linked to Jewish religious festivals. If you’re going to enjoy watching or taking part, be sensitive and perhaps try to find out something about the background of the festival as religion is taken very seriously in Israel.
Afula is in the middle of a fascinating region for archaeology and religious history. Within a short distance by hire car you’ll find Mount Tabor, held by Christians to be the site of the Transfiguration of Christ and these days still a popular place of pilgrimage.
On certain holy days you’ll join a huge crowd as it snakes up the mountain. The views from the top are worth the climb for non-believers. Also nearby is Meggido which has been thought of as the site of Armageddon as mentioned in the Book of Revelations.