Where We Be
|An Israeli soldier looks down on the demilitarized zone running along the ceasefire line with Syria
We came away from the Golan Heights with a
much better appreciation for both its strategic
importance and its agricultural and scenic
richness. This is good land. Of all the parts of
Israel we've seen, it is among the prettiest and
most fertile. Not only does it represent the
strategic high ground in the region, but it also
provides a third of Israel's water supply, so it's
understandable why Israel would want to keep
it and why Syria is so intent on getting it back.
Captured and occupied by Israel during the
Six-Day War in 1967, the Golan Heights are still
recognized by most nations as Syrian territory.
From a hilltop overlook we got dramatic views
down into Syria. The Israeli village of Merom
Golan sits smack-dab below the hill. It has seen
fierce fighting before and is on heightened
alert again due to the civil war in Syria. In fact
an air raid siren went off during our visit, but
our guide quickly told us it was only a test. He
also said you can occasionally hear explosions
from bombs going off in the nearby Syrian city
of Quneitra. Located on top of the lookout itself
is a Syrian bunker from the days when this hill
was defended against the Israelis. Now Israeli
soldiers patrol it, carrying machine guns and
heavy weaponry. Signs point to Syrian locations
in the near distance such as New Quneitra, the
Valley of Tears, and Damascus only 60 km away.
|You can see just how fertile the valleys are -- and how tall the mountains. Yes, that's snow in the Middle East!
|The white signs point to the Syrian cities of New Quneitra and Quneitra, largely deserted now due to the civil war. The winding road
at the right edge of the photo leads to a border passage between the two countries which was manned (until recently) by the UN.
|We saw lots of young Israeli soldiers, both men and women, carrying machine guns. They seemed quite relaxed on the day we visited.
|Razor wire and armed soldiers are an unfortunate reality in the heavily contested territory of the Golan Heights
|We'll leave you with two photos taken as we drove through the Golan Heights to give you an idea of the scenery typical here
|Large parts of Israel are dry and desert-like, but not the Golan Heights
|One of the best parts of our tour through Israel was making new friends who share our love of travel (and wine)
|A conservatively attired orthodox Jew with a great sense of humor opened three different bottles of wine for us to try
|Also near Katzrin is the Golan Heights Winery, which makes internationally acclaimed award-winning wines
|A former Syrian bunker sits at the top of the lookout point. In the background is a cafe. What an odd juxtaposition of settled and unsettled here.
|As you arrive at the lookout point, you're greeted by a dinosaur of all things
|Probably the only time you'll see Robin posing with a sniper cutout
|Checking out a former Syrian bunker
|The small Israeli settlement of Merom Golan sits just below the lookout point on the Israeli side of the border
|The Syrian capital of Damascus is only 60 km from here
|In the central Golan Heights, we visited the interestingly named Golan Magic Welcome Center near the town of Katzrin. After seeing the topographic
map above, we watched a short film highlighting the beauty of the Golan Heights -- and actually got spritzed by misters during the rainy or wet scenes.