A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4- Golan Heights

Good morning everyone! Yesterday was another long, full day. We left our hotel at 8:30 in the morning and didn’t return until 6:45 in the evening, 15 minutes before supper.
It was a day of exploring the history of Israel, with the main focus being on the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights is a strategic point militarily for Israel to maintain defensible borders.

Trying to explain is challenging until you actually stand at the overlooks that stand on the cliffs of the Golan, looking out over the entire Sea of Galilee and the various villages, towns, and kibbutzim that surround its waters.

Our first stop was one such viewpoint.
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Then we continued on and stopped at a Syrian Bunker where a man named Eli Cohen once stood. Eli Cohen was an Israeli Mossad spy who made it up to the top confidants of the commanders of the Syrian army. Under their noses, he passed information to Israel from Syria. It is simply an amazing and inspiring story to read when you have a chance to look it up. He was eventually caught by Syria and hanged for what he did. His body has never been returned to Israel.
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One of our stops was at a museum that explained to us the topography of the Golan Heights and showed it on a huge model. Israel regained control of the Golan Heights following the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Prior to that, the Syrians held this critical position and had been firing upon the kibbutzim in the valley below.
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When, on the holiest day on the Jewish calender, Yom Kippur, they launched an assault against Israel, Israel came within hours of being destroyed. But miraculously…and it can be described no other way…the vastly outnumbered Israelis won the battle and regained the Golan Heights. There has been talk in previous negotiations of giving up the Golan Heights in various peace treaties. This would be suicidal for Israel. Even a US general has stated that he would need the Golan Heights if he was the one trying to defend Israel.

Scattered throughout the volcanic basalt-stone landscape and open fields of the Golan are abandoned Syrian bunkers and even tanks standing as a testament to the war that happened there. Periodically sections of the plains are enclosed with barbed wire fences marked “Danger. Mines.” Live minefields remain to be cleared even to this day.

The Golan Heights, because of its black volcanic soil, is very fertile, and produces some of the best wines in the world, as well as variety of fruits and vegetables. It is a widely varied landscape from Mount Hermon in the north to the cliffs that rise above the Sea of Galilee.
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Winding our way up the hills around the Sea of Galilee into the plateau of the Golan, we stopped to see a newly reconstructed synagogue from between 1,200 and 1,700 years ago. This synagogue, from an unknown town, was destroyed by a devastating earthquake that affected the entire region. The stones are all the original stones that fell when the earthquake struck, and through computer technology, a man was able to reconstruct it as it would have been. Each stone was not only marked with a number, but Moshe told us that a microchip was inserted inside. The architecture in the synagogue was beautiful. It really was an amazing and ancient piece of work.
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We stopped at Katzrin in a big open shopping center to eat lunch. The man running the falafel stand was very high energy.
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After that we made a stop at the Olive Factory to buy olive skin products.

Our guide Moshe having some fun :)
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With all that as a background, we stopped at the Valley of Tears, which is always an emotional place for all of us. The Valley of Tears was the site of one of the greatest and costliest battles of the Yom Kippur War. I do not have time to get into the whole story of Avigdor Kahalani, but he was the commander who lead the Israeli troops to victory despite the overwhelming odds…and even when they were down to 6 tanks against hundreds of Syrian tanks, he never gave up. It really shows a picture of the fact that freedom really is not free. There is a price to pay. My dad did a teaching there and read a letter written by a soldier to his comrades who fought beside him.
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Our final stop was at a large building which was the Syrian command center…the very place Eli Cohen worked from.
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Our final stop for the day was a monument erected in honor of Eli Cohen. It depicts his wife and children looking into Syria waiting for him to come home. Written in Hebrew was a statement that the nation of Israel joins them in waiting for his return.
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It was a very sobering day that really put things into perspective for all of us. Israel has given a lot in their fight for freedom.

One final picture, just for fun...our guide and my dad on the way back dancing in the bus.
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Posted by Jordan Long 18:47 Archived in Israel

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I am exhausted from just reading your block great illustration. You should not put that Falafal picture on, that made me want one.
See you all soon, miss you. I am getting ready for chuch, Ann

by Oma

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