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Ramat Ha-Golan

RAMAT HA-GOLAN (Heb. רָמַת הַגּוֹלָן; the "Golan Heights" or "Plateau"), comprises practically the whole Golan region of N. Transjordan which forms the western section of the *Bashan. Ramat ha-Golan borders on the upper Jordan Rift Valley and Lake Kinneret in the west, on the Yarmuk Valley in the south, on the Ruqqād stream in the east, and on the Hermon Massif in the north. In the last stage of the Six-Day War (1967), nearly the entire region was occupied by the Israeli army and came under Israeli administration. Together with the southeast portion of Mount Hermon – also occupied by Israeli forces – it measures about 480 sq. mi. (1,250 sq. km.). The origin of the name Golan is not clear; A.J. Brawer proposes that it is derived from golah ("exile") as the biblical "Golan in Bashan" (Deut. 4:43; I Chron. 6:56) was a city of refuge for expatriates (see below History and Archaeology).

Three subregions are distinguished: the southern Golan, a plain area with land suitable for farming, characterized by a hot, dry climate and an average annual rainfall of 10 in. (250 mm.); the central Golan, moderate slope with altitudes of up to 3,000 ft. (700 m.), with rocky lands and deep gulleys; and the northern Golan, rising to altitudes of 2,000–3,000 ft. (600–900 m.), with a number of hilltops attaining 3,600–4,040 ft. (1,100–1,226 m.). This last area is characterized by low temperatures and large amounts of rain (about 40 in. or 1,000 mm. a year). The dominant characteristics of the Golan's topography were created through volcanism, which continued into the Middle Pleistocene period, i.e., until approximately 500,000 years ago, with lava pouring out from fissures and craters and covering the plateau with a continuous layer of basalt and strings of volcanic cones, the largest being Tel Avital (Tell Abu al-Nadāʾ, 1,204 m.). The plateau rises gently from south to north and dominates the rift valley to the west and south with abrupt escarpments. Stream courses, mainly in the southern section, have cut deep ravines, laid bare light-colored chalks, marls, and limestones underneath the black basalt, and separated small portions of the plateau from each other. Soils are mostly dark, fertile, and deep grumusols and are covered with basalt boulders in the north.

The Lower Golan has been farming country throughout most of its historic past, with grain crops as the principal branch; the ample rainfall and resulting stronger erosion make the Upper Golan a region of brush, forest, and pastures, rather than tilled fields, and biblical expressions such as the "cows" or "cattle of Bashan" (Amos 4:1; Ezek. 39:18) and "oaks of Bashan" (Isa. 2:13; Ezek. 27:6) seem to refer to this section. Deforestation by man has left only stunted remnants of ancient forests in the northern Golan; flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, however, continued to be the region's economic mainstay until the recent past.


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Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.