Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A morning traveling on the northern Golan

The next morning, our hostess Inbar took us to some less well-known spots on the northern Golan.

First we stopped just outside Merom Golan at a statue in memory of Eli Cohen, probably Israel's most famous spy whose work in Syria was very helpful in the 1967 war. (Click on his name to read his story.)  The statue is of his wife, Nadia Cohen and their three children, looking out toward Syria and waiting for her husband to return.  (His body was never returned to Israel.)  The statue was made in 2015, probably on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Our next stop was a short distance away at the overlook into Syria and the UN peacekeeping mission headquarters.  I've been there at least four times in the past 15 years and have seen the site upgraded. The outlook has been recently named for Ronen Gilboa, a member of Kibbutz Ein Zivan who died in 2014 at age 52, a man who loved the Golan and was full of spirit.
In the left background, you can see the UN headquarters and in the foreground the new Avital Volcanic Park, which opened in April, 2013.   It was built on an abandoned basalt quarry and is the result of the efforts of a geologist who worked in the area.  It now is funded by the Golan Regional Council, the Tourism Ministry, and a non profit volcanic quarry group. 

  Eruptions of Mt Avital, which has been dormant for over 100,000 years, are what caused the Golan Heights' formation and also what spewed basalt rock over the area.    The park is a paleomagnetic site, which means that that the basalt rocks have changed the Earth's magnetic field over time.  When compasses are near rocks, they seem to go crazy.
 Below is a good photo explanation of what one can see from the view point.

There usually is a Druze fruit vendor at this place, and today the gentleman also was helpful in explaining the sites in the distance to us.

We then walked around the volcanic park and saw the models of the region in early times and in modern times as well as models of how the volcano worked and the descriptions of the layers of rocks.  Most of the  explanations were in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

 Below you can see the site we walked through.  In the middle of the picture, right center, is the observation point we were at previously, and behind that is what is left of Mt. Avital, now  a military base.

Before the most recent eruptions on the right and after on the left

Inbar pointing at Merom Golan, her home

A model of an eruption with a recording in Hebrew

Eruption of "bombs"

A "bomb" inside a rock

Nava pointing to a drop in a wall
Different kinds of rocks found in the area

Examples oflocal rocks including  tuff and bread toast on the right

So many colors in the layers of rock

There was also a walk toward Syria along a path of basalt rocks, but we didn't have time for it.  Near the path there was an amphitheater but it has not been used since the war in Syria worsened.

We then visited three ancient springs turned into pools off the beaten track.  Ayin or Ein in the construct state means "spring."  And the first was Ein Mokesh.   An article in Haaretz by Moshe Gilad on May 31, 2017 entitled "The Forgotten Syrian Secrets of the Golan Heights:  From old minefields to pools for Syrian officers, the vestiges of the former sovereigns of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights are everywhere, if you know where to look."  Ein Mokesh was one of them, and it means "Mine spring" as it was surrounded by unexploded landmines.

It was originally build by the Circassians who came to this region from in the 19th century, sent by the Turks who ruled the area, as a buffer with the Beduins.  The Turks converted them from Christianity to Islam.  During the 1967 Six-Day war, they fled to Syria and later most to Europe and the US.  Some Circassians live in Israel, mainly in Kfar Kanna and Rehaniya.  They were excellent craftsmen and built this beautiful, deep circular pool.

 Inbar has gone down the steps and says the water is very cold, but refreshing on a hot summer day.  Her kids have told her that they often jumped in. 
The next spring we went to is called by the locals עין (אין) איך לצאת, a play on works --either the spring of (no) way to leave or no way to leave. The water level is quite low right now.

This spring was converted by Syrian officers into a pool.  You can see that it isn't as well built as the one above. 
Some visitors have poured goldfish into the pool and many have thrived.  The local nature authorities are not pleased as sit chances the natural form of the pool.  The fish came to the surface to greet us.

Our next stop, it turned out,  was a pool that had recently been capped because of the danger of collapse.  
On our way to our next stop, we passed by a number of Wind Turbines. The Golan is very windy and these turbines produce a lot of electricity.  The power grid wants to put up several on the hills by Merom Golan, but the community is objecting, in part because of the loud noises (which we heard as we approached the turbines below) and the light that is emitted.

And our final stop was a Syrian officers pool that had been updated in memory of a young man while traveling on the Golan, a place he loved.

