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Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights. The Rothschild Lands are about 6 kilometres beyond
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Looking into a UN post from the Golan Heights in Syria
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Shmuel Dayan, father of Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan stamp

WHO KNEW THE JNF HAS LANDS IN SYRIA ? The Rothschild Lands in the Horan

by Rhonda Spivak, February 1, 2013

As the battles rage in Syria between Assad and rebel forces, I have come across a not so well known fact today which is that the Jewish National Fund technically still owns land that is now in Syria, about six miles from the Golan Heights, which belonged to Baron Edmond de Rothschild.


I uncovered this fact while reading about Shmuel Dayan, the father of General Moshe Dayan, who was one of the founders of Degania, the first kibbutz in Israel, near the Sea of Galilee.


In about 1920, Shmuel Dayan wanted the Kvutza, his settlement group to leave the settlement of Degania to others and go to settle the 100,000 dunams of land on the Horan Mountains east of the Jordan River, which belonged to Baron Edmond de Rothschild. This is relayed in Shabtai Teveth's book "Moshe Dayan; The Soldier, the man, the legend." Those lands were at the time in Transjordan, but today lie in Syria. (If you think about it, these lands in the Horan are not that far from Rosh Pina, which became another Rothschild settlement)


Even after the founding of Israel in 1948, Shmuel Dayan did not abandon his dream of "conquering" the lands in the Horan by cultivating them.

As Teveth writes, "When word was received that these lands had been expropriated by the Syrian government, Shmuel Dayan entered into correspondence with ten Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, urging him to take action. On March 17, 1953, Sharett Replied, "...I doubt very much if we can effectively claim ownership of these lands as part of peace negotiations with Syria, for as far as I know the Syrian authorities have arbitrarily and administratively seized these areas, but have also seen to it that the expropriation...should have the appearance of legality...Nevertheless, time will tell." Shmuel replied, "We have not lost our hope"(*a quote from the Israeli national anthem).


Shmuel never forgot about the Rothschild lands on the Horan. In the Six Day War, it was Shmuel's son, Moshe who was initially very reluctant to attack the Golan Heights, wanting to avoid involving the IDF on a third front, and concerned that the Soviet Union would not sit by while its satellite Syria was attacked. But that changed, and Israel did in fact capture the Golan Heights in 1967, whereupon Shmuel Dayan hastened to become one of the first civilians to go to the Golan Heights.


As Teveth relates, "On June 24, 1967, equipped with a special permit to enter military areas and with a military escort, he travelled across the Heights in search of the Baron's lands. He wrote later in his autobiography, "We found that these lands lie only 6 kilometers beyond the cease-fire lines. Therefore the Baron's lands are still beyond our reach. What a pity!

In 1997, Maariv published an article in Hebrew noting that the Rothschild lands which were bought through a company called Pika were transferred to the Jewish National Fund with the founding of the State of Israel.(to see the Ma'ariv Article go to].

The article explains in detail how this is all documented, in documents now located in the Zionist archives.


Is it possible if and when Israel ever negotiates again with Syria ( or what is left of it) the issue of the Rothschild lands will be raised again?

As the brutal Syrian civil war continues, it seems possible that somewhere near or on those lands chemical weapons are being stored or potentially used.


As for the ironies of history, in 1967, Hafez el Assad was lucky that it was Moshe Dayan, not Shmuel Dayan that was chief of staff. We can only assume that if Shmuel had been in charge he would have tried to take not only the Golan Heights but the JNF lands in the Horan in Syria.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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