History of the Golan


Early Biblical Period: Before 953

Modern-day Ramat ha Golan (Golan Heights) is the western section of the Biblical region of Bashan.

Moses defeats the local ruler and allots the land to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The city of Golan, one of about 60 fortified cities in Bashan, is set aside as a city of refuge to which alleged murderers flee as they await trial. The city’s name may be derived from the word “golah” meaning exile.

Golan is a Levitical city of the family of Gershon.

First Temple Period: 953-586

Damascus (The Aramean Kingdom) attacks Bashan and seizes areas from Jewish rule.

800-784 King Joash of Israel recovers the Golan from Damascus.

743-733 Rezin, king of Damascus, restores the Golan to his dynasty.

732 Assyrian Emperor Tiglath-Pileser II conquers Bashan and establishes two Assyrian provinces, Karnini and Hawrina. He exiles the Jews and populates the region with immigrants from other parts of his empire. Jews gradually return to the area.

Second Temple Period: After 586

Jews exiled by the Babylonians return to their homes in Bashan and live alongside the non-Jewish inhabitants.

Hellinistic Period

164 Judah Maccabee and his army defeat attacking marauders who had persecuted the Jews of Bashan.

85 Hasmonean King Alexander Yannai competes for control of the Golan with the Nabateans, and successfully secures the region as part of his kingdom.

Roman Period

65 Pompey conquers the Golan.

30-20 King Herod gradually acquires all of Bashan from Emperor Augustus. Local Jews and those from Babylonia settle in Bashan and again declare the area a part of the Land of Israel. During Roman times and through the Byzantine period, the Bashan area enjoys flourishing cultural and religious centers.


67 Great Jewish Revolt. Josephus commands Jewish army in the region. Gamla, the chief city in the Golan, is the last stronghold against the Roman Legions. Jewish settlement, however, continues and even thrives following the failed revolt.

70 Agrippa II rules the Golan for Rome. He builds a medical center/recreation complex on the site of the Banyas natural springs.

Talmudic Period

300 Modern archeological finds dating from this period include remnants of 25 synagogues and Jewish artifacts from more than 100 sites in the region.

324 The Byzantine al-Jafna dynasty rules throughout Bashan.

614 Chosroes II, king of Persia, defeats the Byzantines near the city of Edrei.

Islamic Conquest

636 After the Battle of the Yarmuk the Golan comes under the control of the Caliph Omar. The region flourishes during the rule of the Umayyad dynasty, but then deteriorates. Permanent Jewish settlements, including towns from the Talmudic period, Nob, Hissafiya and Kfar Harub, disappear.

1400-1500 Druze settle in the Golan and establish authority over much of it.

Ottoman Empire

1831-40 Egyptians seize the Golan.

1840 Turks regain power.

1880-84 Turkish government settles Muslim Circassian refugees in the Golan to ward off Bedouin robbers. Other settlers in the area include Sudanese, Algerians, Kurds, Turkomans, and Arabs from Samaria.

1886 First modern Jewish settlement is established when Jews from Tiberias and Safed purchase land from the Ramtaniya village and found Golan BeBashan east of the Sea of Galilee.

1887 Jews from Tiberias and Safed purchase land from Bedouin town of Bir Ashkum.

1891 Baron Edmund de Rothschild purchases 18,000 acres of land to found a Jewish settlement. Not until the end of the French Mandate are the Jews stripped of official title to land in the Golan.

1899 The Pasha of Damascus expels the Jews from Rothschild’s settlement, but even after the 1923 Anglo-French Accord the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association administers the Baron’s property.

1908 Jews settle in the Bet-Zayyada Valley.

British Mandate: 1917-1944

1917 The British conquer Palestine and drive out the Turks.

1919 The map of the Land of Israel submitted by the Zionist delegation to the Paris Peace Conference includes Ramat ha Golan. The Syrian National Congress demands the unification of Syria and installs Faisal as king.

1920 The Jews are forced out of Golan in the face of Arab rioting. Britain and France divide up the former Ottoman Empire giving France a mandate over Syria. The French order Faisal to leave Syria.

1923 Having discovered the Golan lacks oil but that the Mosul area in northern Syria is rich in oil, the British cede the Golan to France in return for Mosul. Traditionally Mosul was part of Syria while the Golan was part of the Galilee. In return for the Golan, France relinquishes any claim to Palestine.

1944 The Golan becomes part of the Republic of Syria. Sunni Muslims, Circassians, Druze, Alawites, a small Christian minority and other small groups live in the region. With the end of the French Mandate, all Jewish land ownership on the Golan is nullified.

Israel and Syria: 1948-1995

1949 Armistice agreement between Israel and Syria after three months of negotiations.

1948-67 Syria uses the Golan Heights as a military stronghold from which to attack Jewish communities in the Hula Valley.

1951 Syria moves forces into the Banyas area in the Golan, which is supposed to remain a demilitarized zone.

1967 Six Day War. Under attack, Israel moves against Syrian forces in the Golan gaining control of the plateau. Kibbutz Meron Golan is founded.

1967-73 Jews establish communities in the Golan and create nature reserves and agricultural, industrial and tourist enterprises.

1973 Yom Kippur War. After a surprise attack by the Syrians, Israeli forces push invading Syrian forces back over the armistice line and beyond, establishing a new defense line 20 miles from Damascus.

1974 Under the Syrian-Israeli Disengagement Agreement, Israel withdraws from all territory taken in the Yom Kippur War as well as from Kuneitra, acquired in 1967.

1981 Israel enacts the Law of Ramat haGolan stating that “The law and jurisdiction and administration of the State will apply to the Golan,” thereby replacing military with civilian rule.

1995 There are 32 Jewish communities, including the city of Qazrin, four Druze villages, one Sunni village and one Alawite village on the Golan.

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