Ah, the Promised Land; land flowing with milk and honey; paradise on earth, with snow-crested mountains, verdant valleys, sweetwater lake, fast-flowing river and long, unspoiled coastline.

Well, not quite. While it may certainly have been more like that in ancient history, the last 2000 years have seen the land of Israel denuded, with malarial swampland slithering down from the north and dusty desert creeping up from the south. The restored people of Israel have spent the last 125 years draining the swamps, pushing back the wilderness, planting and nurturing hundreds of new forests.

What has not changed much is the lie of the land. The coastal plain that sweeps inland from the Mediterranean surrenders to gently sloping foothills and they, in turn, to the rocky peaks of Samaria and the smooth dome-topped hills of Judea.

Together, the Samarian and Judean ridges create a mountainous spine that stretches from south of the Dead Sea up to the Jezreel Valley. These “mountains of Israel” as the Bible calls them, stand as a fortress wall keeping the country’s enemies away from the coastal plain, where upwards of 80 percent of Israel’s citizens live today.

Further north, Lebanon’s southern hills to the west and the Golan heights to the east form a cap around the top of the Galilee, with the Golan one of Israel’s main water catchment areas, channeling the life-bringing liquid down to the Sea of Galilee.

On these pages we will work to provide you with a closer look at down-to-earth Israel. It will be, you can be sure, a fascinating experience. Young Israelis walk, climb, hike and ride the length ond breadth of their country. You may not be able to do so yourself, but we will try to give you some sense of the way they experience this land.