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The Golan Heights

Ok, so after a rainy, cold (for Israel) shabbat, we decided to spend a rainy, cold Sunday cruising around the northern part of the country. We were staying at a kibbutz on the west side of lake Kinaret, so we decided to follow the shore around the south side, then wander north and see  what we found.

Of course, we found the Golan Heights. After an amazing set of switchbacks and steep uphill climbs, we found ourselves on a fairly typical mountain plateau. Fairly flat, a bit more lush than the surrounding country, and (surprise) sunny. we had driven up out of the rain.

The Golan is beautiful. Exactly what I expected as far as scenery is concerned. However, knowing the history of the region, there were a few things that sort of jumped out at me. The first was the observation that a few Apache helicopters could completely control the entire area. Armor, Israel’s (and Syria’s) traditional base tactical units wouldn’t stand a chance up here if there wasn’t significant air cover to keep the enemies air-born tank killers from engaging. The next thing that hit hard was the fact that as we drove, I kept seeing what were clearly infantry stations – the equivalent of trenches in the second world war. They were everywhere.

Now, I am hardly a military-type person. I did my gig in the army to pay for college (my experience in prostitution), was unlicky enough to land in a war, but lucky enough for it to have been a fairly small one that most people have already forgotten. Cruising through the Golan, and seeing all the clearly military leftovers brought a lot of it back. It wasn’t horrible, or mind-bending, or any of the Hollywood versions of what vets go through, but it was definitely disturbing. I found myself looking out the car window checking out cover, laying out fields of fire, and evaluating sites for defensibility.

The really odd bit was that as we drove back down out of the Golan it didn’t stop. All the way back home, I was surveying the landscape as a soldier. Once I got close to home, and had stopped at the grocery, it had cleared out, but it was pretty odd. I have to say, I can’t imagine living there – Israel is making a lot of noise about giving back to Syria (a mistake in my opinion), but regardless of what happens, I don’t think it will be particularly stable in the long run. To be fair, it HAS been very quiet for forty years (since Israel captured it in the Yom Kippur War). Of  course the strategic value of having high ground fro artillery is not particularly relevant in the world of rockets (not completely irrelevant, but not as important as it used to be). The big issue now is that returning the Golan would give Syria access to the waters of lake Kinaret, which is already being drained at an alarming rate.

One more political issue around here that really doesn’t have an answer….

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4 Responses

  1. i visited the golan during my birthright trip to israel. it was certainly beautiful and i do agree that giving it back to syria would be a mistake. also, while there, we went to the jordan river and little palestinian kids made fun of us jews. the river was too shallow to drown anyone and so we all escaped alive.

  2. Sorry you had a bad time with the kids. Hopefully, Birthright left you with an overall positive experience…

  3. I understand so little of what goes on over there, that I feel incapable of saying anything intelligent here. I just wanted you to know that I’m reading, and that I’m very much looking forward to your return.

    love!

    Chili

  4. pretty typical for that part of the world. It was part of syria after Israel was formed, in the 6 day war, Israel took part of it, then i the Yom Kippur war took some more. It is mostly inhabited by druze (isolated small closed communities), but there are also a number of Israeli settlements there (I think about 5,000 people).

    It is very important strategically because it overlooks Lake Kinaret (sea of Galilee), and is close enough to allow for artillery to control the entire lake region (A decent sniper could hit most of the northeast part of the lake from the Golan).

    It also has strategic importance because it provides a natural boundary between Syria and Israel.

    The big issue in the area now is access to water, and Lake Kinaret is a major reservoir for most of Israel… Of course, Syria would like access to the resources as well…

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