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Israel Photography by Yoav Cohen

A war relic in paradise: Tel haElla in the Golan Heights

Prints from this series are available for purchase


Just outside of the fence surrounding Keshet in the Golan Heights is a solitary mound, upon which sits an abandoned military outpost from the Yom Kippur War.

Standing on the top of Tel HaElla is a surreal feeling. The fact that soldiers manned this outpost 50 years ago - eating, sleeping, guarding, patrolling the area - is a distant memory brought to life as you walk through the concrete trails. You can almost imagine the scenes of the war that shook Israel's population to the core as you stand overlooking the water reservoir, which today serves local agriculture and livestock.

Impeccably intact, its a stark reminder of how one of the most green pieces of land in the Middle East is also one of the most contested, with vast patches of it's 1,800 squared kilometres still inaccessible for security reasons, mainly because of minefields - which also surround this unique location.

Face north, and you can see the snow capped Mt. Hermon. Face east, you can almost see the Syrian border. Face west, and you see Mt. Meron and Sefad. Turn south, and beyond Keshet is an incredible view of the southern Golan Heights, and on the horizon - The Sea of Galilee.

I was lucky to experience this incredible place at its pinnacle twice within the space of 24 hours.

Our second visit up the mountain was on Sunday morning, when I convinced my brothers-in-law to get up at the ungodly hour - 5am - to watch and photograph the sunrise. Every second of freezing cold temperatures and howling winds was worth the freshly brewed finjan coffee, and the results speak for themselves.

Our first experience was a different story. On Saturday evening we decided to climb up and watch the sunset. Along with us on the mound were at least 50 other people - visiting seminary students, older locals, tourists from the south. Some religious, some secular, some evidently spiritual, other definitely not. In that moment, a wide representation of Israel's Jewish tapestry sat down facing west, and watched the sun dip behind Mt. Meron - as Shabbat ended and a new week began.*

As incredible as the view was, even as a photography geek I was glad that my gear was not there. And it seemed that everyone else had gotten the same memo. Leave the camera at home, put the phone in your pocket, take a deep breath, and be there - immersed in the moment.

My conclusion from this experience was that while you can photograph or video a sunset, there are things that transcend any combination of pixels on a screen or canvas. The sounds and smells, the wind, and generally the tranquility alongside others (especially during 2020) are best left to imagination and memory to fully capture.

* In Judaism, the belief is that a day starts in the evening rather than the morning or at midnight ("And there was evening, and there was morning" - Gensis 1 - the story of creation)

Get there with Waze: Keshet, Golan Heights


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