THE PLAIN OF SHARON
Extends along the coast from Jaffa-Tel Aviv to the Carmel range. It is composed of late Tertiary and Quaternary sedimentation deposits. Wandering sand-dunes mixed in part with chalk have produced a calcareous sandstone (kurkar) and in particular great strata of clay reddish sand, known as hamra, constitute the characteristic mark of the Sharon Plain. The climate is typically Mediterranean, the average annual temperature being 18-20 C, with only slight fluctuations in daily temperature. The average annual precipitation is some 500-600 mm., while the relative humidity is high, being as much as 70%. The plain is rich in underground water, which is utilised for irrigation through wells. The area was once covered with oak woods. More recently it has been a fruitful agricultural zone, and only after the expulsion of the Crusaders was it abandoned and neglected, marshes covering its lower levels. During recent decades it has again become a well developed and densely populated agricultural area thanks to Jewish pioneering. Half the Jewish population of Israel are to be found in the Sharon Plain including Tel Aviv.
The red hamra soil constitutes the citrus zone of the country, producing the Shamouti varieties which are world-renowned as Jaffa oranges. Citrus trees, planted in regular rows running for kilometers on end, are characteristic of this landscape. The Sharon Plain has always served as a route for the passage of armies. The kings of Egypt used to send their hosts northward along it from Gaza; it was traversed from the North by the Assyrian and Babylonian conquerors. Since Ancient times it has been the coastal route from Egypt to Syria and was of major importance, known as the Sea Road in Bible times and the Via Maris of the Romans. Caesarea in the northern Sharon with its large port was the centre of Roman rule, and put Jerusalem in the shade as the residence of the Roman Procurator.