Golan Heights – Israel

In the days of the Bible, this area was known as Bashan (Psalm 22:12 and Ezekiel 39:18). If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that the very top of the mountain is really a castle. This is known as Nimrod’s Castle and is a Crusader fortress that dates back about a millennium. This is close to 2400 feet above sea level.

Nimrod’s Fortress

Recent Historical Significance

The Golan Heights’ fame today has more to do with recent history – namely, Israel’s struggles with Syria during the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973). Even today, Hezbollah terrorists will shell Israel from points North and East of the Golan.

Some important facts to know about the Golan Heights:

  • The Golan overlooks and therefore controls militarily, Israel’s villages in the North
  • The Golan is about the same size as Queens in NY City
  • At its widest, the whole area is about 15 1/2 miles
  • The Heights control much of the fresh water supply going into the rest of Israel

It’s this final point that really conveys just how important it is for Israel to retain control of the Golan Heights. Pictured is a map of Israel’s water sources. A major portion (as much as 1/3rd) comes from the Golan. In addition, these Heights rise above the Hula Valley, Israel’s richest agricultural area.

Israel’s water sources

Even before the establishment of Israel in 1948, Syria turned the area into a militarized zone. Shelling of the kibbutzim down on the Sea of Galilee was routine. In Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Syria overran the entire area down to the Galilee.

In 1964, Syria actually diverted much of the water sources of the Jordan River (and the Sea of Galilee) in an effort to cripple Israel’s water supply.

During the Six Day War of 1967, Syria again attacked Israel. This time however Israel repelled the invasion, and actually captured the Golan Heights. The Israeli Army then made quick work of the Syrian damming efforts.

Did You Know?

“Eli Cohen (December 26, 1924 – May 18, 1965) was a celebrated Israeli spy. Born in Egypt, Cohen contributed to pro-Israeli activities in Egypt during the 1950s, but the important part of his career began when he was recruited into Israeli military intelligence in 1960. He was given a false identity as a Syrian Arab who was returning to Syria after living in Argentina. To establish his cover, Cohen moved to Argentina in 1961 and early the following year moved to Damascus. For the next few years, using the alias Kamel Amin Thabet, Cohen successfully gained the confidence of many Syrian military and government officials, and sent intelligence to Israel by radio, secret letters, and occasionally by visiting Israel in person.
His most famous achievement was to tour the Syrian fortifications on the Golan Heights, though historians are divided over the actual importance of his report. In 1964 his control was transferred to Mossad as part of an intelligence reorganization. In January 1965 he was caught in the act of sending a radio message, and after a trial he was found guilty of espionage and publicly hanged on May 18, 1965 in front of a cheering crowd.
While on a tour of the Syrian military with Syrian personnel before being discovered, Cohen suggested that trees should be planted around Arab guard posts and bases that targeted Israel. That way, Cohen argued, the trees would provide natural cover for the outposts. After his suggestion was implemented by the Syrian military, Cohen passed on the information to Israel, whose air force then destroyed the majority of the bases, using the newly planted trees as a guide.
Requests by his family for his remains to be returned to Israel have been unsuccessful (as of January 2005).”
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eli_Cohen