Archive for the ‘Golan Heights’ Category

Memorial service on Golan Height to mark 50th anniversary of most senior Irish officer on duty to die overseas – Independent.ie

Comdt Tommy Wickham was shot dead two days after the start of the six day war between Israel and Syria in 1967.

At the time, he was deployed as an unarmed United Nations military observer and he was killed while trying to relieve his comrades at a position on the Golan Heights.

He was the only member of the Defence Forces to die on active service in Syria.

The Syrian soldier, who fired the fatal shot, was subsequently sentenced and jailed for 18 years.

Lieut Col Robert Kiely told those at the service: “It is important we remember those soldiers of the Irish Defence Forces, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace.

“Fifty years after his tragic death, we have 658 personnel serving in 12 missions around the world, often in dangerous conflict zones.

“As well as remembering Comdt Wickham and his service to Ireland and the UN, this memorial service is a timely reminder of Ireland’s and the Irish Defence Forces’ long standing and historical commitment to the United Nations and to peace in the Middle East.

Comdt Wickham was an artillery officer and instructor from the Defence Forces training centre at the Curragh, Co Kildare.

He completed several international military courses throughout Europe and also served with the UN in the Congo in 1962 and 1963.

Comdt Wickham’s father was secretary of the FAI for 30 years and he had been the Army representative to the association before he deployed to the Golan Heights.

Tragedy struck the Wickham family again in 1996 when one of his three children, Joyce Quinn, who was married to Army officer Ray Quinn, was murdered in Kildare by unemployed butcher, Kenneth O’Reilly, who was later sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime.

Among those who attended the memorial service were Irish observers current serving on the Golan Heights and in Jerusalem and South Lebanon as well as a large number of Irish troops serving with the 55th infantry group on the Golan.

It included a prayer service led by chaplain, Fr Pat Mernegh, following by the laying of a wreath by Lieut Col Kiely and the raising of the national flag.

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Memorial service on Golan Height to mark 50th anniversary of most senior Irish officer on duty to die overseas – Independent.ie

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June 9, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: Israel Will Never Give Up Golan Heights | Scribd

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the occupied Syrian Golan Heights will remain under Israels sovereignty.

The Golan Heights will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. Its ours

Netanyahu said at a conference of Israeli youth held outside the Jewish settlement of Katzrin on the Golan.

He claimed that the alternative to Israels withdrawal from the Golan Heights would bring radical Islamists to the region.

Read:Israel will exploit Arab rift to kill our people

If we are not here, radical Islam will be, and we all understand the consequences.

According to media reports, Netanyahu fears that Tel Aviv will be under international pressure to withdraw from the Golan Heights, in the event of a peaceful agreement on the future of Syria.

On Tuesday, Israel marked the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War in which Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan Heights.

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Netanyahu: Israel Will Never Give Up Golan Heights | Scribd

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June 8, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: Israel Will Keep Control Over Golan Heights – Newsmax

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed to stay in control of the Golan Heights region, CGTN is reporting.

“Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. It is ours,” Netanyahu said during a youth conference to note the 15th anniversary of the Six Day War in 1967, CGTN reports.

Syria controls the eastern third of the territory, and Israel has failed to take control there. Israel captured the region in the Six Day War, and has said it must keep control over it to maintain security in the area, CGTN reported.

Palestinians dispute Israel’s presence in the Golan Heights region, which is home to 50,000, more than half of which are Israelis.

The international community, including the United States, does not recognize Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Netanyahu asked the U.S. for the recognition in February when he visited the U.S., CGTN noted.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slammed Israel on Monday on the anniversary of the Six Day War. He said the Israeli presence in Golan Heights has “fueled recurring cycles of violence and retribution,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

Guterres said that Israel’s control of the region harms both Israelis and Palestinians, sending “an unmistakable message to generations of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain just that, a dream, and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition remains unattainable,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

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June 7, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Netanyahu pledges Israel will never give up Golan Heights – Ynetnews

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Tuesday morning at a youth conference of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee: “I came to tell you that the Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. It is ours.”

“I suggest you go outside and see the ancient synagogues,” Netanyahu said. “When you stick a shovel in the ground, you see here synagogues and writings in Hebrew from the Talmudic period. The Golan is ours, and it will remain ours. If we are not here, radical Islam will come, and we all understand the implications.”

An IDF tank on the Syrian border in the Golan Heights (Photo: EPA)

Before him, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri spoke. He commented, “It’s accepted that the young people of today are not the young people of previous generations, that we were less spoiled and not lazy, and that today’s generation is spoiled with a silver spoon.

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Netanyahu pledges Israel will never give up Golan Heights – Ynetnews

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June 6, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Marking 50 years of rule, Netanyahu says Golan will ‘forever’ be Israeli – The Times of Israel

As Israel marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to forever maintain control of the Golan Heights, which was captured during that war.

He said the territory belonged to Israel and warned that any withdrawal would bring Islamist extremists onto the strategic plateau.

The Golan Heights will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. Its ours, Netanyahu said at a conference of Israeli youth held outside the town of Katzrin on the Golan.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria. The West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were also taken by Israel during the conflict, which broke out after Egypt, Syria and Jordan mobilized to attack the Jewish state.

Israel never formally annexed the Golan, but in 1981 decided to apply Israeli law there, making it part of the country in every practical sense.

If we are not here, radical Islam will be, and we all understand the consequences, Netanyahu said.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, speaking at the same conference, echoed the prime ministers words.

At the 50-year anniversary of our victory in the Six Day War, we can say with certainty that the Golan is out of bounds [for negotiations] and an inseparable part of Israel, he said.

Netanyahu made similar declarations in 2016, saying the Golan would remain under Israels sovereignty permanently.

Netanyahu said at the time that the Golan was an integral part of the Land of Israel in ancient times. That is documented by dozens of ancient synagogues around us. And the Golan is an integral part of the State of Israel in the present time.

The international community, including the US, Germany and the Arab League, rejected his assertions.

Before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the Golan Heights were seen as up for negotiations as part of a possible peace treaty with Syria.

However, that has become largely irrelevant in recent years. With no end to the Syrian conflict in sight, and the Syrian side of the Golan divided between various factions, there is nobody to talk to, even if Israel decided to open negotiations.

