I don’t think it is possible to visit the Golan Heights and not walk away feeling drained…at least not for me it wasn’t. As we were making our way up there we began to feel a sense of foreboding as our guide was explaining that the surrounding fields could not be accessed because they were still full of landmines. Further along, we rounded corners that were walled in by large boulders which made sneak attacks from the road impossible. There was barbed wire all around and I really began to wonder what we were getting into.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War. From 1948-67, when Syria controlled the Golan Heights, it used the area as a military stronghold from which its troops randomly sniped at Israeli civilians in the Huleh Valley below, forcing children to sleep in bomb shelters. At the end of the Six-Day War, an armistice line was established and the region came under Israeli military control. Almost immediately Israel began to settle the Golan. Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 Middle East war, but the surprise assault was thwarted. Both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974. Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The move was not recognized internationally. There are more than 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers. There are also some 20,000 Syrians in the area. The area is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.
This is merely an overview of the story…it is an ongoing story. But the site itself invites one to make further inquiries. Standing at the top, you are able to look right into Syria’s backyard. The city is quite visible as are farms, barns and equipment. It is a chilling reminder that this conflict is not over yet…not by a long stretch.
I will let my photos tell you more…click on the album to see them: