The most striking feature of the lands of the east Mediterranean coast is the great Rift Valley, the result of a geological fault which begins in the Orontes Valley in northern Syria and continues south between the Lebanon and Antilebanon mountains, through the Jordan Valley, the Arabah, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea proper and on into Africa. Because of the presence of this great rift, which runs parallel to the east Mediterranean coast, it has become customary to divide the area into four main longitudinal zones: the Coastal Plains, the Central Hill Country, the Rift Valley, and the Eastern Hills/Transjordan.
The rock which underlies the whole area is granite, and a split in the massive granite block led to the formation of the Rift Valley. The principal surface rocks are limestone, chalk and basalt. The limestone predominates in the hill country. It resists erosion, but does eventually weather into a reddish soil. The surface chalk is easily eroded and worn away to form valleys through which roads can pass. It accounts for important passes through the hills, including those across the Carmel Hills, and the so‐called Judean ‘moat’ a valley separating the hills of Judah from the Shephelah. The basalt, a hard volcanic rock, occurs in Galilee and northern Transjordan.