However, the Golan is likely to be key to any future peace deal with Syria, and its fate is an important part of a 2002 Saudi initiative that offered Israel peace with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 war. While that offer is usually connected to areas sought by the Palestinians, the Golan is also considered occupied land by the international community.

AP contributed to this report.

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Marking 50 years of rule, Netanyahu says Golan will ‘forever’ be Israeli – The Times of Israel

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June 6, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Todd Pitock – Tablet Magazine

If you tell Americans youre going to the Golan Heights, they think youre taking your life into your hands. It doesnt matter if you say that inside Israel its been quiet for more than 40 years. Theyre set on the idea. The place only gets mentioned alongside worrisome words like annexation, international recognition, UN troops, and formulations about land for peace, a quaint phrase that dates to the period before the greater region fell to pieces like a Byzantine mosaic.

The manner in which I almost did fall prey to harm, on a visit to the Golan two years ago, better illustrates the reality.

It was 1 oclock in the afternoon on Shabbat. I arrived at a kibbutz guesthouse to learn that Id needed to bring my own food. All Id had to eat was an egg early in the morning. It hadnt occurred to me that nothing would be open. No food? No problem. They would serve breakfast in the morning. Morning? From 8 a.m. That was, uh, still 19 hours from now.

Wait a minute, I said. Theres no food? Nothing?

We dont offer food on Shabbat, the woman holding down reception told me, out of respect for the religious.

Im pretty sure the religious rest on Shabbat, I told her. I wasnt aware that they also fast.

Im not religious, she said. I handed her back the keys.

I got in the car, only to face another issue: a near-empty gas tank. (My wife is always on me about not filling up until its an emergency, and Im sincere when I promise to listen to her next time.) I took a wrong turn. Given how few roads are in the Golan, its actually a hard mistake to make. I drove along some bands of asphalt alongside the Jordanian border and eventually past vineyards, groves, ranches, ruins, and memorials to soldiers who died retaking the land in 1973 after the Syrian army rolled in to retake the land it lost in 1967.

Near Katsrin I found a gas station, and bought a bag of Bisli. Original flavor. I have no idea what that flavor actually is, and I think I like it because it transports me to my days as a 20-year-old volunteer on Kibbutz Haogen.

At 2:30 I pulled into Merom Golan, another kibbutz with a guesthouse. They had one room left but check-in on Shabbat was 6. I asked about food.

Youre in luck, the receptionist said. Our restaurant is open.

Oh, thank God for good luck!

They open at 7:30.

7:30? Until when?

To be honest, not for that long. Until people arent ordering. We dont have many people.

But you told me youre booked solid.

We have a bus group arriving. They will start at 7 oclock, and when theyre done the restaurant will close.

Theyll start at 7 and the restaurant opens at 7:30?

Yes.

And itll close

Around then, to be honest.

So for me, itll open at 7:30 and close at about 7:30?

Im afraid so.

It was a good place to stay, so I checked in, but I still had to find a solution for my hungerI couldnt wait five more hours to eat. It dawned on me that I could get a good lunch in a Druse village. No Shabbat there! When I started out in the morning, traveling alone from Tel Aviv, I hadnt planned to drive halfway to Damascus, but I was almost there at this point, anyway. I scarfed down the rest of the bag of Bisli. Between that and the Danny Robas song on the radio, I passed a few amiable moments revisiting the late 1980s and was probably driving at a speed to match my ferocious appetite, when suddenly I had to brake on the nostalgia to avoid crashing into eternity. A man on a horse, in a 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots, like hed just galloped in from Wyoming, crossed in front of me. If hed really been from Wyoming, he would have tipped his hat.

But he wasnt. He was an Israeli. So he just carried on, and I continued on for lunch in Maasedeh.

***

The next day I met up with my friend Israel Eshed. We met a couple of years ago when I signed up for the first Golan Ultra Marathon, which got curtailed to 10 kilometers from 100 due to heavy rain. We went hiking on the Golan Trail, which he created. Israel is a lovely guy, a really fine spirit. He was born in Poland in 1955, the child of Holocaust survivors. He enlisted in the army just in time for the Yom Kippur War, then settled in the Golan and helped found Eliad, a moshav named for Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy killed in Syria in 1965. He and his wife, Orna, a highly respected biologist at the Technion, built a house surrounded by grapefruit and orange trees, and raised horses. They also raised three children. Life was good, and things flourished for them as it did for the Golan generally, until 1995, when Orna fought her first war with cancer. Ten years later it re-invaded their happiness again, and this time she did not survive. Thats when Israel started whacking the Golan Trail, a two-year endeavor, to find his way through the high grass and thorns of grief. When he was done, the 120-kilometer route ran from Mount Hermon to the southern edge of the Kinneret.

Now, he looks like a man who used to be lean and athletic until he discovered gustatory delights, and it was a lot of work and not enough fun at this stage of the game to stay lean. But hes still active. When we met he wore a faded shirt that said, This body climbed Mt. Washington. It also climbed, among others, Mount Rainier and Mount Blanc, and traversed the Grand Canyon three times. I mentioned my friend Lior in Tel Aviv, the editor of some Israeli magazine, who planned to climb Rainier without training.

Typical Israeli, Israel said.

We wanted to go hiking again, so I followed him in my rented Hyundai to leave a car in the spot where wed eventually finish, and then we drove to where wed start, and set off.

Wildflowers filled in spaces between olive trees and cactuses and burning bushes of wild mustard. Sunlight glazed the surface of the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, its fame so disproportionate to its size. In America, wed call it a lake, somewhat like the Jordan River, which wed call a stream.

We came to a ruin, a half-collapsed rectangle of a building from the 1880s. It had been the center for a group of families from Safed. (The explanation was in Hebrew on both sides. It was supposed to be Hebrew on one side and English on the other, but the printer duplicated the same Hebrew text on both sides. Typical Israeli.) They settled by a spring and in due course, many of them died from sicknesses, because, if you think about it, what else could possibly happen in an isolated place with frosty winters and malarial summers and no medicine. Back then, you toughed it out or you died. In 1920, during one of the Arab-Jewish flare-ups, the ones who toughed it out, all but a mother and son whose last name was Bernstein, were murdered.

Can you imagine living here? I said. I bet they didnt even have WiFi.

We gingerly negotiated our way back down a slope to avoid a sticky weed shaped like spearmint that pricked and burned. The tough bastards who once lived here, and the Arabs who came after that, probably just walked on it and didnt even notice.

