The Valley of Tears...

Shalom Partner and Friend of Israel,

On the 19th March, 2009, along with a group of about forty others, Julie and I were in the Golan Heights close to the Lebanese and Syrian Borders, as close as we could possibly go. The purpose was specifically to stand in the gap and pray there that Israel will not give the Golan Heights away as a peace offering to Syria. It was at the place called "The Valley of Tears" where we realized with great love and appreciation for this Nation how important the Golan Heights is to Israel and how it was bought with the blood of her sons.

"Passing through the valley of weeping (Baca), they will make it a fountain; even the early rain covers with blessings." Psalm 84:6

The Golan Heights

On our way to our first prayer point at the Lebanese border in the Golan we stopped at an ancient town named Banias (Panias) which was later renamed "Caesarea Phillipi" by Phillip one of King Herod’s sons, in honour of Caessar Augustus. However Banias (was originally Panias but because there is no ‘B’ in Arabic they changed the name.

It is in fact linked to the pagan temple worship of Pan, a Greek god, and the grotto from which the waters of the spring emerged in antiquity and this grotto were known as "the gates of hell." Pan was a half man and half goat in Greek mythology and Pan was centred with sexual lust and fear. The fear and dread was believed to be a spirit that in fact freezes anyone who did not worship Pan and the ancient people were afraid of this place as they believed that the god of the under-world lived in the waters below the grotto. In fact this is where the word panic arrived from. The rock behind this ancient temple was where the idols of Pan were placed. The ancient people would see this rock and come to the temple in great fear to worship Pan at this enormous pagan shrine.

There is evidence that pagan worship took place in this area from ancient times. The Canaanites, who inhabited the land prior to the return of Israel from Egypt, worshipped numerous false-gods - with the area surrounding Mt. Hermon having sacred connotation. A specific location mentioned during the conquests of Joshua includes one near Mt. Hermon which is thought to be an ancient Canaanite name for Caesarea Philippi: Baal Gad...

Joshua 11:16-17 So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and struck them down, putting them to death. (NIV) [See also Joshua 12:7; 13]

Israel did not maintain control of this area throughout a significant portion of its history - of course, especially following the fall of the northern kingdom. During inter-testament times numerous pagan and political influences shaped the area, including the Greeks and Egyptians. At the beginning at the 4th Century, when Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, the Temples dedicated to Pan near the Grotto were destroyed.

Have you ever considered where the term ‘The Gates of hell’ that Yeshua used comes from…?

Shortly before the transfiguration, Yeshua (Jesus) and the disciples went north to the region of Caesarea Philippi. The Bible does not say that Jesus actually went into the town, but it does not exclude it either. Certainly there would have been a number of smaller villages in the surrounding countryside. Yeshua (Jesus) frequently used parables, or word pictures, to illustrate his message. For this reason, it was quite likely that the following event took place within sight of Caesarea Philippi itself...

Matthew 16:13-23 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." NIV [also Mark 8:27-33]

The grotto of Pan and the rock face of the mountain would have made imposing visuals as Jesus declared Himself the Rock on which the church would be built and that the gates of Hell would never prevail against it. (Gates of Hell: think of a Grotto into which a human/animal sacrifice would be thrown, which would then be pulled down by the current, into the earth, not to rise again). Clearly these visuals would have driven home Jesus' claim of authority and power.

Tel Dan was our first stop to pray over the Lebanese Border from the top of the hill overlooking nearby towns of Lebanon. We stood point where most of the Lebanese war took place July 2006 and prayed especially for the believers living in the South of Lebanon which is a Hezbollah stronghold.

It was in this place where we can read in the Bible about the Ancient Leshem or Laish tribes in Judges 18: 27 – 29. Northern tribes’ cult centre - "From Dan to Beersheba" described limits of Kingdom. It was here that Jeroboam set up the golden calf.

The High Places…

We stopped at the false altar in the "High Places" where we read the passage in the Bible 1 Kings 12: 25 – 31. At this place Jeroboam built the "false Altar" and to distract the people from going to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.

"If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah." (Vs. 27)

He set up an imitation of Aaron's golden calf, and of the Egyptians. And this he presumed to do this because he knew the people of Israel were generally prone to idolatry: and that Solomon's example had exceedingly strengthened those inclinations.

Jerusalem was the City of God… Is still the City of God… Will always be the City of God. God set His Name in Jerusalem and nowhere in the Bible does it say that He took it away!

How can we replace what God has blessed? A reminder to us must be set always; The New Covenant was given to the Jew first. We were grafted in! More than ever before must we need to stand for the truth and righteousness in an evil and disobedient world. The mark on our lives should be obedience as God is stripping anything that is a hindrance to the future.

"If I keep not your memory, O Jerusalem, let not my right hand keep the memory of its art. If I let you go out of my thoughts, and if I do not put Jerusalem before my greatest joy, let my tongue be fixed to the roof of my mouth." Psalm 137:5-6 (BBE)

Just as God is speaking to Israel today, and just as He wants them to ‘learn’, ‘walk’ and ‘observe.’ Just as they were called ‘out of Egypt’ and just as they saw God’s deliverance – so too are we are called to do the same. God’s Covenant with Moses (Deuteronomy 5: 2) was ‘face-to-face.

