A Special Commemoration on Mount Hermon of the Yom Kippur War

On May 24th, 2023, we partially completed my mom’s plan to revisit the top of Mount Hermon and traverse the trails that we had intended to hike eight years ago. What we didn’t expect was to be joined by the families of the young soldiers who died in the Yom Kippur War, fought there 50 years prior.

Our First Visit to Mt. Hermon in 2015

Eight years ago we began our nomadic journey in Israel: in the city of Jerusalem. We spent our very first weeks as amateur backpackers zigzaging in a northerly direction in Israel, eventually hitching a ride to the Druze town Majdal Shams, and then up to Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is Israel’s most northern and highest point. The mountain also intersects with both Syria and Lebanon’s borders.

As soon as we reached the top of Hermon, we intended to begin down one of the main hiking trails. But we noticed that the Israeli Defense Soldiers and all other hikers were only standing around. My mom went over to one of the IDF soldiers and asked what was going on. Why was no one hiking?

“You don’t hear that?” he asked. “They’re bombing on the border.”

“Oh, I have five kids, I don’t notice noise easily,” my mom half-jestingly replied.

But then we stopped and listened. We not only heard the bombs now, but could even see smoke.

We were the last people who had gone up the ski lift. Just after reaching the top, the Syrians began bombing the Druze villages on the border (on Syria’s side,) only some 5 kilometers away. A few minutes later, everyone was escorted off the mountain, and all the tourists in the whole area, including the town of Madjal Shams were told to leave. (We were aware that the bombing would not cross over to the Israeli side.)

From the bottom of the ski lift, there were no buses or any way for us to get down the rest of the mountain and back to town. So we started our long, slow 6 mile walk back. We were passed many times by military trucks, but for security reasons they couldn’t stop to pick people up.

On that long, slow walk, we were able to catch some of the beauty of the Golan by slowly taking in its vistas of wildflowers vibrantly growing over dry, arid rock and of shepherds leading their sheep (in Israel! how appropriate).

However, it was an incredibly sad and sobering experience to hear the bombs go off every several minutes.

We took another unplanned and very long walk (excruciatingly long this time!) down a mountain in the Golan when leaving the region. That story to the ending of our time in the Golan can be read here.

Back Again in 2023

We celebrated our 8th year travel anniversary on May 18th in Israel, back again in the place where it all started. My mom found it only appropriate to return to Mount Hermon and try again to do the hike we originally had wanted to do. But this time without bombing, hopefully.

When we arrived at the bottom of the ski lift that would take us up Mount Hermon, we noticed a large group of people putting on some green hats. My mom, Grace, and I entered a cable car with a grandmother and her grandson from that group.

As we ascended, the grandmother told us that it was a day of commemoration for the soldiers killed in the Yom Kippur War. She was the sister of one of the men who had died. He lost his life fighting there at only 21 years old.

It was almost surreal to meet this woman whose family was part of those who defended Israel against Syria’s invasion. The victory of the Yom Kippur war contributed to sustaining Israel’s existence as a sovereign nation, as it is today.

Nope, No Hiking

After we all got off the ski lift, the group with green hats began their events for the war memorial. Since the memorial would be held in Hebrew, we headed off to find the hiking trails.

But the hiking trails from 8 years ago had been closed off from civilian access. Bummer. My mom’s plan had only been half-fulfilled, but what an amazing day to have mounted Hermon for the commemoration!

The day wasn’t over yet though. Before heading back to the kibbutz, we got in some hiking at Nimrod’s Fortress. It was one of the coolest archeological sites we’d seen so far. (:

Just one view from the massive complex of Nimrod’s Castle
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