***

At Eliad, Israels friend Alon had a big house with a crazy long and beautiful dinner table made from two single planks of a eucalyptus tree. Alon was on his way to help a couple new to the community build their house. They had given all their money to a contractor to build it, and the contractor, a Jewish thief, absconded. Now the members of Eliad were donating their labor to build the house. And they had gotten outside help, too. Six people from the old German Democratic Republic had shown up to work, too. They were working for free, very hard, dusk to dawn.

How did they know the story?

They arehow do you say it?messianic Jews, and they love Israel. They heard what happened and they came to help. There was a group before them. Theyre halfway between Jews and Christians. Wonderful people!

Not-such-wonderful people were terrorizing and killing one another a short distance away. Thats the border with Syria. The last time there was an actual war here was 1973. Eliad set up a field hospital, where wounded Syrian soldiers were treated. One of them managed to communicate coordinates to his comrades and the field hospital was mortared. A memorial marks the spot where doctors, nurses, and medics were killed. It had been quiet since then, but at the time of my visit, Al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate that broke away to form its own group, moved in, and ISIS was also busy hunting for real estate.

We sat outside Chateau Golan, the boutique winery on the edge of Eliad, and sipped wine.

Can you hear fighting? I asked Itzhak Ribak, the winerys owner.

At one time we heard a lot. But not lately.

Does it make you nervous?

No. Right now theyre fighting each other. We wish both sides much success!

For the moment, that conflict could have been on Jupiter. We were about to enter another. Or not. Israel said he liked French reds. The winemaker, Uri Chetz, who learned his craft during six years in Oregon after a career as an IDF pilot, asked which he liked best. Israel said, Chablis.

There are no reds in Chablis, Uri said, smirking. Thats why I asked you, to see if you knew.

They make reds in Chablis, Israel insisted.

No, they dont. They dont even grow grapes for red.

In America, correcting someone so forwardly would be considered a symptom of what psychologists call an impulse-control problem. An American would say, I didnt know they grew reds in Chablis! I thought they only grew Chardonnay grapes and made very dry white wines and then through an accretion of detail the American would demonstrate that the person was mistaken, if not a complete ignoramus. An Israeli uses words and tone and is as subtle as a grenade followed by a finishing spray of an M-1. Wow, what a goddamn moron you must be, reds in Chablis! Holy mackerel, and Im sitting here talking to you yet.

We all get to the same place, just on different routes.

But here was another difference between us. Its that the American, having been impolitely corrected, would feel foolish and bitter, while the Israeli, having just had his front teeth knocked in, just shrugged and knocked back another glass of wine. There was a war on down the road waged by genocidal fanatics, and another one, no doubt, coming in a few years to a theater near here, and right now the sun was shining and it was a beautiful afternoon sipping a beautiful wine, so who really gave a toss what they grew in Chablis?

***

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Todd Pitock is a writer in Philadelphia.

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Todd Pitock – Tablet Magazine

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June 5, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Listening to the guns from on high: a view from the Golan Heights – New Statesman

In a gift shop on the Golan Heights, tourists queue to buy slogan T-shirts. Most of the garments on offer here follow the same theme, a distinctive brand of Israeli tough-guy humour. Mossad: my job is so secret even I dont know what Im doing! reads one. Dont worry America! Israel is behind you! screams another, above a picture of a F-35 stealth fighter jet.

Yet one of the captions is rather more topical. Groups that have tried to destroy the Jewish people, it says. Underneath is a list that runs from Ancient Egypt to Nazi Germany. Each is marked off as destroyed!, but the last on the list is followed by a question mark: Iran?.

The question of Irans attitude to Israel is rather less ironic for the Israel Defence Forces officer tasked with watching the steady progress of Iranian-allied forces just across the border from the Golan Heights. The Israelis took this piece of land during the Six-Day War of 1967 and fully annexed it 14 years later. Syria has never stopped insisting that, one day, it will seize it back. The two countries are officially at war along this border, as idyllic as this lush, mountainous area looks on a recent late-spring morning.

Recently, though, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has had more urgent matters to attend to than reclaiming the Golan Heights from Israel, in the form of the war with rebel and Islamist militias that has been fought across vast swathesof his country since 2011. From this vantage point high up in Israel, tourists get a sweeping view of a part of Syria divided into a messy patchwork of rebel and regime fiefdoms. Inthe distance, you can hear the occasional sound of machine-gun fire.

Assad cant stand on his own his is a Soviet army, its not designed to fight an uprising, says the IDF officer stationed here, who just gives his name as Oz. He spends his days in his small prefab office on a military base high up in the Golan Heights, monitoring a war that is playing out just a few milesaway.

Ozs biggest worry in relation to Syria is not Isis or the rebels but Iran, one of the major powers supporting the now reinforced Assad regime. Iran is determined to keep Assad in his presidential palace in Damascus, seeing him as a key component in its plans to extend an arc of Shia influence from Tehran, through Baghdad, to Syria and Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast. This trajectory would bring Iran up against the border of Israel, a state that it loudly wishes to destroy.

The Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, a spearhead of Iranian influence if not a direct proxy, has been at the vanguard of Assads fight against the Syrian rebels since early 2013. Starting in small numbers, Hezbollah gradually built up its troops and influence inside Syria to the point where, two years ago, it was this faction, and not Assads government, that was arranging trips into Syria for journalists. The town of Quneitra in south-western Syria, one of Hezbollahs footholds in Assads territory, is less than two miles from the border with Israel laid out like a toy town beneath the viewing point with its gift shop on the Golan Heights.

Hezbollah is estimated to have lost up to 2,000 fighters in Syria but it has gained experience of tough urban warfare and, for the first time, enough acumen credibly to call itself an army rather than a client militia.

Hezbollah has experience of urban warfare. But once you give a terror group access to an area, they wont leave, says the IDFs Oz.

Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel for decades from their traditional strongholds in southern Lebanon. Now, with new territory in Syria and with the opposition to Assad seriously weakened, Israel is worried that the group will soon turn their attention away from the rebels and back to Jerusalem. Sporadically, the IDF attacks Hezbollah and Syrian army positions over the border, whenever it feels the group is growing too strong.

Recently, Israels strikes inside Syria have been growing more frequent: at the end of April, missiles most likely fired by the IDF hit Damascusairport.