Meron Golan – Mount Bental

"It is like the dew on Mount Hermon, falling on the hills of Zion. That is where the LORD has promised his blessing--- life that never ends." Psalm 133:3 (GNB)

At the second prayer point "The Valley of Tears" we were more solemn (and very cold) as we stood on the grounds which now is a monument to the brave soldiers that fought at that very place during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. On our right was Mount Hermon covered in snow sloping down towards Damascus in Syria and the air was cold and moist almost breathing in the snow, "like the dew on Mount Hermon." Mount Hermon is also believed to be the place of transfiguration Matthew 17:1-2. Looking ahead we could see villages in Syria, so close to the border of Israel, tanks left as memorials and the hills leading up towards the valley where this war took place.

A Memorial Stands in the place where the soldiers died:

Against hundreds of tanks - They bravely stood - They knew that only with their bodies -

They could defend - The villages of the Galil and the Golan - The Nation will not forget -

Its brave heroes - And deeds of the sons - Will be enshrined for all generations -

They fell but not in vain - Blessed be their memory

How sad it is that the Nation has forgotten and should the Golan be surrendered, it will have all been in vain. Israel paid for the Golan with the only possible currency - the blood of its children.

To understand the miracle of the war we need to first look at…

Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri. The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:26. The name "Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement" and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past year.

For info; this year Yom Kippur will be celebrated September 28, 2009 (Jewish Year 5770)

Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known: washing and bathing, anointing one's body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes Orthodox Jews routinely wear canvas sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur), and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur. Obviously there are exeptions.

It was October 6, 1973 on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, in the Valley of Tears hundreds of Syrian tanks launched a surprise night time attack on a ridge defended by a few tanks of the Oz brigade. The invaders came prepared. They had night vision on their vehicles; the Israelis did not! The line collapsed and the Syrians penetrated deep into the Israeli formations.

Fighting in the Golan Heights was given priority by the Israeli High Command. The fighting in the Sinai was sufficiently far away that the Israeli population centers were not immediately threatened; should the Golan Heights fall, the Syrians could easily advance towardsTiberias, Safed, Haifa, Netanya, and Tel Aviv. Reservists were directed to the Golan as quickly as possible.

The Israeli commander Lt. Col. Avigdor Kahalani (Now Brig. Gen. Ret.) reported that he was amazed at how bravely and skilfully the Syrians fought. He realized that he was facing annihilation and there was no immediate help coming. A strange calm came over him as he thought, "I am stronger than they are; I am braver than they are". "We are better than they are, let's storm them" and then moved his tank to the highest position, and there, fully exposed to the enemy force started firing directly at the approaching enemy tanks. This act of tremendous bravery and leadership, worked both ways. The Syrian force, which so far suffered heavy losses but knew that they're fighting an un-backed Israeli front line force, thought that an Israeli reinforcement force has arrived and began to take positions on top of the ridge, and the retreating tanks, returned and re-took their firing positions.

He communicated to the other tanks, "I’m moving back to my original position; we must hold the original line; everybody who can, move up with me!"

And they all moved up. The Syrians in the valley below were surprised to see the line still holding. When a tank crew reported that they were out of ammo, the commander responded, "They don’t know that; I need you to stand there and look like you have ammo."

Kahalani's gunner himself destroyed 17 Syrian tanks in this battle, one of them from range of 3 meters. However there was a problem with aiming. The commander tells how, during the night fighting, he noticed a tank with its rear light on standing next to him. He ordered his tank crews to turn off all lights. They all responded that they had no lights on. He repeated the request and got the same answer. At that point the truth dawned on him. He held his breath and prayed that he was guessing right. He turned the turret and from a distance of a few meters (yards) blew up the Syrian tank. It was the "straw that broke the camel's back" and the Syrian force, the main invading force, started retreating, leaving about 300 burned tanks and armoured vehicles behind.

Many heroes fell that day. With their blood they paid for the Golan.

This is the Valley of Tears!

And… at the Memorial in the Valley of Tears the Syrian tank supplied and equipped by Russia that penetrated the line, stands as a reminder of the many lives that were lost in protecting the Golan.

Sadly, despite the Israeli Defence Forces' ultimate success on the battlefield, a total of 2,688 Israeli soldiers were killed and 7,250 were wounded.

And this is the Golan Heights…

 When Yitzhak Rabin ran for election in 1992, he publicly declared at a giant election rally just two weeks before the election: "Whosoever gives up the Golan Heights, abandons the security of the State of Israel." Ehud Barak when he was Chief of Staff, strongly maintained the vital necessity of retaining the "Golan Heights west of Kuneitra" (i.e., everything Israel presently controls) for Israel's strategic survival. Yet today, just a few years later, on a political whim, he suddenly felt that the Golan is negotiable.

