An attempt is made to share the truth regarding issues concerning Israel and her right to exist as a Jewish nation. This blog has expanded to present information about radical Islam and its potential impact upon Israel and the West. Yes, I do mix in a bit of opinion from time to time.
From biblical sources to modern times; a brief history of the Golan Heights.
The Golan Heights Photo: Seth J. Frantzman
Referred to as “Bashan”
in the Bible, the Golan Heights was considered part of the Land of
Israel. Its main city, “Golan in Bashan,” (Deuteronomy 4:43, Joshua
21:27) was designated a “City of Refuge” (for those who had committed
The area was assigned to the tribe of Menashe (Joshua 13:29-31).
Ahab of Israel (874- 852 BCE) defeated Ben-Hadad I of Damascus near
Kibbutz Afik in the southern Golan (I Kings 20:26-30), and the prophet
Elisha prophesied that King Yehoash of Israel (801-785 BCE) would
defeat Ben-Hadad III of Damascus, also near Kibbutz Afik (II Kings
During the late 6th and 5th centuries BCE, the Golan was settled by
Jews returning from exile in Babylon. In the mid-2nd century BCE, Judah
Maccabee and his brothers led the Jewish army to rescue Jewish
communities in the Golan who were attacked by their non-Jewish
neighbors (I Maccabees 5). Judah Maccabee’s grandnephew, the Hasmonean
King Alexander Yannai (103-76 BCE) later added the Golan to his
At the beginning of the Roman war against the Jews, the historian
Josephus Flavius wrote of the siege and conquest of Gamla, the main
Jewish town of the Golan, where he alleges a mass suicide took place.
Excavations of the site revealed the oldest synagogue in Israel, dated
to the Hasmonean period, around 80 BCE.
Twenty-five Jewish villages and synagogues from the Second Temple
and Talmudic periods have been found throughout the Golan. Jewish life
flourished there until the mid-8th century CE, when an earthquake
and/or the Muslim invasion destroyed these communities.
Except for a few small Druse villages built during the 15th and
16th centuries, and later, Circassians, the Golan remained desolate
until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Jews bought land
between the modern-day B’nei Yehuda and Kibbutz Ein Gev, on the eastern
shore of Lake Kinneret.
This community survived until 1920, when several of its members
were murdered in the anti-Jewish riots of that year; isolated and
unprotected, the rest left.
In 1891, Baron Rothschild purchased
approximately 18,000 acres of land about 15 km. east of Ramat
Hamagshimim, in what is now Syria. Between 1881 and 1903 (the “First
Aliya”) Jews established five small communities in this area, but they
too were driven out by Arab gangs.
In dispute between Britain and France, the Golan became part of the
French Mandate after WWI, and was included in Syria when it became an
independent state at the end of World War II.
THERE WAS little
significant civilian Syrian presence on the Golan Heights during Syrian
occupation; it was used primarily as a military base from which to
attack settlements in the Hula Valley and, in 1965, Syria attempted to
divert the sources of the Jordan River, Israel’s main water supply,
almost provoking war.
Conquered by the IDF during the Six Day War (in 1967), it was
overrun by Syrian forces in 1973 (the Yom Kippur War), reconquered by
the IDF and officially annexed by Israel in 1981.
Today, there are nearly three dozen Jewish communities on the Golan Heights, most on or near remnants of ancient Jewish towns.
Arguments for retaining the Golan based on its strategic and
military importance, or its natural resources may be overcome. Israel’s
historic and legal claims, however, are unique and irrefutable.
Yosef (Orach Chaim 489) discusses performing mitzvot and the relative
sanctity of the area east of the Jordan River (territory occupied by
the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menashe) Chazon Ish proves that wherever
the 12 tribes conquered and lived is automatically considered Eretz
Yisrael, by referring to the laws of shmita,
the sabbatical year, which depend on all tribes living in Eretz
Yisrael. If Jews living east of the Jordan River weren’t included, then
shmita would not apply to any area for anyone.
None of the Rishonim wrote that the area east of the Jordan River
is not part of Eretz Yisrael. The Ran (Nedarim 22a) writes that certain
mitzvot, like omer, did not apply in areas east of the Jordan River – implying less, but not no sanctity.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.