Glimpses of Israel - The Golan Heights

by Joseph Hunting

Israel's occupancy of the Golan Heights dates back to the decision made by the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh not to enter the land of Canaan, but rather to occupy fertile grazing lands on the east bank of the upper Jordan because they "had a very great multitude of cattle".

Under the law of Moses cities of refuge were allocated to the various tribes into which "the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares". Golan was one such city allocated to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Whilst this area was occupied by the tribes of Israel there was no threat to those occupying the Jordan Valley below. Thousands of years later these Golan Heights were to become an almost impregnable Syrian fortress which daily rained shells on the Jewish settlements immediately below. For nineteen years Israeli farmers were subjected to constant gunfire as they tended their fields. Their children in the kibbutzim were born in underground air-raid shelters and many of them never knew what it was to spend a peaceful night in their homes above ground. There was no way that the Israelis could hit back as the bunkers above them were concealed in the outcrops of rock overlooking the Jordan valley.

During the Six Day War in 1967 the Israelis under the command of the late General David Eleazer stormed the Golan Heights in what was one of the fiercest and most terrible actions fought in that incredible war. The Syrians were routed and the Israelis reoccupied the land where their forefathers had grazed their herds some 3,000 years ago.

Today, the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley below are serene and peaceful. Will Israel yield to political pressure to surrender the Golan Heights in return for peace with Egypt? Two years ago one could have confidently replied, "NEVER!" But winds of change are sweeping through Israel today and the future of Golan Heights could well be in the balance together with ancient Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.