We started our Jeep Tour of the Golan Heights from the Yesod Hamaala Junction in the Huleh Valley. Lew climbed in the front with Roy, the driver and Pete and I sat with the girls Donna and Barbara in the back. We braced ourselves as the deep tread special earth gripping tires churned to leave the tarmac and head for the rough steep sloping terrain of the Golan.
Soon the parking lot was behind us, as was the hotel, filling station and other trappings of civilization located in the midst of this fertile valley, which had been a lake until 1960, when it was drained to make more place for Jewish Agricultural settlements. Now you see beautiful, leafy green fruit trees, apricots, nectarines, and grapefruit all around.
The jeep made its bumpy way over clumps of black, dried muddy earth. We stopped to break one of the clumps of earth to find shells, proving that, amazingly once there was a lake in this farmland.
As the jeep climbed the steep slope up the side of the Golan Roy opened the front window of the jeep and the cool air rushed in accompanied by drops of rain; unusual for this time of the year, May, in Israel. Looking eastwards, over the tops of the high, golden brown wheat, the Golan Heights loomed as a dark purple colored wall of vegetation in front of us.
The Golan Heights aren’t high mountains as the name leads one to believe but a plateau, 50 Km from Mt. Hermon in the North to the Yarmuk valley in the South and 15 Km from East to West, rising only about 300 meters above the Huleh Valley.
After only 10 minutes of straining, winding, bumping and twisting Roy’s Land Rover brought us to a vantage point looking down on the neat green and brown squares of Jewish farmland. At this point we were standing where Syrian soldiers had stood before 1967 looking down from their bunkers deciding which settlement would receive their murderous shells.
This was a point in the line of a canal which the Syrians had started carving into the mountainside in 1964 to collect water meant for Israel and divert it to the Syrian held Yarmuk river so that it would flow into Syria instead of Israel. That meant Israel would be left without 30% of its water supply.
This diabolical Syrian plan to destroy Israel by cutting its supply of water was brought to an end by Israeli jets which destroyed the Syrian earth moving equipment in 1966 and lead to the Six Day war which finally ended in Israel conquering the Golan putting Israeli settlements there, pushing the Syrians 15 Km to the East and so making life safer for Israelis living and farming the beautiful Huleh Valley.
After tea in the bushes we continued our bumpy, picturesque drive over little rivulets of water. Here and there we saw some gazelles grazing peacefully in the bushes below us, now and again sniffing the cool air to try and figure out who was coming to disturb their silent habitat.
The end of our fun, educational ride came as we drove through Yesod Hamaala, the first settlement established here in 1886 by brave Jewish pioneers who built the beautiful stone houses of the settlement.
We said farewell to Roy and continued along the main road through Kiryat Shmonah, the town of the eight, named after eight pioneers killed by Beduin in the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920. Their death wasn’t in vain because it lead to a new agreement, the Sykes Picot agreement which allotted the Huleh Valley to the British Mandate.
In 1948 the British left the valley and the Jews became its new owners after heavy fighting in the war of Independence.
After a half hour drive we reached the Lebanese border at Metulla, the most northern town of Israel, nestled at the head of Tanur valley, so called because it’s so narrow that it looks like the narrow chimney of an old fashioned oven.
The town ends at the apple orchards and beyond that is Lebanon, the frightening country which was once a paradise for investors and holiday makers until it descended into a quagmire of sectarian wars and fanatic religious conservatism.
Now it looks like the Hizbulla have taken over. The only thing they’re likely to do is to dress Lebanese women in burkas, rattle their Iranian weapons and rant and rave about destroying Israel. It’s absurd how they sow the seeds of war while here in Metulla we pick apples.
Now the Greenbergs and Weises are on their way home, President Bush flew out yesterday and the house feels empty. It’s only Ettie and I. Tamar, however, is a great compensation and the fun she and I have together makes up for the missing visitors.
As usual we visited Penina for Sabbath dinner, I picked up my precious cheese that Lim sent me from Holland, took a small bite, downed a good glass of Closs de Gat, which Avishai kindly left on his last visit home, watched Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and dropped down dead until 6 this morning.
I wish you all a great no news day.