Mt Bental is an extinct volcano that overlooks Syria, all the way to outskirts of Damascus. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the grasp of why and how wars are waged in this region, and the instant comprehension of geopolitical truths that this site provide must be worth a great deal more.
I don’t think there is any such thing in Israel as a site that is solely historical or solely natural. It’s always a blend of many layers. From the top of Bental you look down into the crater of a volcano, with the entire Golan plateau falling off the distant cliffs into the Jordan River valley. You peer down at the Israeli cherry orchards that come right up to the border fence, which is patrolled by blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers. Meanwhile, up on top is a real live IDF bunker dug into the mountaintop, ready to go into use if the Syrians ever attack, as they did in 1973’s Yom Kippur War, when Israel was caught by surprise.
I like to talk about that war when I’m there. It isn’t a question of bravado or machismo. There’s no other place in the country where you get a full grasp of the frailty of Israel’s borders and situation. And rather than discuss the war as yet another grand Israeli triumph over evil enemies. I dissect the Yom Kippur War as an example of Israel’s hubris and weakness at the time. And how the men – or boys – in the lower ranks saved the day.