Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours of Israel.
Day in Israel is marked the day after Remembrance Day. The lead up to
the holiday actually starts a week earlier with Holocaust Remembrance
Day and the week in between is a very solemn week. After Remembrance
Day, when we mourn the loss of our fallen soldiers starting at sundown
and ending at sundown, we immediately kick off Independence Day which is
a day of celebration, barbecues, picnics and touring around the county.
The idea is that we shouldn’t celebrate the creation of the modern
state of Israel, without remembering what it took for the Jewish people
to retain their independence.
A good way to celebrate this Independence
Day and the following weekend, which will have beautiful weather, would
be to hit the trails in northern Israel while incorporating one of the
many battle sites in the Golan Heights.
After enjoying a
fantastic family walk or hike through the Banias, Nimrod’s Castle or Tel
Dan, make your way east on Route 99. After passing the Banias (Nahal
Hermon) Nature Reserve, the road bends to your right. Stay to your right
and get off the main road after about 250 meters following the bend to your
right just after crossing a small bridge. There will be a small brown
sign pointing to a small hill in the distance called “The Golani
Overlook” or “Mitzpeh Golani” (Tel Faher). Follow this gravel road about
two kilometers to the hill by a eucalyptus grove.
The road that
you were driving on was actually built by the British between 1927 and
1934 to pump oil from northern Iraq to Haifa in order to ship the oil to
Europe and beyond. In 1938, the British and Americans built the refinery
in Haifa for military use under British control. Park here. At the edge
of the trees you will see some fantastic views, trenches, burnt out
vehicles and fortifications. Please be aware of the fenced-off remains
of the mine fields, which are well-marked.
The spring of 1967 was a trying
time for Israel. Only twenty two years after the Holocaust, the Jewish
people still did not know peace. In fact, between 1964 and 1967 the
border here with Syria saw a lot of action. There was a major
Syrian military base with many paths running down the hill that
overlooked the Israeli kibbutzim below.
the early morning hours on the fifth day of the Six Day War, Moshe
Dayan believed that the war would end soon. After being pressed by the
Jewish villagers below the Golan Heights to finally stop once and for
all the Syrian shelling of their communities, the order was given to
David Elazar to take the Golan.
The tanks were the first ones to
enter this area and the Armored Corp captured the Syrian positions of
Qala’ and Za’ura and Ein Fit just to the north. After a day of battle,
only two IDF Sherman tanks remained in operation with twenty-four
destroyed or disabled. The Golani Infantry Brigade was given the task to
take Tel Faher as the Syrian army was dug in too deep to be taken out
by artillery, airstrikes or tank fire despite repeated sorties. The nine
tanks and nineteen halftracks of the Golani Brigade were all destroyed
in this battle, their men killed or wounded.
The Syrians took
their fair share of fatalities and it seems most of the officers and
commanders that had survived fled in the face of the oncoming Israeli
forces who kept continuing their advance despite taking on heavy
casualties. Battalion Commander Musa Klein ordered his surviving
twenty-five men to split up into two separate groups and attack up the
hill towards this position from the north and the south.
the trenches, minefields and barbed wire…there were no signs marked
“Danger, Minefield!” back then. Captain Ahmad Khalili would later recall
his position with Syrian artillery, machine-guns and anti-tank weapons a
few dozen meters behind them, “It was one of our most fortified
positions…It placed them directly in our crosshairs.”
brave Golani soldiers charged up the hill, those that survived the
initial Syrian barrage lay down on the barbed wire so their comrades
could cross over their bodies, and from there they jumped into these
Syrian bunkers and trenches. From the northern attack, ten of the
thirteen Israelis were killed or wounded and in the south only one
became a licensed tour guide in 1999. He completed his Master’s degree
at the University of Haifa in the Land of Israel Studies and is
currently studying toward a PhD.