The eastern edge of the Golan Heights is scattered with the remains of extinct volcanoes which produced the basalt rock predominant in the region. Protruding from the flat Golan plateau, their height provides an important strategic advantage for the monitoring of activity literally meters away just over the border in Syria.
One such hill is Mount Bental – 1,170 meters above sea level – near the first kibbutz to be established in the Golan after the Six Day War, Merom Golan. Mount Bental is no longer used as a military base, but visitors can get some idea of what life is like for the Israeli soldiers in similar underground bunkers elsewhere as well as enjoying refreshments in the ‘Coffee Anan’ restaurant on its peak – the highest café in Israel. Whether or not a certain former UN Secretary General has ever visited Mount Bental I do not know, but ‘Anan’ also means cloud in Hebrew and in winter the Bental is indeed often shrouded in low cloud.
On clear days, however, Mount Bental offers magnificent views of nearby Mount Avital, Mount Hermon with the Druze villages clinging to its lower slopes, Kuneitra, the wind farm at Alonei HaBashan, the many surrounding vineyards which produce the wonderful wines of the Golan and into Syria too. It is also the best place from which to view the Valley of Tears – the site of the bitter four day-long tank battle during the Yom Kippur war during which the crews of some 160 Israeli tanks managed to hold off almost ten times their number of Syrian tanks.
Photos by Akus and Hadar Sela