For six years, Israel has played the tense role of outside observer, sat uncomfortably on the sidelines of the Syrian war even as the rest of the worlds major powers have been sucked in. But that may not be feasible for much longer.

Just along from the lookout point on the Golan, Farid al-Saeed Ahmed is watching the war over the border too. He is a Druze, a follower of a secretive sect of Shia Islam whose communities are long established in this part of the Levant. As many as 90per cent of the people living in the Golan are Druze, and, even after 50 years as part of Israel, they speak Arabic among themselves and identify foremost as Syrians.

Ahmeds fruit farm, a vista of apple and cherry trees coming into bloom in the bright sun, runs right up to the barbed wire and landmine warning signs that mark the frontier. From his land, he looks across to the other side, where the Druze villages that fell on the Syrian side of the 1967 divide have faced a very different fate. Some say that we are lucky we are under Israeli occupation, because, if there was no occupation, then we would be facing Nusra, says Ahmed, of the faction linked to al-Qaeda that has threatened to overrun the Druze communities on the Syrian side.

When rebel groups have previously seized Druze areas in the north of the country, they have forced the inhabitants to convert to their brand of Sunni Islam.

He may have fallen on the lucky side of the border, but Ahmed has lost much in this war, too. Before 2011, Druze students from the Golan were allowed to study at Damascus University and Ahmed sold his produce in Syria. Now, his passage to the place he considers his homeland is closed. He can see it, laid out tantalisingly beneath him, but he cant step on its soil.

All our family documents are in Quneitra; even our kids still feel like they are Syrian, he says. Sometimes we cry for everyone. Its not our fault that our leaders are dictators.

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Golan Heights Winery | Yarden Wines

One place in Israel enjoys ideal conditions, as in Bordeaux or Tuscany, for producing internationally renowned wines. Here in the Golan Heights, in this breathtaking strip of land, everything begins with the right conditions volcanic basaltic soil, suitable topography and cool high-altitude climate. This unique combination is what gives the Golan Heights its second name wine country.

Golan Heights Winery marketing its wines under four leading brands Yarden, Gilgal, Mount Hermon and Golan. The Winery is considered Israels leading winery when it comes to wine quality, technological innovation, and new variety development.

Since it was founded in 1983, Golan Heights Winery has played a significant role in developing and nurturing Israels current wine culture. The Winery also has altered the way Israeli wines are perceived worldwide, and has firmly placed Israel on the world wine map.

More information about the winery and their brands you can find atwww.golanwines.co.il

Below please see all of our Golan Heights Wines.

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Why Israel’s Quietest Border Could Face a ‘Massive Eruption’ | CBN … – CBN News

GOLAN HEIGHTS, Israel Near the end of the Six-Day War, attention shifted away from Jerusalem. About 120 miles away, Israeli troops took control of the Golan Heights. Over the last 50 years, that battle has proven to be one of the most strategic of the war.

“Whoever sits on the Golan Heights totally dominates this whole region,” said Middle East expert and author of Inside the Middle East Avi Melamed.

That’s in part because of its proximity to the Sea of Galilee. The Golan Heights shares borders with Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, with Damascus just 40 miles away.

For decades Syria controlled the Golan Heights. Here on the high ground overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Syrian artillery and snipers shot and shelled the Israelis below. Children grew up running to bomb shelters and residents lived under the constant threat of attack.

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Melamed explained why it’s so important to understand what happened in the Golan during the Six-Day War.

“So, all along the line of this cliff were Syrian bunkers and military posts and cannons and artilleries. The communities beneath the Golan Heights were at the total mercy of the Syrians,” Melamed said.

CBN’s “In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem” about the Six-Day War is returning to theaters after debuting at #3 at the box office with sold-out theaters in the U.S. Get your tickets here for the June 1 showing.

“Now, you have to remember, the Sea of Galilee is the biggest freshwater body in Israel, providing something like 25 to 30 percent of the water consumption or the fresh water consumption in Israel,” Melamed continued.

“In 1948 [and] until 1967 what happened was that the Syrians occupied some strategic areas. One is the area where the Jordan River feeds from the north and enters the Sea of Galilee. The other area was the strip that you see right beneath us actually rubbing shoulders with the water.

“The major result of that was an enormously increasing pressure on Israel mostly in the context of the water and use of water,” Melamed said.

Israel faced a literal uphill battle against the Syrian army a rocky slope that rose 1,700 feet from the Sea of Galilee. Israel captured the Golan plateau during the last two days of the Six-Day War.

Just one month after the war, Yehuda Harel and his family were among the first Israelis who moved to the Golan Heights. They established the first community there called Merom Golan (the height of the Golan).

“We were afraid that Syria will come back and again they will shell the valley and try to take the water, to take the Jordan,” Harel recalled. “We decide[d] to make the first kibbutz in the Golan Heights to convince the government we’ll stay here.

“We got the permission from the army to get inside the Golan Heights because it was a military area. And we got a job from them to collect cows that were wild in the area,” he continued. They wound up living in what had been the living quarters for Syrian Army officers.

“We are very near to Qunietra [on the Syrian-Israeli border]. I mean about a hundred meters from Qunietra. And we are near to the quarter; we used to live here for almost five years. This is the house that we, with another three families, lived in this house,” Harel said.

Eventually, the community moved across the ridge and still farms near the border.

Today, close to 50,000 people more than 25,500 Israelis and 22,000 Druze live on the Golan Heights, now known for its apple and cherry orchards and for the vineyards that produce award-winning Israeli wines.

“In the last more than 40 years, the Golan Heights is the most quiet area of Israel,” Harel said. “Everything happens on the other side of the border.”

But that could be changing.

Asked if he sees any similarities between pre-1967 conditions and now, Melamed said the threat is “more severe.”

“I would say that the strategic threat, as far as Israel is concerned, is today much more severe in comparison to the pre-1967. The major reason for that is that the presence of Iranians and Iranian-backed Shiite militias [are] a stone’s throw away from the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line.”

Melamed said Iran wants to establish a new front in the Golan that’s similar to those established in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

“Trying to launch a military front against Israel in the Golan Heights will could result in a massive eruption because Israel would not stand for that and rightly so,” he said.

On the 49th anniversary of the Six-Day War, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear how Israel views the Golan Heights.

“[The Golan Heights] are for peace. In the stormy region around us, Israel is the stabilizing factor; Israel is the solution, not the problem. The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands,” Netanyahu said at a special cabinet meeting. “The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights.”

