Golan Heights

WARNING: In late August, 2014, there was heavy fighting between Syrian government forces and Syrian opposition fighters, including those of the Al-Nusrat Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaida. The opposition fighters won the battle and took the checkpoint between the Syrian- and Israeli-run areas of the Golan Heights at Quneitra, in the process, taking scores of United Nations troops hostage and forcing others to flee to Israeli-controlled territory. As of early April, 2015, no UNDOF troops are left in Syria. The situation is fluid; some mortars have been fired either accidentally or intentionally at Israeli-run areas, there have been a few Israeli fatalities, and the Israeli Air Force in turn is believed to have killed some high-ranking Hezbollah officials and an Iranian general who were reportedly trying to set up missile batteries in order to attack Israel from the Syrian-controlled size of the Golan. So if you plan to visit the Golan, check on current conditions, exercise caution, and avoid the Syrian-run side of the Golan Heights at almost any cost.

The Golan Heights is a rocky plateau at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, and straddles the borders of Syria and Israel. Israel currently holds about two-thirds of the territory, which it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981, while Syria holds the remaining one-third.

Israel formally annexed the portions of the Golan Heights it controls in 1981. This annexation is not recognized by the United Nations. Nothing said in this travel guide should be misunderstood to constitute an endorsement of the position of any side

Map of the Golan Heights

Cities

Understand

Two-thirds of the Golan Heights has been under Israeli control since 1967, when Israel seized the area during the Six-Day War. The remainder is under Syrian control. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel returned another 5% of the land to Syria. Israel subsequently began building settlements in the area, and granted the Syrian Druze inhabitants permanent residency status. In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights.

Unlike other territories occupied by Israel, the part of the Golan Heights controlled by Israel is considered part of the country by most Israelis and officially by the Israeli government. Security is on par with Israel proper, and you won't find roadblocks.

In Israel, it is generally understood that the Golan Heights will not be returned to Syria. The Israeli viewpoint is that this would not be feasible due to economical and political reasons, and for reasons of security which they believe have only strengthened since the Syrian civil war started. There are no negotiations between Israel and Syria and this not likely to change any time soon.

The de facto Israel-Syria border runs through the Golan Heights along an area known as the Purple Line. This line was until recently patrolled by a United Nations peacekeeping force, but the peacekeepers were attacked by the Syrian opposition and all of them have been withdrawn from Syria, removing a stabilizing element from the border. No one is allowed to cross the border without special permission, and the border crossing is under the control of Israel and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusrat Front.

Talk

Hebrew is spoken among the Jewish inhabitants in the towns and kibbutzim. Arabic is also spoken in the region mainly by the Arabs and Druze living there, although many of them can also speak Hebrew or/and English.

Get in

Public transport: there are a few daily buses from Tiberias, Hatzor and Kiryat Shmona to the Golan Heights. Services are few and far between due to the low population. Golanbus operates public transport from/to the Golan Heights.

Private transportation: From route 90, there are four road "ascents" to the Golan Heights.

Hitchhiking is accepted here as it is throughout Israel, but you can still wait a long time to get to many destinations.

Get around

Waterfall in Amud river ("Nahal Amud")

This area, due to low population, has one of the worst public transport services in the entire country, with some bus stops receiving as few as two or three buses daily.

You might try hitch-hiking, which is used by Israelis of all ages and gender. You can rent a car as well, but only from a few rental services.

See

The western part of the Nimrod Fortress as seen from its top tower

Do

Sleep

Drink

Stay safe

Mine warning sign

The Golan is mostly a rural area, and as such it is pretty much crime free. However, the Golan is also one of the world's largest military barriers, and while it offers many hiking options, several basic safety rules should always be followed:

The golden rule is: Take as many words of advice as possible regarding safety from any local guidebook or people. If in doubt, keep safe!

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, October 25, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.