Mount Bental is a volcano in the northern part of the Golan Heights, not far from the Syrian border. The Golan Heights is made of volcanic rock. The southern part is old volcanic rock (about five million years old, to be precise) and the further north you go, the younger the volcanic rock becomes. In the northernmost part of the Golan Heights, in Syria, the volcanic rock is only ten thousand years old. Mount Bental is part of a volcanic mountain range in the northern part of the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. Mount Bental is about a million years old. It is 1,165 meters high. Next to it, Mount Avital stands 1,204 meters high but is not accessible since there is an Israeli army base on top of it.
Mount Bental has a horseshoe shape rather than the classic cone shape because of the way it was formed. Basalt flow made the mountain grow higher and higher until eventually the summit became blocked. When pressure built again the magma couldn’t erupt from the top and the side of the mountain exploded. Mount Bental is the part that didn’t explode.
At the foot of the mountain you can see Kibbutz Merom Golan, the first Israeli settlement in the Golan Heights. It was established in July 1967 and has had its present location since 1972.
Since Mount Bental looks out onto Syria, it is a good place to examine the political situation between Israel and Syria. For hundreds of years, until the agreements after War World I, there wasn’t any border between the two. The League of Nation divided what was the Ottoman Empire between the French and the British. The Land of Israel, including the Galilee, the Sea of Galilee and the Banias, was given to the British and what is today Syria and Lebanon was given to the French. A few small changes notwithstanding, the border between the British and French territories came to be the border between Israel and Syria in 1949. Disputes over rights to water and agricultural land escalated. In June 1967 tensions between Israel and its neighbors grew and the Six Day War broke out. The Syrians bombed Israeli villages along the border and Israel conquered the Golan Heights on June 9. Today the border is based on the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement between Israel and Syria, agreed after the Yom Kippur War. In 1981, the Israeli government passed the Golan Heights Law, which applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights. International law doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights.
On the Syrian side of the border the abandoned city of Quneitra can be seen. The Syrian Civil War began in March 2011 and the end is not in sight. The borderline between Israel and Syria has switched hands a few times between Assad’s regime and different rebel groups. Although Israel has taken no position in the conflict, Syrian rebel shells have mistakenly fallen in Israel on a couple of occasions, and some attacks in Syria have been attributed to Israel. Injured Syrians who come to the Israeli border crossing can expect to receive treatment no matter which side they represent.
There is a UN military viewpoint on Mount Bental; when the soldiers are there you can talk to them about the situation in Syria.
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