For now, Harel says there’s a reason why this area has remained quiet.

“We live here in peace and it’s a peace because we are on the Golan Heights,” he said. “When we were only in the valley and the enemy was up on the hill, it was not peace. To live in peace, we have to be strong and to live in the higher place.”

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May 31, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Memorial service on Golan Height to mark 50th anniversary of most senior Irish officer on duty to die overseas – Independent.ie

Comdt Tommy Wickham was shot dead two days after the start of the six day war between Israel and Syria in 1967. At the time, he was deployed as an unarmed United Nations military observer and he was killed while trying to relieve his comrades at a position on the Golan Heights. He was the only member of the Defence Forces to die on active service in Syria. The Syrian soldier, who fired the fatal shot, was subsequently sentenced and jailed for 18 years. Lieut Col Robert Kiely told those at the service: “It is important we remember those soldiers of the Irish Defence Forces, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace. “Fifty years after his tragic death, we have 658 personnel serving in 12 missions around the world, often in dangerous conflict zones. “As well as remembering Comdt Wickham and his service to Ireland and the UN, this memorial service is a timely reminder of Ireland’s and the Irish Defence Forces’ long standing and historical commitment to the United Nations and to peace in the Middle East. Comdt Wickham was an artillery officer and instructor from the Defence Forces training centre at the Curragh, Co Kildare. He completed several international military courses throughout Europe and also served with the UN in the Congo in 1962 and 1963. Comdt Wickham’s father was secretary of the FAI for 30 years and he had been the Army representative to the association before he deployed to the Golan Heights. Tragedy struck the Wickham family again in 1996 when one of his three children, Joyce Quinn, who was married to Army officer Ray Quinn, was murdered in Kildare by unemployed butcher, Kenneth O’Reilly, who was later sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime. Among those who attended the memorial service were Irish observers current serving on the Golan Heights and in Jerusalem and South Lebanon as well as a large number of Irish troops serving with the 55th infantry group on the Golan. It included a prayer service led by chaplain, Fr Pat Mernegh, following by the laying of a wreath by Lieut Col Kiely and the raising of the national flag.

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June 9, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: Israel Will Never Give Up Golan Heights | Scribd

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the occupied Syrian Golan Heights will remain under Israels sovereignty. The Golan Heights will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. Its ours Netanyahu said at a conference of Israeli youth held outside the Jewish settlement of Katzrin on the Golan. He claimed that the alternative to Israels withdrawal from the Golan Heights would bring radical Islamists to the region. Read:Israel will exploit Arab rift to kill our people If we are not here, radical Islam will be, and we all understand the consequences. According to media reports, Netanyahu fears that Tel Aviv will be under international pressure to withdraw from the Golan Heights, in the event of a peaceful agreement on the future of Syria. On Tuesday, Israel marked the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War in which Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan Heights.

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June 8, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: Israel Will Keep Control Over Golan Heights – Newsmax

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed to stay in control of the Golan Heights region, CGTN is reporting. “Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. It is ours,” Netanyahu said during a youth conference to note the 15th anniversary of the Six Day War in 1967, CGTN reports. Syria controls the eastern third of the territory, and Israel has failed to take control there. Israel captured the region in the Six Day War, and has said it must keep control over it to maintain security in the area, CGTN reported. Palestinians dispute Israel’s presence in the Golan Heights region, which is home to 50,000, more than half of which are Israelis. The international community, including the United States, does not recognize Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Netanyahu asked the U.S. for the recognition in February when he visited the U.S., CGTN noted. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slammed Israel on Monday on the anniversary of the Six Day War. He said the Israeli presence in Golan Heights has “fueled recurring cycles of violence and retribution,” according to The Jerusalem Post. Guterres said that Israel’s control of the region harms both Israelis and Palestinians, sending “an unmistakable message to generations of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain just that, a dream, and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition remains unattainable,” according to the Jerusalem Post. 2017 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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June 7, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Netanyahu pledges Israel will never give up Golan Heights – Ynetnews

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Tuesday morning at a youth conference of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee: “I came to tell you that the Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. It is ours.” “I suggest you go outside and see the ancient synagogues,” Netanyahu said. “When you stick a shovel in the ground, you see here synagogues and writings in Hebrew from the Talmudic period. The Golan is ours, and it will remain ours. If we are not here, radical Islam will come, and we all understand the implications.” An IDF tank on the Syrian border in the Golan Heights (Photo: EPA) Before him, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri spoke. He commented, “It’s accepted that the young people of today are not the young people of previous generations, that we were less spoiled and not lazy, and that today’s generation is spoiled with a silver spoon.

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June 6, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Marking 50 years of rule, Netanyahu says Golan will ‘forever’ be Israeli – The Times of Israel

As Israel marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to forever maintain control of the Golan Heights, which was captured during that war. He said the territory belonged to Israel and warned that any withdrawal would bring Islamist extremists onto the strategic plateau. The Golan Heights will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. Its ours, Netanyahu said at a conference of Israeli youth held outside the town of Katzrin on the Golan. Israel captured the Golan from Syria. The West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were also taken by Israel during the conflict, which broke out after Egypt, Syria and Jordan mobilized to attack the Jewish state. Israel never formally annexed the Golan, but in 1981 decided to apply Israeli law there, making it part of the country in every practical sense. If we are not here, radical Islam will be, and we all understand the consequences, Netanyahu said. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, speaking at the same conference, echoed the prime ministers words. At the 50-year anniversary of our victory in the Six Day War, we can say with certainty that the Golan is out of bounds [for negotiations] and an inseparable part of Israel, he said. Netanyahu made similar declarations in 2016, saying the Golan would remain under Israels sovereignty permanently. Netanyahu said at the time that the Golan was an integral part of the Land of Israel in ancient times. That is documented by dozens of ancient synagogues around us. And the Golan is an integral part of the State of Israel in the present time. The international community, including the US, Germany and the Arab League, rejected his assertions. Before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the Golan Heights were seen as up for negotiations as part of a possible peace treaty with Syria. However, that has become largely irrelevant in recent years. With no end to the Syrian conflict in sight, and the Syrian side of the Golan divided between various factions, there is nobody to talk to, even if Israel decided to open negotiations. However, the Golan is likely to be key to any future peace deal with Syria, and its fate is an important part of a 2002 Saudi initiative that offered Israel peace with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 war. While that offer is usually connected to areas sought by the Palestinians, the Golan is also considered occupied land by the international community. AP contributed to this report.

