Recognition of the Golan Heights couldn’t have come at a better time for the embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose many criminal allegations have been the main source of chatter among Israelis, since the news of his indictment came out, casting grave doubt as to whether he’d be able to hold on to his post with Israeli elections only weeks away.
But all that changed Monday when U.S. President Donald Trump declared and signed a proclamation to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Here’s a small background of why this is significant.
It was just 52 years ago at the end of the 1967 Six Day War that the region came under Israeli control where Syrian Arabs comprised most of the area’s inhabitants. Although many subsequent pursuits were made by Syria to retake that coveted piece of land, attempts never proved to be successful.
Today, there are more than 30 Jewish settlements and over 40,000 residents (comprised of Jews, Druze and Alawites) who have turned the Golan into one of the most flourishing tourist destinations imaginable. Travelers come to see the many jaw-dropping gorgeous waterfalls, brooks, rivers and other imposing nature sites while tasting some of the best, award-winning wines which are grown in the region. Boasting some of the finest restaurants and boutique-hotels which redefine the word “pampering,” the Golan is home to some of the best vacation spots in the country. There is the famous Mt. Hermon ski resort, lush orchards where delectable fruits are produced and optimum soil and weather conditions which have facilitated the cultivation of many vineyards which have flourished there over the past 20-30 years.
But more important than all of that is the militarily strategic value of this area and its security implications for all of Israel. Perched high up at an altitude of 2,814 meters (9,232 feet), visibility extends about 40 miles north where Syria’s capital city of Damascus can be clearly seen, thereby giving Israel a superior advantage for monitoring any possible threats. It is also the perfect buffer zone between Israel’s enemies and the Jewish state. In addition to all of this, the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main source of fresh water is a significant part of the reason that the Golan Heights is such a precious and valuable resource to Israel.
All of these treasured and priceless assets are reason enough for Israel to hold on to land which, according to the scriptures, is part of God’s inheritance to them (both Bashan and Gilead which the tribes of Manasseh, Gad and Reuben liberated from the Amorites are part of the Golan Heights). This territory was part of the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis 15.
Historically, here are some of the events which took place, further solidifying Israeli ownership of the Golan Heights:
- Battle on the Golan between King Ahab and the army of Aram with a Jewish victory at the present site of Kibbutz Afik, which lies a few miles east of the Sea of Galilee.
- After the end of the Babylonian Exile, and during the Second Temple Period, Jews returned to their homes on the Golan. Subsequently the returnees were attacked by gentiles and Judah Maccabee brought his forces up to the Heights to defend them.
- At the conclusion of the Hasmonean Period, King Alexander Yannai finally re-conquered the Golan and Jews returned yet again. They rebuilt communities in central Golan, including the major cities of Banias and Susita, which formed part of the defense of the Golan.
- Their residents fought heroically against the Roman legions during the Great Revolt of 135 AD, known also as the Second Uprising. Some 10,000 residents of Gamla alone perished fighting against Rome.
- Second century Jewish coins were found on the Golan after its liberation during the last days of the June, 1967 Six Day War. These ancient coins were inscribed with the words, “For the Redemption of Holy Jerusalem.”
- Archaeologists have found the remains of 34 synagogues on the Golan.
- Jewish life returned yet again in the latter years of the 19th century when members of the Bnei Yehuda society from Safed purchased land on the Golan. In 1891, Baron Rothschild purchased around 18,000 acres in what is present day Ramat Magshimim.
- The Jewish pioneers of the First Aliyah (immigration) began to farm land they had purchased in the Horan region until the Turkish Ottoman occupiers evicted them in 1898. Their land was then seized, and in 1923 the entire Golan was given away by Britain to the French Mandate over Syria and Lebanon.
- Zionist leaders had earlier demanded the Golan be included within the new Jewish National Home because of its immense historical roots in biblical and post-biblical Jewish history. But Jewish liberation of the ancestral land was not possible until Israel was forced to fight for its very survival during the Six-Day War.
- The Golan Heights was officially annexed to Israel in 1980.
There is no question that President Trump has seemingly assisted Netanyahu at a critical time in his campaign. With this boost, it’s possible that the election outcome will turn in Bibi’s favor, but maybe more significant than that is that God may actually be using Trump to further accomplish His purposes for Israel by making sure that the inheritance given to the Jewish nation remains in their hands into perpetuity.