The Golan Heights

December 2nd, 2009 at 5:42 pm by David Farrar

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On the sabbath we had brunch in the Hula Valley in the Golan Heights. We had “local” food pretty much every day, and I have to say it was damn nice. It’s a shame to eat your normal diet, when you are in other countries, but often you end up doing so if staying in hotels. Having a local guide really helps.

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That sign is not just for show. The Syrians left a huge number of mines behind, and decided it was better to just fence off some areas than try and detect them all (hazardous to the detectors)

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Sweden doubles its defence force capability :-)

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One mine field has these cacti in them. I mentioned to the group that I would plant a mine at the bottom of the cactus so that if the mine doesn’t get you, then you’ll still be hit by hundreds of pieces of cacti. One of the others said they hoped never to have to go to war against NZ with that mentality!

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A fairly major strategic battle happened on this hill. 20 Israelis died taking the hill against a mortar and very well defended trenches. They Syrian soldiers were very young and inexperienced and eventually fled a superior position. Our host mentioned that the Syrians were very much innocent victims in a conflict not of their choosing.

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One of the trenches on the hill

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Nearby was Fort Nimrod. Now this has nothing to do with any modern conflict but was established as a Muslim fort in 1300 AD or so. There are extensive ruins to look at, if you make the drive up to it.

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More of the fort.

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Down to the secret tunnel

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Used the zoom lens to snap this little creature on a ledge below the fort. It looks like the little critter is about to jump!

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We then went to Mount Bental. On the path at the top, they have entries from a competition to design children’s toys out of former military weapon. I asked if there was also a competition to design weapons out of children’s toys :-)

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And another

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At the top they have a former bunker a a very nice café. The Hebrew word for in the clouds is Annan and for coffee is Kofi, so the café is called Kofi Annan, a nice play on the former UN Secretary-General.

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Again this is regarded as a very strategic hill. You can actually see a Syrian city, and Lebanon is not far away. Contrary to what might assume, there is no border fence.

At one stage we we driving next to the Jordan. In fact we got so close my cellphone told me I was now receiving Vodafone Jordan.

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Going down into the bunker.

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This is at Qatsrin, and is the remains of a very early Jewish synagogue from 2,000 years ago.

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At Janhnun we saw a great audio-visual show on the history of the Golan Heights, beamed onto a replacia model of them. Then afterwards we had a beer tasting of local beers. Yum.

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A sunset over the Sea of Galilee. Beautiful.

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Finally we visited Hamat-Gader where we saw some animals, had dinner, and dipped into the local thermal pools. Those leaving later on Sunday stayed the night at the Kefar-Ha Nassi Kibbutz.

We had an interesting debate about whether that fence was high enough to stop a determined crocodile.

We also saw a nine metre python.

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A photo of the pool area. The main pool was hot enough, but the inside pool was an uncomfortable 43 degrees – maximum time recommended 10 minutes.

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10 Responses to “The Golan Heights”

  1. godruelf (55 comments) says:

    Tiger must be counting himself lucky his Swede didn’t have that Defensive Capability

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  2. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    The critter about to jump, could be Philin in disguise.

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  3. Chthoniid (2,047 comments) says:

    If you’re interested, the Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloctus used to be distributed in Palestine also- Crusader accounts record some deaths to them in the 12th C.

    Those however, look like gharials, a fairly harmless (to people anyway) Asian crocodilian. Not a true crocodile species :) How high was the fence?

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  4. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    Did they tell you when they were going to give it back?

    [DPF: Under the present Government, that is most unlikely]

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  5. Biomag83 (94 comments) says:

    Really enjoying looking at the pictures of your trip David.
    What kind of animal was that little critter?

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  6. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Or indeed, any government, DPF.

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  7. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    Did they tell you when they were going to give it back?

    [DPF: Under the present Government, that is most unlikely]

    They would be insane to. Annexing land from neighbouring countries after war is accepted international practice. I should know – my family lost all it’s land when a chunk of Italy was given to Yugoslavia after WWII. Alsace has changed hands a few times in the last 150 years. Chunks of Mexico were annexed after the 1848 war between the United States and Mexico. Parts of German East Prussian became Polish. Scotland is now part of the United Kingdom. English lands in France were annexed by the French Crown. The list goes on.

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  8. David Farrar (1,895 comments) says:

    Brian: The interesting thing is the Druze Arabs who are living is the Israel occupied parts of the Golan Heights are doing so much better than those in Syria. There is considerable evidence that they are terrified the territory may be returned one day, as they have more civil rights and a more prosperous living, than they previously had.

    Now that doesn’t mean keeping the territory is automatically justified. There are arguments both ways.

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  9. snowy (108 comments) says:

    More photos of girls with machine guns please

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  10. Jeff83 (745 comments) says:

    The Golan Heights should in my opinion (and I definitely disagree with the majority of your readers re Israel on most issues) be considered completely seperately from the key issues of the West Bank. As Brian stated it is fairly arguable it was legitamately gained as a spoil of war. IF it was to be given back it would be on similar terms to that which happened with Eygpt (which would include Syria manupulating Lebannon and also using Hezbollah to cause beef with Israel). The beef I have with Israel re Lebannon / Syria was their recent war with Hezbollah and their destruction of the Lebanese economy, and extensive use of cluster munitions. However Syria is hardly an innocent party in that.

    Certainly lives up to its reputation as being a stunning area however. Very much looking forward to my middle eastern travels.

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