Wadi Ara (also Nahal 'Iron) (Arabic: وادي عارة, Hebrew: נחל עירון, ואדי עארה), is an area in Israel populated mainly by Arab citizens of Israel. Wadi Ara is located northwest of the Green Line, in the Haifa District. Highway 65 runs through the wadi. The ancient town of biblical fame, Megiddo, also known as Armageddon, used to guard its northern exit during much of the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Wadi Ara is a 20 km wadi (valley) in northern Israel that begins at the meeting point of Samaria, the Menashe Heights, and the Sharon plain. The riverbed begins near Umm al-Fahm and runs southwest on the boundary between the Manasseh hills and the Umm al-Fahm hills. Approximately 1 km west of the Border Patrol intersection on Highway 65, the wadi opens into the Sharon plain, and becomes a tributary of the Hadera Stream, south of Talmei Elazar and north of Tel Zeror.
Wadi Ara is an ancient historical route connecting the Israeli coastal plain with the Jezreel Valley. In the Late Bronze Age, the Egyptian king, Thutmose III, used the route, then called Aruna, to surprise his enemies, and take control of Megiddo. According to information from a stela from Armant, the king of Kadesh advanced his army to Megiddo. Thutmose III mustered his own army and departed Egypt, passing through the border fortress of Tjaru (Sile). Thutmose marched his troops through the coastal plain as far as Jamnia, then inland to Yehem, a small city near Megiddo. The ensuing Battle of Megiddo probably was the largest battle in any of Thutmose's seventeen campaigns. A ridge of mountains jutting inland from Mount Carmel stood between Thutmose and Megiddo, and he had three potential routes to take. The northern route and the southern route, both of which went around the mountain, were judged by his council of war to be the safest, but Thutmose, in an act of great bravery (or so he boasts, but such self-praise is normal in Egyptian texts), accused the council of cowardice and took a dangerous route through the Aruna mountain pass, which he alleged was only wide enough for the army to pass "horse after horse and man after man."
Captured by Iraqi Arab League forces under the command of Iraqi officer, Captain Khaleel Jassim, in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, it was ceded to Israel in exchange for territory south of Hebron in the 1949 Israel-Jordan armistice agreement. In March 1949, as the Jordanian army replaced the Iraqi forces, three Israeli brigades moved into positions in Operation Shin-Tav-Shin. Following the operation, Israel renegotiated the ceasefire line in the Wadi Ara area of the Northern West Bank in an agreement reached on 23 March 1949 and incorporated into the General Armistice Agreement. These 15 villages were ceded to Israel.
Hand in Hand – Bridge over the Wadi is a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school located in an Arab village in Wadi Ara. It was established in 2004 with 100 students in kindergarten through third grade. In 2008, classes were offered up to sixth grade and enrollment increased to 200, split evenly between Arabs and Jews.
Proposed land exchange
The area has come under political attention as some Israeli politicians such as Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party have brought up transferring the area to the sovereignty and administration of the Palestinian Authority for a future Palestinian state. In return the Palestinian Authority would transfer specific large Israeli settlement "blocs" within the West Bank east of the Green Line to Israel. According to politicians who support this land-swap, Israel would ensure and secure itself as a primarily Jewish state. However, many politicians within the Knesset disagree and believe it would only decrease Israel's Arab population by a mere 10%, while most Israeli Arabs object to trading Israeli citizenship for Palestinian citizenship.
Localities in Wadi Ara
- El-Ahwat, possibly the site of biblical Harosheth Haggoyim, a Canaanite fortress and archaeological site
- Ar'ara ('Ara included in municipal borders)
- Baqa al-Gharbiyye
- Basma (merger of Barta'a West, Ein as-Sahala, and Muawiya)
- Dar al-Hanoun
- Ein Ibrahim
- Kafr Qara
- Khor Saqr
- Ma'ale Iron (Baiyada, Musmus, Zalafa, Musheirifa, Salim)
- Umm al-Fahm
- Umm al-Qutuf
- Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. p. 156-7. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1992.
- Steindorff, George; and Seele, Keith. When Egypt Ruled the East. p.53-4. University of Chicago, 1942.
- Avi Shlaim, "The Politics of Partition; King Abdullah, the Zionists, and Palestine 1921-1951", Oxford University Press, Revised Edition 2004 ISBN 0-19-829459-X pp. 299, 312
- Arab and Israeli Peace, at Least for Children, New York Times
- Israeli Arabs and the vote Uri Dromi