The Yezreel Valley (Jezreel Valley in English), also known as the Valley of Megiddo or the Plain of Esdraelon, is a fertile region located in northern Israel. Its history spans thousands of years and is intertwined with significant events and civilizations of the ancient Near East.
Throughout antiquity, the Yezreel Valley served as a crossroads connecting the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan Valley and beyond. It lay along major trade routes and military paths, making it a strategic and contested region.
The valley is mentioned in several ancient texts, including the Bible, where it is referred to as the site of important battles and events. One such famous battle was the Battle of Megiddo, fought in the mid-15th century BCE, where Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt clashed with a coalition of Canaanite city-states. The term “Armageddon,” derived from the Hebrew “Har Megiddo,” meaning the “mountain of Megiddo,” has come to symbolize the site of a cataclysmic final battle in popular culture.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Yezreel Valley saw significant agricultural development, driven by Jewish pioneers and the Zionist movement. Jewish communities established kibbutzim (collective farms) and moshavim (agricultural cooperative settlements), transforming the region’s landscape and economy.
In the 20th century, the Yezreel Valley played a crucial role in the formation of modern Israel. It served as a battleground during World War I, with the British and Ottoman forces clashing in the region. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the valley became an integral part of the country, contributing to its agricultural productivity and serving as a vital transportation corridor.
Today, the Yezreel Valley remains an essential agricultural region, known for its fertile lands and diverse crops. It also attracts tourists due to its rich historical and biblical significance. The valley’s ancient ruins, including those of Megiddo and Beit She’an, serve as reminders of its storied past and continue to captivate visitors from around the world.
Max Stern Yezreel Valley College
In the mid-1940s, “Ohel Sarah,” a small cultural institute and art gallery was established in the moshav Tel Adashim in memory of Sarah Lishansky (1884-1924), a political activist and the first modern nurse and midwife in the Yezreel Valley. During World War I, Sarah resided for a time with her sister Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi, and brother-in-law Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (later to become Israel’s second president) in Tel Adashim which had become a center for the “Hashomer” (Guild of Watchmen) defense organization, and hence her connection with Tel Adashim and the Yezreel Valley until her untimely death in 1924.
At first, the institute was housed in one of the classrooms of the local school. To facilitate its expansion, the cornerstone of a new institution designed by Shemuel Mestechkin, a graduate of the German Bauhaus school of architecture and design, was laid in 1954 on a section of the moshav’s land, adjacent to the Afula-Nazareth road. In 1960, the “Ohel Sarah” museum was inaugurated and in the following weeks children from the surrounding settlements planted the trees around it which beautify the college to this day. The goal was to establish a “museum that would respectfully attest to the participation of women in the battle for Jewish immigration and the struggle for independence; in the toil, social life, and labor movement; in defense and war; in the frontline of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Israel) and in the diaspora, in culture, science, and art.”
The college was established in 1965 as a school for adult education with the aim of enriching the local residents’ knowledge of art, humanities and social sciences. At this time, due to the prevailing ideology of the labor settlement in the region which rejected exams and diplomas as expressions of competitiveness and personal ambition, students did not take matriculation exams and thus could not apply to university. To provide a solution to this situation, the college opened a preparatory school in which those aspiring to higher education could complete the required exams externally. Once a large enough cohort of suitable students had been formed, it was decided to establish an extension campus of the University of Haifa. Students studied at the college for their first two years, and transferred in their final year to the main Haifa campus in order to take more specialized electives and seminars. The degree was awarded by the University of Haifa, and students benefitted from all of its services.
In 1982, the college was renamed “Max Stern Yezreel Valley College” in the memory of the entrepreneur, Jewish community leader and philanthropist, Max Stern.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the role of higher education in Israel went through a significant change. Academic studies, for at least a first degree, became the new norm among young Israelis. Major organizations such as the Israel Defense Force, the Israel Police, the Israel Prison Service, banks, local government, and teachers’ organizations created frameworks to enable their members to pursue degree studies. This development necessitated greater accessibility to higher education, especially in the more remote areas of the country. With the large wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union, this need became much more immediate.
These changes led the regional colleges such as the Yezreel Valley College to seek independence as autonomous academic institutions, a move that was recognized in 1994 through an amendment to the Higher Education Law (1958) which provided for the establishment of colleges awarding undergraduate and graduate degrees. In that year, the Max Stern Yezreel Valley Academic College was recognized as an independent institution of higher learning.