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Israel's New Attraction: "Follow the Spy"

And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.—Joshua 2:1



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Hard Times in Zion...

Where do Israelis vacation? Where do they rest from the Jewish wars? The most popular destinations are Greece, Turkey and Egypt. They are cheaper than Israel. Unluckily, their accessibility is limited. The 2012 Travel Warnings of the Israeli National Security Council recommended Israeli citizens to avoid visiting Tunisia (Djerba Island is the site of a religious festival), Egypt (especially the Sinai Peninsula), and Turkey. Greece is not always welcoming; in the past, Israeli vandalism towards local facilities closed the island of Kos to their visits. Other destinations abroad are above the financial capability of most Israelis; thus, they often opt for a "zimmer" in the Galilee or the Golan Heights. These are alpine-style huts with pretty views of the mountains and little else. It may work for a year or two, but few will repeat such a dull experience. On January 18, 2013, a new option will be inaugurated among the minefields of the Golan Heights. A trek along the paths used by Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy in Syria; the inauguration commemorates the 47th anniversary of his capture by the Syrians.

Minefield—Golan Heights

Minefield—Golan Heights
Middle East Perspectives: Personal Recollections (1947 - 1967)

Hushniya Base - Golan Heights

Hushniya Base - Golan Heights
Campaign 118: The Yom Kippur War 1973 (1) The Golan Heights

Dusting the Old Maps

The two maps below cover roughly the same area in the central Golan Heights. The one on the left shows the former locations of Syrian towns and bases; the one on the right is a scan of a contemporaneous Israeli map, showing only Israeli settlements. Using it for traveling around, one will see crumbling Syrian roads that are not marked on it. Ruins of the Syrian towns cover much of the area, yet, they are not marked in the new maps. Roughly at the right side of both maps, at their center, near the inactive oil-pipe, is Qeshet-Keshet (each map spells it differently), just south of the Hushniya Base, which belonged to the Syrian commando until the 1973 war. The picture next to this paragraph shows the site in the actuality. The Israeli map doesn't show it. This was one of the sites visited by Eli Cohen. Yet, printing pretty maps doesn't change the reality: this is a war zone. I accumulated roughly two years in the Golan Heights; eight months of this period were spent on daily trips along the strongholds. One of the most important instructions we had while in the area was never to leave cleared routes; anything else was to be treated as a mined field. This was no joke; every year several wild animals got killed after stepping on them. This is the ultimate fun for Israelis; take a vacation over cleared minefields, following "our spy in Damascus."

Silk Road Silk Road

Golan Heights map with Syrian sites | Sterilized Israeli map of the same area

Israel discovered that it cannot rob the past, even if it destroys all its physical reminders and prints pretty new maps that do not follow the topography of the area. Desperate to create new touristic attractions and make another buck, Israel recognizes now that the area is Syrian. The Eli Cohen Path ("Shvil Eli Cohen" in Hebrew) was created by Gil Brenner. It covers the main sites visited by the spy in the Golan Heights. It begins with the Al-Hama baths in the south, passes through several abandoned strongholds, shows the now destroyed anti-tank blockades that the spy reported about to Israel, reaches the officers dining room in the abovementioned Hushniya Base, and even visits the Syrian Army command post in Quneitra. Brenner claims that the eucalyptus trees surrounding the former Syrian military bases were not the result of the spy convincing the Syrian army to plant them for the sake of camouflage and shade while his intention was to facilitate the Israelis recognizing the military bases. Instead, he claims that the Syrians had an agricultural research center in the area that had acclimatized the trees and planted them before the spy's arrival. The research center is also featured on the new path. Finally, the tour ends in Majdal Shams, a Druze town in the northern side of the Golan Heights. There, those who didn't step on an old mine, have the opportunity to meet a direct witness of the spy's execution in Damascus, on May 18, 1965. To put this mildly, the claim is dubious. To validate it, Mr. Brenner brought the spy's widow, shown in the picture, to the town, where she met the execution witness. The identity of the latter is kept secret, providing thus an additional point of interest.

HNadia Cohen - The Spy's Widow

Nadia Cohen - The Spy's Widow
Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Following this show of violence, war, and horror, the survivors are allowed to return home, but not before having paid a hefty fee to Mr. Brenner for his efforts. Now, they are fresh and ready to continue the Jewish Wars.

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