Afula (Hebrew: עֲפוּלָה‎, Arabic: العفولة‎) is a city in the Northern District of Israel, often known as the "Capital of the Valley" due to its strategic location in the Jezreel Valley. As of 2019, the city had a population of 54,250.[1]


  • עֲפוּלָה
  • العفولة
WikiAir Flight IL-13-09 022.jpg
Official logo of Afula
Municipal seal of Afula
Afula is located in Northern Haifa region of Israel
Afula is located in Israel
Coordinates: 32°36′23″N 35°17′17″E / 32.60639°N 35.28806°E / 32.60639; 35.28806Coordinates: 32°36′23″N 35°17′17″E / 32.60639°N 35.28806°E / 32.60639; 35.28806
Grid position177/224 PAL
Country Israel
Founded1900 BCE (Canaanite settlement)
7th century (Samaritan town)
14th century (Arab village)
1925 (Jewish village)
 • MayorAvi Elkabetz
 • Total26,909 dunams (26.909 km2 or 10.390 sq mi)
 • Total54,250
 • Density2,000/km2 (5,200/sq mi)


The name follows that of the small Arab village which occupied the site until WW1, possibly originating in the Canaanite-Hebrew root ofel ("fortress tower"),[2] or the Arab word for "ruptured".[3]


An ancient mound or tell known as Tell 'Afula, located in the heart of modern Afula, suggests almost continuous habitation from the Late Chalcolithic (fourth millennium BCE) to the Ayyubid period in the 13th century.[4] At the beginning of the twentieth century the mound served as a refuse dump for the nearby Arab village of el-Fuleh.[5]

Bronze Age to Byzantine periodEdit

For archaeological finds from Tell 'Afula predating the Crusader/Mamluk fortress, see the Archaeology paragraph.

Afula is possibly the place Ophlah, mentioned in the lists of Pharaoh Thutmose III.[6] Afula has been identified with the ancient Israelite town of Ofel mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.[7] With the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, the area continued to be inhabited, and excavations have revealed artifacts from the periods of Persian and Roman rule. Conder suggested that Afula was identical with Kirjath Ophlathah, a place inhabited by Samaritans in the 7th century.[8]

Crusader/Ayyubid and Mamluk periodsEdit

Remains of Crusader fortress in Afula. Note the spolia; Roman sarcophagi as the top layer.

At the centre of Tell 'Afule stand the remains of a 19 metres square fortress from the Mamluk period, possibly first built during the Crusader period.[5][4] The lower four courses are made of rough boulders, while the top remaining layer is made of reused Roman sarcophagi. The wall is a total of 5.5 meters tall. Pottery remains indicate that it was occupied in the twelfth and thirteenth century.[4] The gate is dated based on pottery findings to the Mamluk period (13th–14th centuries CE), but so far (after the June 2017 campaign) it couldn't be determined when fortress itself was built, since it is perfectly possible that just the gate was renovated in the Mamluk period; the square shape and the use of Roman sarcophagi as building stones is closely resembling the Crusader fortress at Sepphoris.[5]

In 1321, Afula was mentioned under the name of Afel by Marino Sanuto.[9]

Ottoman periodEdit

A map by Pierre Jacotin from Napoleon's invasion of 1799 showed this place, named as Afouleh in a French transliteration of the Arabic.[10]

In 1816, James Silk Buckingham passed by and described Affouli as being built on rising ground, and containing only a few dwellings. He noted several other nearby settlements in sight, all populated by Muslims.[11]

In 1838, Edward Robinson described both Afuleh and the adjacent El Fuleh as "deserted".[12][13] William McClure Thomson, in a book published in 1859, noted that Afuleh and the adjacent El Fuleh were "both now deserted, though both were inhabited twenty-five years ago when I first passed this way." Thomson blamed their desertion on the bedouin.[14]

In 1875 Victor Guérin described Afula as a village on a small hill overlooking a little plain. The houses were built of adobe and various other materials. Around the well, which Guérin thought was probably ancient, he noticed several broken sarcophagi serving as troughs.[15] In 1882, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described El Afuleh as a small adobe village in the plain, supplied by two wells.[6]

A population list from about 1887 showed that el Afuleh had about 630 inhabitants; all Muslims.[16] Gottlieb Schumacher, as part of surveying for the construction of the Jezreel Valley railway, noted in 1900 that it consisted of 50-55 huts and had 200 inhabitants. North of the village was a grain stop, belonging to the Sursocks.[17]

Old water tower at Afula station

In 1904 the Ottoman authorities inaugurated the Jezreel Valley railway, at first operating between Haifa and Beysan via Afula and soon extended to Dera'a. Work eventually continued with an extension towards Jerusalem, the connection to Jenin being completed in 1913.

