The Golan Heights

Sunrise over the Kinneret; view from our room

Sunrise over the Kinneret; view from our room







It was a very long day, and we had to get up stupid early in the morning, but with a view like this, I wasn’t in too bad of a humour. We headed up to the Golan Heights to do our touring today. From one of the points, we were surrounded by the Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Imagine living in an area where all of your neighbors want to kill you and take your land… Anyway, though we didn’t go to Mount Hermon, the highest point in the Golan Heights, we did go up pretty high on windy roads though the mountains. Again, you can see pictures at the Joined to Hashem site until I’m able to post my own photos.

There was a lot, and I’m suffering the syndrome of drinking from a fire hydrant. Our first stop at the Peace Vista, we looked down on the 1967 border. We could look at the Decapolis cities (think the demoniac from the Gadarenes), and where many of the accounts of Yeshua happened. From there, we could could really see, really get a sense of how small Israel is. If you remember, Israel is in a drought – 3 rivers converge into the Kinneret, and they happen to lead the world in waste water reclamation.

We went on from there to Gamla. We stopped at a nature preserve, and are where they are bringing back almost extinct vultures, and sat and heard about what we were looking at. Gamla means camel, but also large rope (look at Matthew 19:24 with that in mind). The Jewish historian talked about Gamla, but didn’t know if it really existed. After 1967 when Israel reclaimed the land, they began to map out the land, a surveyor happened to look over from where we were and saw a mountain that looked like a camel, and realized he found Gamla, and they began to dig. Now, I didn’t know the story of Gamla, so I will add a brief summary that you should inspire you to look further. For those who know about Massada, this was before that, and it was more intense.

In 66 C.E. Gamla turned rebellious under the influence of refugees from other locations. It was one of only five cities in the Galilee and Golan who stood against Vespasian’s legions, reflecting the cooperation between the local population and the rebels. At the time of the revolt, the town minted its own coins. Bearing the inscription “For the redemption of Jerusalem the H(oly)” in a mixture of paleo-Hebrew (biblical) and Aramaic, only 6 of these coins have ever been found.

Josephus also provides a detailed description of the Roman siege and conquest of Gamla in 67 CE by components of legions X Fretensis, XV Apollinaris and V Macedonica. The Romans first attempted to take the city by means of a siege ramp, but were repulsed by the defenders. Only on the second attempt did the Romans succeed in breaching the walls at three different locations and invading the city. They then engaged the Jewish defenders in hand-to-hand combat up the steep hill. Fighting in the cramped streets from an inferior position, the Roman soldiers attempted to defend themselves from the roofs. These subsequently collapsed under the heavy weight, killing many soldiers and forcing a Roman retreat. The legionnaires re-entered the town a few days later, eventually beating Jewish resistance and completing the capture of Gamla.

According to Josephus, some 4,000 inhabitants were slaughtered, while 5,000 threw themselves down a ravine to escape capture.

We went on to Mount Bental, which looks over Syria, where we heard of the miracles of the 1967 and 1973 wars. 1967, the Golan Heights were liberated by Israel, and immediately began preparing for the next war. Unfortunately, Israel was resting on their laurels and ignored the signs of attack until either hours before or the day before, depending on sources. So the Egyptians and Syrians attacked on Yom Kippur, and there were 1600 Arab tanks against 160 total in the Israeli army. During one section of time, there were only about Israeli tanks holding back 600 Arab ones. They were cruising and advancing, and the Syrian army suddenly stopped. When they were captured, they asked why they didn’t go on, and the said they saw and army of soldiers of light, angels, and they had to stop.

While we were there, you could here shots in the distance, and it was explained that there were constant fighting – within Syria – and no one ever says anything. It’s when things happen in Israel that it turns into an international incident.

We went on to Tel Dan, which was the first tribe that was lost. We saw the old city gates, and talked once again about when the kingdoms split; this was the other site where the idol alters were set up to draw the house of Israel away from the true worship at Jerusalem. We headed back to the hotel, then took a stroll off the boardwalk before preparing to head to the south. It’s been an exciting and full day. And it was evening and then it was morning, day 7!