Thursday, August 04, 2011

Golan Heights

We drove up the Golan Heights to see the northern edge of the land of Israel.  The plateau is strategically very valuable to Israel.  It overlooks the plans of Galilee, provides a significant amount of water to Israel, and is the source of a large portion of Israel’s agricultural output.  Immediately after the  Second World War, it became a part of Syria.   Israel captured most of it in the 1967 Six-Day War, and has been keeping it since then. 

We started at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, and had to drive up steep, winding roads to get to the Golan Heights.  For the first part of the drive, we were skirting the border with Jordan. There were fences and guard-posts everywhere.  At some points, we could see Jordanian villages in the distance across the valley.

Once we got on the plateau, the land became relatively flat.  There were cows, fertile green fields, bee-hives, milk trucks, ...  It looked quite peaceful, in fact. 

Along the way, we passed a road sign pointing to a place named Bashan.   This whole region was in fact called Bashan in Old Testament times.  When Joshua led the Israel people into the land Canaan, they passed through here and two tribes started to settle down.  Many battles were also fought here with the Amorites when they settled in the Promised Land.  At one point, the Israelite defeated a king Og of Bashan.

We made a stop at an observation point very close to the border with Syria.  We could actually see some Syrian flags in the distance, across green fields, lines of trees and villages. Can you pick out the Syrian flag (to the left of center of the photo)?

We then drove to the northern border to see the land originally assigned to the tribe of Dan.  Here, we are almost at the extreme north of the current state of Israel.

Among the ruins, archeologists have found city gates, houses, and an altar.  It was believed this could have been one of the altars set up by the northern kingdom of Israel after the death of King Solomon.  A golden cow was installed in the altar for the people to worship, to prevent them from travelling to worship at the Temple at Jerusalem, which belonged to the kingdom of Judah.  It was worship of idols such as these, and other sins, which incurred the wrath of God, and caused the destruction of both kingdoms. 

Just a little beyond the ruins is again Syria.  

No one knows where and who are the descendants of Dan now.  In fact, I was told that no Jew nowadays can trace their roots back to the original 12 tribes.  Thousands of years of wars, exiles, returns, inter-marriages have blurred the lines.  Some are now talking about tracing their lineages through DNA analysis.  Not sure how successful that is.  

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