A short account of the Golan Heights, given by your Israel & Jerusalem private tour guide
The Golan Heights is a beautiful elevated volcanic terrain, rising between 1,200 and 3,700 feet above sea level. Lava and ash that erupted during the last three million years (the latest one, being only 4,000 years ago) covered the Golan with 1,200-2,500-foot layers of volcanic material, mostly basalt. The soil originating from the basalt rock is rich and fertile. In the less rocky areas, agriculture is highly developed.
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Was it always inhabited?
Surprisingly, no. There were only two significant periods during which people settled in the Golan. The first one was when the Jews settled in the 1st century BCE - Second Temple time. Eventually, their settlement grew to approximately 25 known villages, which were gradually abandoned until the 8th century CE.
The second period started in the late 1800’s, with Bedouins and Caucasus refugees settling there, along with former Druze villagers, who lived in the northern parts of the Golan. In 1967, when Israel conquered the Golan from Syria, only the Druze remained. Israel built 33 settlements throughout the Golan, and today there are about 20,000 Israelis, and the same number of Druze living in the Golan Heights.
Syria breached the 1967 cease-fire lines in the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, and conquered parts of the Golan. With a tremendous effort and many casualties, Israel managed to stop them and push them back within a few days. Later, the cease-fire lines were re-defined and UN forces helped to keep the cease-fire agreements. There are a series of bunkers that are built along the line, and army troops man them and watch the line very closely. Taking a jeep tour along the border fence is extremely interesting, and even more so when the civil war in Syria can be heard and seen from the Israeli side.
What is there to do in the Golan Heights?
A lot. From nature hikes on the hills and in canyons, to jeep tours, visits at the archaeological sites, visits to kibbutzim, tours along the border with Syria, to pick-your-own fruit in the orchards and other family activities, the Golan has much to offer.
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