The fate of the Golan Heights, officially designated by law as part of the State of Israel, is not merely an issue of 17,000 Golan residents / settlers, but a question of national life and death. The fact that weak-willed politicians are prepared to sacrifice the very land under Jewish feet is cause for serious concern. To better comprehend this issue of serious national anxiety, one must first understand what the Golan is, and what it means to Israel's survival.

Topographically, the Golan is a 60-km. long by 20-km. wide mountainous plateau running from the upper Jordan Rift Valley and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in the west, the Yarmuk Valley in the south, and Mount Hermon in the north. On Israel's side of the Golan, there is a steep incline from the Golan plateau down to the densely-populated Hula Valley and eastern shore of the Kinneret.

The Golan is one of three sources that supplies Israel's fresh-water needs. It comprises the headwaters of the Jordan River (60%), and the mountain streams (40%) that flow down into the Kinneret. However, with the widespread contamination of the coastal plain's aquifers, and the Oslo Accords giving over control of the aquifers and rain flow runoff from the hills of Judea and Samaria over to the Palestinian Authority, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) becomes Israel's main, even sole, fresh-water source. Today, water flows freely into the Kinneret and then, via massive pumps using 5% of Israel's electric power, the National Water Carrier supplies this water to the rest of Israel. It was not always so.

In 1964, Syria, then occupying the Golan Heights, tried to divert these critical headwaters away from Israel in a blatant attempt to cripple Israel's fresh-water supply. Ironically, the IDF operation that destroyed the Syrian damming project was carried out under then-Israeli Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yitzchak Rabin - the same Rabin, who, as Prime Minister, we now know, was prepared to return control of Israel's fragile water lifeline to the Syrians, trusting them not to repeat past sins.

The critical Passes…

 Militarily, Israeli control extends just over the Crestline, giving the IDF direct eye and radar contact with the 65 km plain that runs from the Golan to Damascus. Just 20-30 km from Israel's forward positions, are the deployment areas of Syria's armoured divisions - a mere two-hour tank ride to Israeli territory.

This is the same road to Damascus where Paul had his encounter with the Lord. Acts 9:1 – 9 "Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?"

The Golan Heights acts as a defensive wall protecting Israel's north. A Syrian attack is topographically channelled via only two passes in which armoured vehicles can cross. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, some 150 Israeli tanks stopped the invading Syrian columns - with more than 1,400 tanks - in the "bottleneck" Valley of Tears pass in the north, and the pass through the volcanic hills in the south. The surprised and vastly outnumbered Israeli troops held off the invaders for the 48 hours that were required to mobilize and deploy the necessary forces that ultimately beat back and defeated the Syrian aggressors.

Having these critical passes in Israeli hands is no less important now, with Syria's enormous build up of highly advanced weaponry, than it was in 1973. Since 1982, the Syrian army has doubled in size, whereas according to foreign sources, Israel's army has only increased by 15-20%. On paper at least, it should be understood that Syria has already achieved military parity with Israel. Hence, one needn't be a military genius to realize that it's better to concentrate a small standing force on the high ground, defending the 10 km. area of the passes, than the same force having to defend a 60-kilometer line.

Any proposed pull-back of Israeli forces from these passes returns Israel to the vulnerability she suffered prior to the 1967 Six Day War, and more so. It is only the vast size of Israeli artillery and tank forces in the Golan Heights targeting the Syrian army's deployment area beyond, as well as the capability to shell and bomb the outskirts of Damascus at a given moment that is keeping Hafez al-Assad from implementing his "Greater Syria" strategy where Israel is concerned.

Just imagine!

Imagine a Syrian repeat performance of the 1973 surprise attack, this time with 4,000 tanks, and 80-100 Scud-C missiles fired upon Haifa and Tel Aviv within a 2-hour span, sowing widespread civilian panic and seriously disrupting Israel's emergency reserve mobilization. Remember, the Syrian Scuds are twice as powerful as the Iraqi Scuds that hit Israel during the Gulf War, and the Scud-C is four times as accurate.

Can Israel really afford to even partially pullback their forward positions from the Golan Crestline and give control of the key passes to Syria in exchange for Syria's signature on a piece of paper?

Then Prime Minister Barak, in his zeal to make a deal on the Syrian track, tells us that he was prepared to withdraw from most or all of the Golan Heights. And now again, we see that plans for same proposals wanting to be implemented.

"Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise him, my Saviour and my God. Here in exile my heart is breaking, and so I turn my thoughts to him. He has sent waves of sorrow over my soul; chaos roars at me like a flood, like waterfalls thundering down to the Jordan from Mount Hermon and Mount Mizar. May the LORD show his constant love during the day, so that I may have a song at night, a prayer to the God of my life. To God, my defender, I say, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go on suffering from the cruelty of my enemies?" I am crushed by their insults, as they keep on asking me, "Where is your God?" Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise him, my saviour and my God." Please read the whole Psalm 42

We believe that the Lord has strategically placed us overlooking the Golan and the Sea of Galilee and together with you our Prayer Partners we are called to be Prayer Watchmen for this area and this is a God-given privilege not to be taken lightly.  Thank you for making this possible. May God bless you with His perfect SHALOM always,

Alf & Julie Saunders

15th June, 2009


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