by Wayne Blank
Golan, from the Hebrew word pronounced go-lawn, meaning captive, was located in the eastern territory of the tribe of Manasseh (see Tribal Lands), east of the Jordan River. It was designated as one of the Cities Of Refuge. Although an important city in its day, after its destruction by the Hasmonean king Alexander Janneus who ruled 103-76 B.C. (see The Maccabees), it became lost to Bible History. Today, its location has not been identified with certainty, although it has been estimated to be about 17 miles / 27 kilometers east of The Sea Of Galilee.
The name Golan is perhaps best known from the Golan Heights, which took their name from the ancient city. Geographically, the Golan Heights are located within Mount Hermon to the north, the Wadi ar-Ruqqad (a seasonal part of the Yarmuk River) to the east, the Yarmuk River to the south, and The Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee to the west. Politically, the area is at the present time disputed between Israel and Syria, but rightfully held by Israel.
After the First World War, the Golan Heights fell under French administration through their mandate of Syria, and then were transferred to independent Syria in 1941. After the Israeli War of Independence in 1948-1949, the Golan Heights were fortified by the Syrians, and numerous Israeli civilians were killed or injured by Syrian artillery and sniper fire while fishing or tending their farms.
At the end of the Six Day War in June 1967, in which Israel was simultaneously attacked from all directions by Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the victorious Israeli ground forces, under air cover by the Israel Air Force, drove the Syrian forces back from the Golan Heights to put an end to the deadly fire that had been raining down on Israeli civilians during the previous years. When the armistice was signed on June 10, the Golan Heights were, just as they had been at a time long ago, under the control of Israelite people.