Mount Bental is one of Israel’s favorite mountain peaks to visit, partly due to the great panoramic views of the Golan and even Syria but also because Mount Bental was the site of a courageous battle fought during Israel’s war for the Golan. A short drive up, the mountain-top provides both scenic beauty and a glimpse back at the past – with bunkers open to visitors.
Signs on Mount Bental. Image courtesy of Boruch Len
Mount Bental can be found in the middle of the Golan Heights, towards the Syrian border. The mountain is frequently visited and has a fun cafe way up top – Coffee Anan (a pun on both the UN leader and the Hebrew for “Coffee of the Clouds”). Coffee, tea, and cakes with a view! The old army bunkers are open to the public, most of them have been completely cleared out but old beds and batteries can still be seen – and bumped into if walking without the aid of a flashlight. In a small room within the bunker, the tale of the battle can be read from signs on the wall. Maps help to understand the logistics and geography of the battle. When emerging from the bunker, a video binocular can be operated for a small fee to see the Israeli-Syrian frontier and the old battlefield now covered over with fields of grain and produce.
The battle itself was held during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. It was one of the largest tank battles ever and was miraculously won by the Israelis with their small force of 160 tanks. The Syrians attacked with 1,500 tanks and 1,000 artillery pieces to be slowly mowed down by the much, much smaller Israeli force. The Israeli army suffered large casualties as well and by the time the battle was over, only 7 Israeli tanks were operational. After 900 of the Syrian tanks were destroyed, the Syrians turned and fled, leaving the land for the victorious Israelis. Today, to remember the bloody battle, the valley below the mountain, reaching to Mount Hermon, is called the Valley of Tears.
Mount Bental – Mountain-top bunker
Recently repaved and fixed up for the tourism industry, Mount Bental also boasts a metal sculpture garden by Dutch artist Joop de Jong.
Visiting Mount Bental
Entrance to the site is free of charge and the site is open all day, every day.
By: Shem Tov Sasson. A Contributing Journalist for Tourist Israel, Shem Tov lives in the small Israeli city of Ma’alot. His personal blog about his experiences and adventures in the Holy Land can be found at Israel’s Good Name.