Mar. 30, 2019

Written by Dan Hall
Special to the Lee’s Summit Tribune

In 1990, this writer visited The Golan Heights in what was then considered occupied territory by Israel following the 1967 Six Day War. What follows is the writer’s experience in the Golan.

In 1990, I was invited to Israel following participation in a USDA sponsored food show in Bahrain. Friends I had met at an international agricultural conference had invited me to come to Israel to speak at an Agricultural Cooperative called a Kibbutz. They asked me to stay at their home when visiting Israel.

In 1990, the only Middle-eastern country with direct flights to Israel were from Egypt. My Jewish friends met me at the Jerusalem Airport and took me to their home. I learned that the family had lived in Palestine for over six generations, long before the area became a part of Israel. As a result, they had many Arab and Christian friends, some of which I had the pleasure of meeting.

My friend asked me what I wanted to see while visiting Israel to which my reply was to see Israel’s agricultural areas and historic sites.

As my friend was a reserve Israeli military officer, he secured a car and driver for my visit. As we drove over to Nazareth, I vividly remember being told to roll up my car window as, otherwise, someone might toss a hand grenade inside.

One day we visited the Jordon River valley and drove up to the Golan Heights, a plateau overlooking the valley below. I was told that while the Israel Army had “cleared” the area of land mines, it was wise to only walk on the dirt roadway. My friends had some work to do clearing weeds along the roadway so I proceeded to do some exploring being careful to stay on the “beaten path.”

Soon I came across several former Syrian Army artillery gun emplacements. My friends told me that the Syrian Army used these artillery guns to regularly fire on the agricultural kibbutzim’ easily targeted in the valley just below.

Now, having been reared on a Missouri farm, with a very high hill, I could immediately see the strategic value to any Army who had such a clear view of the valley below. Having served in the US Army, I also understood the military value of The Golan Heights. It was then that it occurred to me that it would be suicidal for Israel to ever relinquish control of the Golan.

Upon walking back where my friends were cutting weeds, off to the roadside, I stopped to gaze at the sandy soil where they had been working. There, I could see a metal spiral object poking through the sand. I called to my friend’s attention to that which I was observing, and as I did so, I noticed other similar nearby objects, in a clear placement pattern also poking through the sand. When he recognized what I was pointing at he said something, not to be repeated, then he and his friend carefully stepped out of the mine field using the same exact spots he had used when walking into the field. When safe, he said that he would ask the Army to come back to clear the mine field.

After doing some research on Wikipedia, it would seem that political control of the 690-sq. mile plateau called, The Golan Heights has been in dispute for thousands of years. According to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og. Throughout the Old Testament period, the Golan was the focus of a power struggle between the Kings of Israel and the Aramaeans who were based near modern-day Damascus.

The Golan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Vilayet of Damascus until it was transferred to French mandate in 1918. When the mandate terminated in 1946, it became part of the newly independent Syrian Republic.

Since the 1967 Six-Day War, the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel. Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory in 1981. The USA, on March 25, 2019, recognized this part of the Golan as having Israel sovereignty as an integral part of Israel.