I wanted to try something a little different and a little adventurous when I had a short break while travelling in Israel for the Google Cloud Summit.
So I planned and headed up North to the Golan Heights to learn a little more and get some insights on what was going on in Syria. Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are all a few miles from each other in the Golan Heights area.
Grapes, cherries, apples, kiwis all grow everywhere. It is a lush fruit and vegetable forest. No, I did not go wine tasting, that is what tourists do!
I got to connect with Eliezer “Cheetah” Cohen who was a famous Major in the 1973 war to explain how that part of the Golan was captured by Israel.
The first break and stop I took was the Tel Saqi bunker which faces the Syrian border and is only about 1000 meters from the newly erected fence that never existed before.
Unfortunately, the reality is there is a lot of conflict along that border now and ISIS exists and is active in the villages right along that fence. So I took a selfie since it was a rare opportunity to get one with ISIS in the background with some relative safety…you will have to zoom a little. The grey fence is about 1000 meters away in the distance and ISIS is right there along the fence.
You can go right up to the border in some places! Take a nice little jog on the dusty trails…
or if you are well connected, you can visit former Syrian Intelligence headquarters that were built in the 1940s by the former Soviet Union. You need to get Army permission to visit this area and when I was on top of this bombed out structure, you could hear some of the gunfire, fighting and some small explosions in the distance.
There are a TON of great sights and places to visit in the Golan Heights, but the reality is that land mines still exist almost everywhere, so you have to be very attentive and cautious on where you hike.
You can also reach the Syrian border or even cross it if you also do not pay attention to the signs and road guidance.
Fortunately, the UN , vehicles and personnel are everywhere since their headquarters is a huge one and right in the middle of the DMZ area.
At one of the outposts, I talked with the UN soldiers for a few minutes. These ones were from the Netherlands. They observe, but are not permitted to carry weapons. They can play class of clans on their smartphones though!
The last stop was the famous Trail of Tears memorial and historical battle site.
This was one of the Syrian T-55 battle tanks that was kept in place from the battle 40 years ago.
Oh yes, there are tons of bunkers you can enter and check out at all these famous battle sites. Make sure you bring a flashlight or light on your phone!