Facing The Valley of Tears (Golan Trail)
The monument for the 77 battalion in the second day of the Golan Trail (when coming from north), is a popular night camp for hikers. Below the monument stretches the shallow “Valley of Tears” (Emek Habakha). In the first days of Yom kipur war the 77 battalion defended the western outlets of this valley with 30 tanks. From the east approached the 7th division of the Syrian army with about 300 tanks and additional more than 100 most advanced tanks of the Republican Guard at its reserve.
The 77 battalion was commanded by a lieutenant colonel named Kahalani, who received some intelligence reports at the days before the war, and unlike the general headquarter, understood their meaning. By the permission of his superior he prepared his battalion for battle and because of that, managed to be in his positions on time immediately when the war started. Being in positions on time proved to be crucial because they were really superior ones.
In addition, the Israeli tanks’ commanders used better tactics than the Syrian ones, and they also had some technical small advantages which all together gave the Israeli tanks an advantage of 1 to 3 seconds every time they were looking and dealing with targets. The battle continued for 2 days and more without a stop. In its end the battalion left with only half its tanks and staff, but the valley below was filled with hundreds of burned tanks and soldiers (who courageously kept coming, wave after wave).
At its climax the battle reached an international significance, and for some hours the eyes of the world were watching it closely. It was in the morning of the 8th of October. At this time the Syrian army accomplished the conquest of the central and southern parts of the Golan, but the north of the Golan was still defended by the 77 battalion who kept his original positions. Few hundreds kilometers away, Israeli airplanes were armed with nuclear bombs and the pilots were waiting for the results of the battle in order know if to take off or not.
Eventually, at the afternoon, when news emerged that the battalion managed to break the attack, the airplanes were disarmed and the use of nuclear facilities in local wars was delayed for time being. If they had been using the bombs an important taboo would have been broken, but the taboo, for mean while, still exists. Now we know that a nuclear weapon was not needed any way, even if the results of the battle were different. The Syrian army paid a heavy price for its success every where, and it was completely exhausted.
The threat of a nuclear war is far from being over. Every thing seams relatively quiet all around, but one should remember that the consensus in 1912 was that the era of the large scale wars was over. A very responsible leadership is running the business nowadays, all the way from Washington to Berlin and from the Kremlin to a very cautious party in China. However, the future is not clear at all. Nobody equips itself with an F-34 in order to hunt terrorists in a cave and the US don’t develops a new kind of an advanced frigate-destroyer because of pirates in Somalia.
Israel bought additional 3 submarines with nuclear capabilities and China announced that it will double its military budget. these are all very bad signs. Below the surface deep streams are gathering forces and the pressure is systematically raising towards the day when oil will no longer be left at the Arab gulf for the industrial world to suck it. President Obama eased this tension by informing that the US will replace the South Arabia and Kuwait as a main producer and exporter of oil, but it will not be for him to execute this decision.
Licences should be given, tests should be taken, and a policy should be decided. All these take time and up to three more presidents will need to be involved in the process and they can delay it or even change its course. In a matter of fact, the decision taken by Obama is not the best interest of the US, but it was not the best interest of Kuwait to drain its wells, as much as it is not the interest of Russia to sell gas to Europe – it strengthens the Ruble and destroys Russian economy.
Moreover, artificially keeping the price of oil low undermine the ability of substitutes to take its place. Mauritania, for example could be an excellent place for the new versions of bio-diesel that can be heated there by sun to almost purification level. This is also the case with Australia. Heating and cooking should no longer be done by gas, and a determinate leadership is needed in order to enforce these measurements, because technically it can be done.
I visited the Golan about a month after the war. My father’s 134 battalion took the families to a tour along the course of battles they had. There were thousands of burned vehicles beside the roads and far away in the fields inside. First snow was falling, covering a thin layer of black dust that was lying over the dark lava earth of the plateaus. I remember the tour as a great adventure in my childhood. Friends of the battalion hosted us in military camps and we were eating with soldiers in a fortified dinning room.
It was delicious. I always thought the food in the army was good. When eventually we reached the heavy snow at mount Khermon, we run into the slopes and started playing with it, ignoring the signs of death reflected by almost every turn in the curving road.
- Carefully read the instructions at the beginning of this page.
- The Golan Heights have numerous minefields. Landmines also occasionally get swept out of fenced areas.
- Do not cross fences, and if you encounter an unidentified metal object, keep your distance and immediately inform the police.
- Campfires are prohibited in all areas of the Golan Heights, except in permitted campgrounds.
- The trail goes through many nature reserves, in which it is forbidden to stay at night (except in permitted campgrounds).
- Emergency phone numbers in Israel are: 100 for police, 101 for emergency health services, 102 for the fire brigade.
- Please do not harm the natural environment and leave no litter along the trail.