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June 6, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Todd Pitock – Tablet Magazine

If you tell Americans youre going to the Golan Heights, they think youre taking your life into your hands. It doesnt matter if you say that inside Israel its been quiet for more than 40 years. Theyre set on the idea. The place only gets mentioned alongside worrisome words like annexation, international recognition, UN troops, and formulations about land for peace, a quaint phrase that dates to the period before the greater region fell to pieces like a Byzantine mosaic. The manner in which I almost did fall prey to harm, on a visit to the Golan two years ago, better illustrates the reality. It was 1 oclock in the afternoon on Shabbat. I arrived at a kibbutz guesthouse to learn that Id needed to bring my own food. All Id had to eat was an egg early in the morning. It hadnt occurred to me that nothing would be open. No food? No problem. They would serve breakfast in the morning. Morning? From 8 a.m. That was, uh, still 19 hours from now. Wait a minute, I said. Theres no food? Nothing? We dont offer food on Shabbat, the woman holding down reception told me, out of respect for the religious. Im pretty sure the religious rest on Shabbat, I told her. I wasnt aware that they also fast. Im not religious, she said. I handed her back the keys. I got in the car, only to face another issue: a near-empty gas tank. (My wife is always on me about not filling up until its an emergency, and Im sincere when I promise to listen to her next time.) I took a wrong turn. Given how few roads are in the Golan, its actually a hard mistake to make. I drove along some bands of asphalt alongside the Jordanian border and eventually past vineyards, groves, ranches, ruins, and memorials to soldiers who died retaking the land in 1973 after the Syrian army rolled in to retake the land it lost in 1967. Near Katsrin I found a gas station, and bought a bag of Bisli. Original flavor. I have no idea what that flavor actually is, and I think I like it because it transports me to my days as a 20-year-old volunteer on Kibbutz Haogen. At 2:30 I pulled into Merom Golan, another kibbutz with a guesthouse. They had one room left but check-in on Shabbat was 6. I asked about food. Youre in luck, the receptionist said. Our restaurant is open. Oh, thank God for good luck! They open at 7:30. 7:30? Until when? To be honest, not for that long. Until people arent ordering. We dont have many people. But you told me youre booked solid. We have a bus group arriving. They will start at 7 oclock, and when theyre done the restaurant will close. Theyll start at 7 and the restaurant opens at 7:30? Yes. And itll close Around then, to be honest. So for me, itll open at 7:30 and close at about 7:30? Im afraid so. It was a good place to stay, so I checked in, but I still had to find a solution for my hungerI couldnt wait five more hours to eat. It dawned on me that I could get a good lunch in a Druse village. No Shabbat there! When I started out in the morning, traveling alone from Tel Aviv, I hadnt planned to drive halfway to Damascus, but I was almost there at this point, anyway. I scarfed down the rest of the bag of Bisli. Between that and the Danny Robas song on the radio, I passed a few amiable moments revisiting the late 1980s and was probably driving at a speed to match my ferocious appetite, when suddenly I had to brake on the nostalgia to avoid crashing into eternity. A man on a horse, in a 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots, like hed just galloped in from Wyoming, crossed in front of me. If hed really been from Wyoming, he would have tipped his hat. But he wasnt. He was an Israeli. So he just carried on, and I continued on for lunch in Maasedeh. *** The next day I met up with my friend Israel Eshed. We met a couple of years ago when I signed up for the first Golan Ultra Marathon, which got curtailed to 10 kilometers from 100 due to heavy rain. We went hiking on the Golan Trail, which he created. Israel is a lovely guy, a really fine spirit. He was born in Poland in 1955, the child of Holocaust survivors. He enlisted in the army just in time for the Yom Kippur War, then settled in the Golan and helped found Eliad, a moshav named for Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy killed in Syria in 1965. He and his wife, Orna, a highly respected biologist at the Technion, built a house surrounded by grapefruit and orange trees, and raised horses. They also raised three children. Life was good, and things flourished for them as it did for the Golan generally, until 1995, when Orna fought her first war with cancer. Ten years later it re-invaded their happiness again, and this time she did not survive. Thats when Israel started whacking the Golan Trail, a two-year endeavor, to find his way through the high grass and thorns of grief. When he was done, the 120-kilometer route ran from Mount Hermon to the southern edge of the Kinneret. Now, he looks like a man who used to be lean and athletic until he discovered gustatory delights, and it was a lot of work and not enough fun at this stage of the game to stay lean. But hes still active. When we met he wore a faded shirt that said, This body climbed Mt. Washington. It also climbed, among others, Mount Rainier and Mount Blanc, and traversed the Grand Canyon three times. I mentioned my friend Lior in Tel Aviv, the editor of some Israeli magazine, who planned to climb Rainier without training. Typical Israeli, Israel said. We wanted to go hiking again, so I followed him in my rented Hyundai to leave a car in the spot where wed eventually finish, and then we drove to where wed start, and set off. Wildflowers filled in spaces between olive trees and cactuses and burning bushes of wild mustard. Sunlight glazed the surface of the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, its fame so disproportionate to its size. In America, wed call it a lake, somewhat like the Jordan River, which wed call a stream. We came to a ruin, a half-collapsed rectangle of a building from the 1880s. It had been the center for a group of families from Safed. (The explanation was in Hebrew on both sides. It was supposed to be Hebrew on one side and English on the other, but the printer duplicated the same Hebrew text on both sides. Typical Israeli.) They settled by a spring and in due course, many of them died from sicknesses, because, if you think about it, what else could possibly happen in an isolated place with frosty winters and malarial summers and no medicine. Back then, you toughed it out or you died. In 1920, during one of the Arab-Jewish flare-ups, the ones who toughed it out, all but a mother and son whose last name was Bernstein, were murdered. Can you imagine living here? I said. I bet they didnt even have WiFi. We gingerly negotiated our way back down a slope to avoid a sticky weed shaped like spearmint that pricked and burned. The tough bastards who once lived here, and the Arabs who came after that, probably just walked on it and didnt even notice. *** At Eliad, Israels friend Alon had a big house with a crazy long and beautiful dinner table made from two single planks of a eucalyptus tree. Alon was on his way to help a couple new to the community build their house. They had given all their money to a contractor to build it, and the contractor, a Jewish thief, absconded. Now the members of Eliad were donating their labor to build the house. And they had gotten outside help, too. Six people from the old German Democratic Republic had shown up to work, too. They were working for free, very hard, dusk to dawn. How did they know the story? They arehow do you say it?messianic Jews, and they love Israel. They heard what happened and they came to help. There was a group before them. Theyre halfway between Jews and Christians. Wonderful people! Not-such-wonderful people were terrorizing and killing one another a short distance away. Thats the border with Syria. The last time there was an actual war here was 1973. Eliad set up a field hospital, where wounded Syrian soldiers were treated. One of them managed to communicate coordinates to his comrades and the field hospital was mortared. A memorial marks the spot where doctors, nurses, and medics were killed. It had been quiet since then, but at the time of my visit, Al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate that broke away to form its own group, moved in, and ISIS was also busy hunting for real estate. We sat outside Chateau Golan, the boutique winery on the edge of Eliad, and sipped wine. Can you hear fighting? I asked Itzhak Ribak, the winerys owner. At one time we heard a lot. But not lately. Does it make you nervous? No. Right now theyre fighting each other. We wish both sides much success! For the moment, that conflict could have been on Jupiter. We were about to enter another. Or not. Israel said he liked French reds. The winemaker, Uri Chetz, who learned his craft during six years in Oregon after a career as an IDF pilot, asked which he liked best. Israel said, Chablis. There are no reds in Chablis, Uri said, smirking. Thats why I asked you, to see if you knew. They make reds in Chablis, Israel insisted. No, they dont. They dont even grow grapes for red. In America, correcting someone so forwardly would be considered a symptom of what psychologists call an impulse-control problem. An American would say, I didnt know they grew reds in Chablis! I thought they only grew Chardonnay grapes and made very dry white wines and then through an accretion of detail the American would demonstrate that the person was mistaken, if not a complete ignoramus. An Israeli uses words and tone and is as subtle as a grenade followed by a finishing spray of an M-1. Wow, what a goddamn moron you must be, reds in Chablis! Holy mackerel, and Im sitting here talking to you yet. We all get to the same place, just on different routes. But here was another difference between us. Its that the American, having been impolitely corrected, would feel foolish and bitter, while the Israeli, having just had his front teeth knocked in, just shrugged and knocked back another glass of wine. There was a war on down the road waged by genocidal fanatics, and another one, no doubt, coming in a few years to a theater near here, and right now the sun was shining and it was a beautiful afternoon sipping a beautiful wine, so who really gave a toss what they grew in Chablis? *** Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazines new content in your inbox each morning. Todd Pitock is a writer in Philadelphia.

