Sharona Margolin Halickman

The Biblical origins of the Golan Heights

At the end of Parshat Ki Tavo, Dvarim 29:6-7, Moshe reminds B’nai Yisrael how Sichon, King of Cheshbon and Og, King of Bashan came to wage war on them and how B’nai Yisrael smote them, took their land and gave it to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half the tribe of Menashe.

The original battle is depicted in Bamidbar 21:33-35:

They (B’nei Yisrael) turned and ascended by way of Bashan; Og, King of Bashan, went out against them, he and his entire people, to do battle at Edrei. God told Moshe: “Do not fear him (Og, King of Bashan) for into your hand have I given him, his entire people, and his land; you shall do to him as you did to Sichon, King of the Amorite, who dwells in Cheshbon.” They smote him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left of him, and they took possession of his land.

Why did God specifically tell Moshe not to fear Og?

In Dvarim 3:11 we learn: “For only Og king of Bashan was left of the remaining Refaim (giants), behold his bed was an iron bed in Rabbat  of the descendents of Amon- nine cubits was its length and four cubits its width, by the cubit of that man.”

Targum Yonatan says that Og was the only giant who survived the flood in the days of Noach.

What does Og’s bed have to do with anything?

According to Ramban, the fact that Og’s bed was made out of iron (not wood) shows how large and heavy he was, not someone that you would want to go up against in battle.

The Talmud, Brachot 54b tells the story of Og being so strong that he uplifted a mountain and tried to kill B’nai Yisrael by throwing this “giant stone” at them. Og did not succeed and in the end Moshe killed him. But you can see from these examples why Moshe was more worried here than in the other battles.

Where exactly is Bashan?

The Bashan is the northern part of Trans-Jordan (where the Golan Heights are today) including part of Syria, bounded by the Jordan, the Lebanese mountains, including Mount Hermon and Gilad.

My visit to the Syrian border
My visit to the Syrian border

A few weeks ago, I had the honor to visit the Golan. It was really amazing to see the Torah and our history come alive. We were able to stand at the border or Syria and drive past the border of Lebanon. We were able to see where these stories unfolded. We were also able to see just how close everything is.

May we have peace within Israel’s borders and beyond.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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