Day 10: Eastern Galilee and Golan

Trip Start May 14, 2008
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12
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Trip End Jun 17, 2008


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Flag of Israel  , Galilee,
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Before departing for Israel, I had read guidebooks and scoured the web for sites to see.  In the Galilee, the number of interesting historical and religious sites as well as nature preserves and national parks is overwhelming.  We could easily fill two weeks here!  With the help of my on-line friends on TripAdvisor, a working list of priorities emerged.  This list became a sort of menu that you see at a Chinese restaurant where you can choose 1 dish from column A and another from column B.  As Harvey and I look over the list and review the map, we remind ourselves that we don't have to see and do everything on the list.  It's more important to focus on a few things and enjoy the moments!  This has become a daily comment now.  Today, we choose one site to get us started and a driving route that will take us to several others.  With this rough plan, we set out.  We want to be open to the unexpected and not be over planned with a rigid schedule.

Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee, is teeming with busloads of pilgrims.  Some groups are touring the grounds, stopping at sites to listen to their guides.  We hear singing in the distance, and are drawn to find the source.  We find the group, by the Kinneret, dressed with white gowns, participating in a prayer service and singing a beautiful song.  At least I thought it was beautiful.  Harvey is bored because the song is so repetitive.  In the distance, we can hear another group singing as well.  We are moved that so many people seem to be touched by their experience on this site.  For them, in their singing, they are realizing today's intention, "Communicate from the heart".

Toward Gamla, the road keeps climbing higher and higher, and when we see a scenic overlook, called Mitzpeh Beit Salida, Harvey quickly turns in and parks the car.  We can now safely gauk at this unbelievable view of the Kinneret and the surrounding mountains and valley.  We had not seen a tour bus and we expect to be alone, but when we walk to the overlook, there are about 20 people laughing, chatting, drinking coffee and eating a snack.  We drink in the view and as we start to leave the area, a man walks up to us and asks if we would mind taking a picture of the group with his camera.  We offer to take a picture with our camera and email it to them because I have a wide angle lens that would get the entire group and the view.  The group poses and I get the picture; Harvey gets a picture of me getting the picture.   We then do men only and then women only; with the smaller number in each photo, we can also get part of the view in the photo.  It is a production and although they don't all speak English, they understand my gestures to look this way, move that way and smile at the 1, 2, and 3!  I am in my element and am amazed at how the language barrier is bridged through photography, laughing and hand gestures.  With the photos done, we are offered Turkish coffee and I forget what they called it, but a delicious sweet cake.   We get the email address to send the photos, and in this conversation learn that the group is traveling in their individual cars and are part of the Rotary Club in an area around Nazareth.  They are speaking Arabic, and a man offers that they are Christian Arabs and that the Rotary Club has a monthly outing to see and enjoy more of their country.  We learn that they are going to Gamla, just like us!  And then they are going to pick cherries and I get all excited because I so want to do that too!  They offer for us to follow along in their caravan of cars and join them!  How good is that!

We follow them to Gamla.  When we arrive, we walk over to them to say goodbye.  They invite us to join them for lunch!  We hesitate, but look at each other and decide, YES!  Thanks!  Talking with Atta, who had asked us initially for the photo, we learn that he is the person in charge of these outings.  We are offered laffa bread similar to what we had in Jaffa at Abulafia Bakery, which they knew of, and of course, this is so much better!  We also have fresh cucumbers and fresh apricots.  We get into a discussion with Atta and I get to ask my question, "why can't people be tolerant of one another and why can't we all live in peace".  It turns out that Atta has been an advisor to Olmert on Arab Affairs and has dealt with these issues. 

We separate from our new friends when they go on a path to see vultures nesting. We are invited to visit their village.  You never know, we may have the opportunity to take them up on the offer some day.  We continue on a path to see the waterfalls.  The walk to the falls in Gamla offers an opportunity to be close to the plants that we are passing by the road.  From a distance, the land is brown with scattered trees. Up close, at this time of year, there are many flowers in bloom!  When we get to the falls, which are the highest in Israel, the area about 20 feet around the falls is lush and green in sharp contrast to the brown of the surrounding area.  We are also able to get a view of the falcons that are nesting this time of year.  We also get to see the vultures because the viewing area for the vultures is directly opposite the falls viewing area.  At the viewing area, we meet a German couple who ending their one month camping trip in Israel.  There are three main paths in Gamla, and we had time to only do one.  Gamla is definitely worth the time, and I would gladly return to walk the other paths!
 
On our way to the cherry picking, Harvey sees signs for Katzrin and I quickly check the guidebook.  We make a spur-of-the-moment decision to check it out and quickly turn into the parking lot.  Katzrin is a recreated Talmudic village from the 3rd century.  We start out with a movie and you know by now that I love these historical introductory movies!  The movie is unusual in that it is done in the Talmudic teaching fashion of story telling.   I am puzzled at the end, unsure of the lesson to be learned.   I ask Harvey to interpret this for me.  He really wants to come up with an answer.  After all I defer to him on all Talmudic issues.  He thinks about it for a while and finally says "I haven't got a clue".   More on this tomorrow, when we will ask our guide in Sfat.   It is very interesting to see a typical home during that time period; the restoration in that specific area was especially well done and you can actually walk through the home!  We spend maybe 1 hour at Katzrin, so it's not a major time commitment, but an interesting window into the lives of real people during this time period.

Ein Zivan, the cherry picking kibbutz, is a small dot on the map of eastern Golan.   We find the cherry trees, we find the UN monitoring vehicles that patrol the border between Syria and Israel, we find the kibbutz, but we don't find people to ask where the you-pick fields are.  The hours of the day were moving along, so we do as well. 
At Mt. Bental, with the wide ranging views of Syria, we are able to look down and see the kibbutz you-pick fields!  They are so close to the border that we had not wanted to drive in that direction!  But now from the summit of Mt. Bental, the border looks so close to the fields that we are astonished!  We satisfy ourselves with buying fresh picked organic cherries and fresh picked raspberries from someone at the top of Mt. Bental.  The flavor, the life just burst out of the cherries!  Soooo good!  At the top of Mt. Bental, we walk through bunkers that have actually been used.  History is definitely coming alive.  This land has seen so many armies coming and going.  On this trip, we have seen ancient cities and fortifications.  And now we are seeing fortifications and locations of fighting in our current era.  Standing on this ground and seeing the strategic importance of the Golan gives current news and events a new relevance

The 77th Brigade fought a strategic battle for the Golan in 1971 and it is brought to life in the memorial, not far from Mt. Bental.  Tanks, bunkers, views and a memorial present us with a poignant moment.  Both Harvey and I become quiet and solemn.  We had wanted to see the movie about the 77th Brigade at a nearby Kibbutz.  As usual, we get lost.  And when we finally do find it, it is closed.   Fortunately, there is You Tube.  If you look up the 77th Brigade you can see the movie online.

It is time to pause, we are on overload, and we head to Ma'sada, a Druze village,  for dinner at Nedal and Sons.  We have pitas of falafel and shwarma, with a side of fries. All is delicious.  Over coffee, we watch Lebanese television as the new Lebanon president takes office.  We do not understand a word of the Arabic so our host occasionally translates.  All politicians say the same things.  It does not matter what country they are from.  They like to stand in front of a microphone for a long time, saying very little and getting a lot of applause. We end the day, with thoughts of hope, that perhaps with leadership, there can be peace.

Click here for today's photos!
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