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June 5, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Listening to the guns from on high: a view from the Golan Heights – New Statesman

In a gift shop on the Golan Heights, tourists queue to buy slogan T-shirts. Most of the garments on offer here follow the same theme, a distinctive brand of Israeli tough-guy humour. Mossad: my job is so secret even I dont know what Im doing! reads one. Dont worry America! Israel is behind you! screams another, above a picture of a F-35 stealth fighter jet. Yet one of the captions is rather more topical. Groups that have tried to destroy the Jewish people, it says. Underneath is a list that runs from Ancient Egypt to Nazi Germany. Each is marked off as destroyed!, but the last on the list is followed by a question mark: Iran?. The question of Irans attitude to Israel is rather less ironic for the Israel Defence Forces officer tasked with watching the steady progress of Iranian-allied forces just across the border from the Golan Heights. The Israelis took this piece of land during the Six-Day War of 1967 and fully annexed it 14 years later. Syria has never stopped insisting that, one day, it will seize it back. The two countries are officially at war along this border, as idyllic as this lush, mountainous area looks on a recent late-spring morning. Recently, though, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has had more urgent matters to attend to than reclaiming the Golan Heights from Israel, in the form of the war with rebel and Islamist militias that has been fought across vast swathesof his country since 2011. From this vantage point high up in Israel, tourists get a sweeping view of a part of Syria divided into a messy patchwork of rebel and regime fiefdoms. Inthe distance, you can hear the occasional sound of machine-gun fire. Assad cant stand on his own his is a Soviet army, its not designed to fight an uprising, says the IDF officer stationed here, who just gives his name as Oz. He spends his days in his small prefab office on a military base high up in the Golan Heights, monitoring a war that is playing out just a few milesaway. Ozs biggest worry in relation to Syria is not Isis or the rebels but Iran, one of the major powers supporting the now reinforced Assad regime. Iran is determined to keep Assad in his presidential palace in Damascus, seeing him as a key component in its plans to extend an arc of Shia influence from Tehran, through Baghdad, to Syria and Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast. This trajectory would bring Iran up against the border of Israel, a state that it loudly wishes to destroy. The Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, a spearhead of Iranian influence if not a direct proxy, has been at the vanguard of Assads fight against the Syrian rebels since early 2013. Starting in small numbers, Hezbollah gradually built up its troops and influence inside Syria to the point where, two years ago, it was this faction, and not Assads government, that was arranging trips into Syria for journalists. The town of Quneitra in south-western Syria, one of Hezbollahs footholds in Assads territory, is less than two miles from the border with Israel laid out like a toy town beneath the viewing point with its gift shop on the Golan Heights. Hezbollah is estimated to have lost up to 2,000 fighters in Syria but it has gained experience of tough urban warfare and, for the first time, enough acumen credibly to call itself an army rather than a client militia. Hezbollah has experience of urban warfare. But once you give a terror group access to an area, they wont leave, says the IDFs Oz. Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel for decades from their traditional strongholds in southern Lebanon. Now, with new territory in Syria and with the opposition to Assad seriously weakened, Israel is worried that the group will soon turn their attention away from the rebels and back to Jerusalem. Sporadically, the IDF attacks Hezbollah and Syrian army positions over the border, whenever it feels the group is growing too strong. Recently, Israels strikes inside Syria have been growing more frequent: at the end of April, missiles most likely fired by the IDF hit Damascusairport. For six years, Israel has played the tense role of outside observer, sat uncomfortably on the sidelines of the Syrian war even as the rest of the worlds major powers have been sucked in. But that may not be feasible for much longer. Just along from the lookout point on the Golan, Farid al-Saeed Ahmed is watching the war over the border too. He is a Druze, a follower of a secretive sect of Shia Islam whose communities are long established in this part of the Levant. As many as 90per cent of the people living in the Golan are Druze, and, even after 50 years as part of Israel, they speak Arabic among themselves and identify foremost as Syrians. Ahmeds fruit farm, a vista of apple and cherry trees coming into bloom in the bright sun, runs right up to the barbed wire and landmine warning signs that mark the frontier. From his land, he looks across to the other side, where the Druze villages that fell on the Syrian side of the 1967 divide have faced a very different fate. Some say that we are lucky we are under Israeli occupation, because, if there was no occupation, then we would be facing Nusra, says Ahmed, of the faction linked to al-Qaeda that has threatened to overrun the Druze communities on the Syrian side. When rebel groups have previously seized Druze areas in the north of the country, they have forced the inhabitants to convert to their brand of Sunni Islam. He may have fallen on the lucky side of the border, but Ahmed has lost much in this war, too. Before 2011, Druze students from the Golan were allowed to study at Damascus University and Ahmed sold his produce in Syria. Now, his passage to the place he considers his homeland is closed. He can see it, laid out tantalisingly beneath him, but he cant step on its soil. All our family documents are in Quneitra; even our kids still feel like they are Syrian, he says. Sometimes we cry for everyone. Its not our fault that our leaders are dictators.

