The beginning of April is usually cold, but sunny, on Mount Hermon. But a surprise waited for combat warriors of the Tzabar Battalion of the Givati Brigade: a snowstorm that covered the tallest mountain in Israel.
The mission for the battalion posted there last month is to protect one of the most valuable assets for Israel’s security – the place dubbed the “eyes of the country.”
“It is not just a nickname,” Lt. Ido Volovovic, a deputy company commander in the battalion, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview at the highest IDF military post atop the Hermon. “When the air is clear, you can see Damascus from here – and they can see us. They said that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad can see us from his presidential palace. So one of our main missions is to make sure they know that we are here.”
Mostly known as a tourist site where Israelis go skiing, the Hermon has several military posts located above the tourist area. The combat warriors rely on the snow-clearing unit that operates heavy machinery to pave the route and to carry soldiers and supplies up to the posts.
The three main missions of the battalion situated on the mountain are to protect the visiting tourists, to protect the border, and to defend the intelligence facilities located there.
Volovovic said that despite the hard weather that came by surprise, his company keeps carrying out its mission.
“Though we are not used to it, there are no excuses,” said Volvovic. “Even if there’s heavy snow, and we can barely see, we keep manning our position and carrying out our routine tasks.”
The threats facing Volvovic’s force range from mortars to snipers.
“We are ready to face all these scenarios. There’s a reason that my company was placed here – we come with a range of abilities and qualities that make us fit to carry out this task.”
The Hermon battalion is one of three in the 474 Regional Brigade, in charge of protecting the area of the Golan Heights and the border with Syria.
While most eyes are focused on the Lebanese border, the main mission of the 474 Brigade is “to prevent southern Syria from becoming southern Lebanon,” said a source in the brigade.
The brigade essentially combats Iranian entrenchment in southern Syria and acts to prevent Iran, Hezbollah and other proxies from using the poor border communities for action against Israel.
Just in the past year there were two incidents in which IEDs were placed near the border, and forces from the brigade thwarted those attacks.
The brigade also faces the threat of shepherds, who are used to collecting intelligence and carrying out attacks along the border.
The terrain does not allow building a fence in the area of the Hermon, and a major job of Volvovic’s battalion is making sure that no one crosses.
“We are the fence,” he said. “We have our own means and tools, which we use to prevent infiltrations. We work with the observation unit and other forces in the area, and due to this cooperation, we manage to protect the border.”