Zionist beginningsEdit

The area was acquired by the Jewish community as part of the Sursock Purchase. In 1909 or 1910, Yehoshua Hankin completed his first major purchase in the Jezreel Valley. He bought some 10,000 dunams (10 km2) of land in Al-Fuleh (now Afula), which became the home of two moshav settlements, Merhavia and Tel Adashim.[18]

First World WarEdit

During the First World War, Afulah was a major communications hub. In 1917, when Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen from the British intelligence established contact with the Nili Jewish spy network in Palestine, a German Jewish doctor stationed at el-Afulah railway junction provided the British with valuable reconnaissance reports on Ottoman and German troop movements southwards.

With the advance of General Edmund Allenby's British forces into Ottoman Palestine, el-Afulah was captured by the 4th Cavalry Division of the Desert Mounted Corps, during the cavalry phase of the Battle of Sharon in September 1918.

British MandateEdit

According to the British Mandate's 1922 census of Palestine, Affuleh had 563 inhabitants; 471 Muslims, 62 Christians, 28 Jews and 2 followers of the Baháʼí Faith;[19] 61 of the Christians were Orthodox, while one was Melkite.[20]

Jewish Afula (est. 1925)Edit

In 1925, modern Afula was founded after the American Zionist Commonwealth completed a purchase of the Afula valley from the Sursuk family of Beirut. A quarter of the one hundred Arab families who had lived in the area accepted compensation for their land and left voluntarily; the remainder were evicted.[18][21] Jews began settling in Afula shortly after as the town developed.

By the 1931 census, the population had increased to 874; with 786 Jews, 86 Muslims, 9 Christians, and 3 classified as "no religion", in a total of 236 houses.[22]

1940s Survey of Palestine map of Afula and Merhavya

In the 1945 census the population of Afula was recorded as 2,300 Jews and 10 Muslims.[23] The town had a total of 18,277 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey.[24] Of this, 145 dunams of land was used to cultivate citrus and bananas, 347 dunams were for plantations and irrigable land, 15,103 for cereals,[25] while 992 dunams were built-up land.[26]

During this time, the community was served by the Jezreel Valley Railway, a side branch of the larger Hejaz Railway. Since 1913 it had also been the terminus station of the branch connecting it to Jenin and later also to Nablus. Sabotage actions of Jewish underground militias in 1945, 1946 and shortly before the 1948 Arab–Israeli War rendered first the connection to Jenin, then progressively the entire Valley Railway, inoperable.[citation needed]

State of IsraelEdit

Members of Yiftach Brigade from Beisan on leave in Afula in 1948
Afula c. 1950

Railroad (1948-49; 2010s)Edit

Repairs to the Jezreel Valley Railway after 1948 restored service to Haifa, but only until 1949 when it was abandoned. In 2011 construction began on a large-scale project to build a new standard gauge railway from Haifa to Beit She'an with stations in Afula and other towns, along roughly the same route as the historic valley railway. Israel Railways began passenger service on the new railway on October 16, 2016.[27]

Terror attacks (1990s-2000s)Edit

Due to Afula's proximity to the West Bank, it has been a target for Palestinian political violence.[28] On 6 April 1994, the Afula Bus suicide bombing killed five people in the center of Afula. In the Afula axe attack in November 1994, a 19-year-old female soldier was attacked and murdered by an axe-wielding Arab Hamas member.[29] Afula also was the target of a suicide attack on a bus on 5 March 2002, in which one person died and several others were injured at Afula's central bus station. In the Afula mall bombing on 19 May 2003, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up at the Amakim mall, killing three and wounding 70. This attack was claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Fatah movement's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

2006 Lebanon WarEdit

On 17 July 2006, during the Israel–Hezbollah War, Hezbollah fired Katyusha rockets at Afula, one of the southernmost rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon. Six people were treated for shock as a result of the attack. On 28 July, a rocket landed causing a fire. The rocket carried 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives.[30]

Recent development plansEdit

In September 2016, it was announced that seven new neighborhoods would be built, doubling the city's population.[31]


Afula has a mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa). The average annual temperature is 20.4 °C (68.7 °F), and around 468 mm (18.43 in) of precipitation falls annually.

Climate data for Afula
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 16.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 12.3
Average low °C (°F) 8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 124
Source: [32]


Afula city hall
BIG shopping center

The Alon Tavor Industrial Zone is located northeast of Afula off Highway 65. The Tadiran air conditioner factory is located there.[33] Two Israeli plastics manufacturers, Keter Plastic and StarPlast, are also based there.[34]

Education and cultureEdit

Great synagogue of Afula
City Auditorium and Art Gallery

According to CBS, there are 24 schools and 8,688 students in the city: 16 elementary schools with a student population of 3,814 and 12 high schools with 4,874 students. 52.3% of 12th grade students were entitled to a matriculation certificate in 2001.