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June 3, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights Winery | Yarden Wines

One place in Israel enjoys ideal conditions, as in Bordeaux or Tuscany, for producing internationally renowned wines. Here in the Golan Heights, in this breathtaking strip of land, everything begins with the right conditions volcanic basaltic soil, suitable topography and cool high-altitude climate. This unique combination is what gives the Golan Heights its second name wine country. Golan Heights Winery marketing its wines under four leading brands Yarden, Gilgal, Mount Hermon and Golan. The Winery is considered Israels leading winery when it comes to wine quality, technological innovation, and new variety development. Since it was founded in 1983, Golan Heights Winery has played a significant role in developing and nurturing Israels current wine culture. The Winery also has altered the way Israeli wines are perceived worldwide, and has firmly placed Israel on the world wine map. More information about the winery and their brands you can find atwww.golanwines.co.il Below please see all of our Golan Heights Wines.

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June 1, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Why Israel’s Quietest Border Could Face a ‘Massive Eruption’ | CBN … – CBN News

GOLAN HEIGHTS, Israel Near the end of the Six-Day War, attention shifted away from Jerusalem. About 120 miles away, Israeli troops took control of the Golan Heights. Over the last 50 years, that battle has proven to be one of the most strategic of the war. “Whoever sits on the Golan Heights totally dominates this whole region,” said Middle East expert and author of Inside the Middle East Avi Melamed. That’s in part because of its proximity to the Sea of Galilee. The Golan Heights shares borders with Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, with Damascus just 40 miles away. For decades Syria controlled the Golan Heights. Here on the high ground overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Syrian artillery and snipers shot and shelled the Israelis below. Children grew up running to bomb shelters and residents lived under the constant threat of attack. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Melamed explained why it’s so important to understand what happened in the Golan during the Six-Day War. “So, all along the line of this cliff were Syrian bunkers and military posts and cannons and artilleries. The communities beneath the Golan Heights were at the total mercy of the Syrians,” Melamed said. CBN’s “In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem” about the Six-Day War is returning to theaters after debuting at #3 at the box office with sold-out theaters in the U.S. Get your tickets here for the June 1 showing. “Now, you have to remember, the Sea of Galilee is the biggest freshwater body in Israel, providing something like 25 to 30 percent of the water consumption or the fresh water consumption in Israel,” Melamed continued. “In 1948 [and] until 1967 what happened was that the Syrians occupied some strategic areas. One is the area where the Jordan River feeds from the north and enters the Sea of Galilee. The other area was the strip that you see right beneath us actually rubbing shoulders with the water. “The major result of that was an enormously increasing pressure on Israel mostly in the context of the water and use of water,” Melamed said. Israel faced a literal uphill battle against the Syrian army a rocky slope that rose 1,700 feet from the Sea of Galilee. Israel captured the Golan plateau during the last two days of the Six-Day War. Just one month after the war, Yehuda Harel and his family were among the first Israelis who moved to the Golan Heights. They established the first community there called Merom Golan (the height of the Golan). “We were afraid that Syria will come back and again they will shell the valley and try to take the water, to take the Jordan,” Harel recalled. “We decide[d] to make the first kibbutz in the Golan Heights to convince the government we’ll stay here. “We got the permission from the army to get inside the Golan Heights because it was a military area. And we got a job from them to collect cows that were wild in the area,” he continued. They wound up living in what had been the living quarters for Syrian Army officers. “We are very near to Qunietra [on the Syrian-Israeli border]. I mean about a hundred meters from Qunietra. And we are near to the quarter; we used to live here for almost five years. This is the house that we, with another three families, lived in this house,” Harel said. Eventually, the community moved across the ridge and still farms near the border. Today, close to 50,000 people more than 25,500 Israelis and 22,000 Druze live on the Golan Heights, now known for its apple and cherry orchards and for the vineyards that produce award-winning Israeli wines. “In the last more than 40 years, the Golan Heights is the most quiet area of Israel,” Harel said. “Everything happens on the other side of the border.” But that could be changing. Asked if he sees any similarities between pre-1967 conditions and now, Melamed said the threat is “more severe.” “I would say that the strategic threat, as far as Israel is concerned, is today much more severe in comparison to the pre-1967. The major reason for that is that the presence of Iranians and Iranian-backed Shiite militias [are] a stone’s throw away from the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line.” Melamed said Iran wants to establish a new front in the Golan that’s similar to those established in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. “Trying to launch a military front against Israel in the Golan Heights will could result in a massive eruption because Israel would not stand for that and rightly so,” he said. On the 49th anniversary of the Six-Day War, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear how Israel views the Golan Heights. “[The Golan Heights] are for peace. In the stormy region around us, Israel is the stabilizing factor; Israel is the solution, not the problem. The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands,” Netanyahu said at a special cabinet meeting. “The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights.” For now, Harel says there’s a reason why this area has remained quiet. “We live here in peace and it’s a peace because we are on the Golan Heights,” he said. “When we were only in the valley and the enemy was up on the hill, it was not peace. To live in peace, we have to be strong and to live in the higher place.”

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May 31, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed


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