The Jordan River originates from three main springs: Banyas in the Occupied Golan Heights, Dan in Israel, and Hasbani in Lebanon. The water of the Jordan River flows southward through Lake Hula towards Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee). The lower part of the river flows downstream of Lake Tiberias and joins the Yarmouk and Zarqa rivers, which spring from Syria and Jordan respectively. The river continues to flow southwards until it spills into the Dead Sea at approximately 400 metres below sea level. In truth, by the time the Jordan River reaches the Dead Sea, the river is dry and as a result, the Dead Sea is contracting. The entire length of the Jordan River is 360 kilometres with a surface catchment area of about 18,300 square kilometres. Forty percent of the water used in Israel comes from the Jordan River.
Even though we only saw the actual river at the crossing of the road over the river, you can see it’s progress by the trees surrounding the channel of the river.
The Golan Heights can be divided into three zones; the lower zone with olive trees and grapes, the middle zone with little vegetation and some ranching activities and the upper area with fruit trees and extensive farming in the Hula valley. A fair number of Israeli settlements have been built in the Golan Heights since 1967.
The middle section of the Golan is extremely dry, with remnants of the 1967 six day war and the occasional cattle farm.
The Israeli-occupied territory is administered by the Golan Regional Council, based in Katzrin, which has a population of 6,400. There another 19 moshavim and 10 kibbutzim. In 1989, the settler population was 10,000. By 2010 the Jewish settler population had expanded to 20,000 living in 32 settlements. 40% of the deciduous fruits in the country grow in the Golan Heights. 26 thousand tons of apples, 7,000 tons of wine grapes in vineyards, 2,000 tons of Kiwi and peaches and 1,000 tons of cherries each fill every grocery store or supermarket from Kiryat Shmona, in the north, to Eilat, in the farthest south. The real advantage is the high altitude of the villages in the north and center of the Golan Heights. It seems like most find their occupation amongst the Golan Heights residents working in tourism and agriculture. The orchards of the Golan export to Europe each year thousands of tons of nectarines, peaches, cherries and kiwis that are a great success among residents from abroad.
UNDOF (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) was established in 1974 to supervise the implementation of the Agreement on Disengagement and maintain the ceasefire with an area of separation known as the UNDOF Zone. Currently there are more than 1,000 UN peacekeepers there trying to sustain a lasting peace.
The Quneitra Crossing is an access point through the purple ceasefire line between Syrian controlled territory and the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights. It is on the southwestern outskirts of Quneitra, and not far from Ein Zivan in the Golan Heights. Syrian Druze from the Golan Heights are permitted to cross through the passage to study, work and live in Syria. The crossing is also used for the transfer of apples grown by Druze farmers under the auspices of the Red Cross.
Quneitra is the largely destroyed and abandoned capital of the Quneitra Governorate in south-western Syria on the Golan Heights. On June 10, 1967, the last day of the Six-Day War, Quneitra came under Israeli control. It was briefly recaptured by Syria during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but Israel regained control in its subsequent counter-offensive. The city was almost completely destroyed before the Israeli withdrawal in June 1974. Syria refused to rebuild the city and actively discourages resettlement in the area. Israel was heavily criticized by the United Nations for the city’s destruction, while Israel has also criticized Syria for not rebuilding.
We saw the Upper Golan from a pretty sanitized location, well within Israel. The story of both the six day war and the Golan Heights is the story of water. Since Israel depends so heavily on water from the Jordan River, the official story of the six day war makes the motivation and the results of the war somewhat in contention. The result of the war solidified the sources of the Jordan River and from there the essential aquatic lifeblood of Israel. Nonetheless, the area is of great interest both because of politics and the natural beauty of the area.
Golan Heights: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14724842
Quneitra Reservoir: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3297085,00.html