Health careEdit

HaEmek Medical Center in Afula was the first regional hospital in Israel.[2]


HaAtzmaut Square

The ancient mound of Afula, known as Tell 'Afula, is close to the city center, west of Route 60 and south of Ussishkin Street. Very little of the initial six-acre tell remains due to construction work done in this area since the British Mandate period. The southern peak of the mound is the better preserved part. It was once widely considered to be the biblical site of Ophrah, the hometown of the judge Gideon,[35] but contemporary scholars generally disagree with this supposition. Archaeological finds date from the Chalcolithic through the Byzantine period, followed by remains from the Crusader and Mamluk periods.

The first excavations at Tell ‘Afula, carried out in 1948, found Late Chalcolithic–Early Bronze Age remains. Tombs from the Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age II, Late Bronze Age–Iron Age I and Roman period were discovered near the municipal water tower. Archaeologists discovered the Crusader-Mamluk fortress on the southern peak of the tell, a Byzantine olive oil press and evidence of an Early Bronze Age settlement near the northern peak.[36]

In 1950–1951, excavations on the northwestern slope of the peak revealed a pottery workshop for Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware from Middle Bronze Age II and another pottery workshop from Middle Bronze Age I.[36]

From the 1990s, several small excavations unearthed an uninterrupted sequence of settlement remains from the Chalcolithic until the Late Byzantine periods as well as remains from the Mamluk period.[37]

In 2012, excavations were conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority on the southern peak of Tel Afula where the Crusader-Mamluk fortress is located. Due to construction activity from the 1950s, settlement layers on the tell may have been destroyed. Only meager remnants were found, indicative of a settlement from Early Bronze Age I and the Roman period. Pottery from Early Bronze Age III, Iron Age I and a single Hellenistic Attic fragment indicate settlement on the tell in these periods. Fragments of glazed bowls from the thirteenth century (Mamluk period) were found along the southern edge of the excavation.[36]


The city's basketball club, Hapoel Afula, currently play in the Liga Leumit. The main football club, Hapoel Afula, won Liga Alef in the 2012-13 season and is currently playing at Liga Leumit.

Twin townsEdit

City State Country
Ingelheim am Rhein   Rhineland-Palatinate   Germany
Osnabrück   Lower Saxony   Germany
Biłgoraj   Lublin Voivodeship   Poland
Providence   Rhode Island   United States
Worcester   Massachusetts   United States
New Haven   Connecticut   United States
Stamford   Connecticut   United States
West Hartford   Connecticut   United States
Fresno   California   United States
Santa Fe   Santa Fe Province   Argentina
Mingachevir   Mingachevir   Azerbaijan

Notable residentsEdit


  1. ^ a b "Population in the Localities 2019" (XLS). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b Afulah, Encyclopedia Judaica
  3. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 142
  4. ^ a b c Pringle, 1997, p. 18
  5. ^ a b c Shalev, Yiftah (2020). "'Afula, Tel: Final Report (16/07/2020)". Hadashot Arkheologiyot. Israel Antiquities Authority. 132. ISSN 1565-5334. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  6. ^ a b Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 40
  7. ^
  8. ^ Conder, 1876, p. 196
  9. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 41
  10. ^ Karmon, 1960, p. 167 Archived 2019-12-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Buckingham, 1822, vol 2, p. 381
  12. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 3, pp. 163, 181
  13. ^ NB note that ruined villages were marked with a star in the village lists, however neither Afulah of Al Fuleh were marked with that, see: Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 3, 2nd appendix, p. 132
  14. ^ Thomson, 1859, vol 2, p. 216
  15. ^ Guérin, 1880, pp. 109-110
  16. ^ Schumacher, 1888, p. 183
  17. ^ Schumacher, 1900, p. 358
  18. ^ a b Segev, 1999, p. 242
  19. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XI, Sub-district of Nazareth, p. 38
  20. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XVI, p. 50
  21. ^ 130 families, according to List of villages sold by Sursocks and their partners to the Zionists since British occupation of Palestine, evidence to the Shaw Commission, 1930
  22. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 73
  23. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 8
  24. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 970, p. 62
  25. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 109
  26. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 159
  27. ^ Hilley, Yonathan (October 16, 2016). "The Wheels of History: Valley Railway Returns After 64 Years" [גלגלי ההיסטוריה: אחרי 64 שנים, רכבת העמק שבה לפעילות] (in Hebrew). Maariv. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  28. ^ "Five die in latest suicide bombing; British bomber dead"
  29. ^ Arab Kills Female Israeli Soldier With Ax, The Washington Post, 1 December 1994
  30. ^ Hezbollah missiles with 100 kg (220 lb) warhead strike Jezreel Valley
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Climate: Afula". April 2019.
  33. ^ Company Overview of Tadiran Air Conditioners Ltd.
  34. ^ Afula community guide
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ a b c Feig, 2012, Tel Afula final report Archived 2013-05-18 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Dalali-Amos, 2008, ‘Afula Final Report


External linksEdit