 In Memory of Raizel Nagar who was killed on Jan. 7, 2005.

There were more places to visit, but we were out of time, so we headed back to Inbar's for lunch before heading out to the Hula valley in the upper Galil to join Inbar's husband has he helps put the visiting cranes to sleep!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nostalgic return to Kibbutz Merom Golan with a stop first at Beit Lehem HaGalili

From Thursday, Dec. 28 through Sunday, Dec. 31, Nava, Havazelet and I spent a delightful time returning to kibbutz Merom Golan where I lived from 1972--1974.  I rented a small  cute Opel from Sixt Shlomo and we headed north. (Click on the underlined purple words for more detail on the subject.)

 The roads are fantastic.  We started on the toll road, Kvish (highway) 6 and then headed on some of the newer East-West roads, including road 77 which is already being widened!.

Our mid-trip stop was at Beit Lechem HaGlilit (Bethlehem of the Galilee).  Click on the link to the left, and you can learn more about this moshav.  To distinguish it from the Bethlehem near Jerusalem, it was originally called Bethlehem of Zebulun while the other was called Bethlehem of Judah.  Due to its closeness to Nazareth, some historians believe this town was the Bethlehem of the New Testament.  In ancient times it was a prosperous town and until the late 1800s the ruins of a synagogue could be found there.  In the 19th century, it was inhabited by Muslims.  In 1906, German Christian Templers from Haifa established a colony in this town and many of their buildings still exist today.  They were exiled from Palestine because of their Nazi sympathies.

The town now is a place where Israelis visit with their families and is quite active on weekends.
We first had our picnic lunch outside.  We asked directions from several very friendly residents.

One man tells the history of the Templers. We tried to join him but he told us quite brusquely that we needed to make a reservation in advance.

We did use his outdoor bathroom.  :)

There are lots of activities for city families, including a tour of a dairy and learning how to milk cows by hand, a olive oil press business (Beit Bahd) and several places that sell olive oil, several art galleries, bike rentals, and much more including a fabulous and huge spice shop and the entrance to town.  But the signs were mostly in Hebrew so I guess they don't get many international visitors.

We saw lots of pretty flowers along the main road.
A rather rare rose:

 Pretty but don't know the name:
 One of my favorite winter flowers in Israel--it actually is a brighter orange.
 Some kind of berries:

And bougainvillea--very common here in winter.

And we saw many original Templer buildings with their distinctive style:

The main center of town:
 The town Beit Lechem in the Zevulun region is mentioned in the Bible in Joshua chapter 19 verse 16.  When Israel became a modern country, in order to distinguish between in the area of Judah, this place also became known as Beit Lechem Zevulun.   Archaeological finds from the second temple times have been discovered here.  In 1906, young people from the Christian German Templer movement in Haifa established a settlement in this spot.   (they were later expelled because of their Nazi connections.)   On April 17, 1948,  Israeli youth from the moshav movement settled here.

The water tower:

Cattle on a farm:

We stopped at Beit Bahd Galili, Galili Olive Oil and Eran (?) Galili showed us a short video on how he grows and produces olive oil.  The first oil of the season usually comes out green.  Eran has the only Olive press in town and only produces oil from his trees.

Olive Mash

First batch of olive oil is often green
The jovial owner of the Beit Bahd

Eran Galili grew up among his father's olive trees. As an adult, he moved away to work in the big city but after a while decided to return to his roots, plant a lot of olive trees and create his olive press.  He product is now considered in the top 5% of Israeli produced olive oils.

And finally the huge spice farm store:
The Spice Way Herb and Spice  Farm has Been in business for over 50 years combining herbs and spices in distinctive ways and drying them in a special way to preserve their freshness.  The Visitor's Center (and store) opened in 2003.  They have lectures and workshops, and the areas and individual items are well labeled.  It was so big that it was overwhelming!   We stayed so long that we ended up arriving at Merom Golan well after dark.   The store is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. except for Friday when it closes at 3.   There was a section just of spices etc. to add to rice, others for health, teas, and many more.

Merom Golan was established in 1967, soon after the Golan was captured from Syria in the 1967 six day war.  It was then the largest kibbutz on the Golan and still is today and is also the most successful.  It has over 700 residents, the regional K-8 public school, the regional library, a very successful lodge with cabins of a variety of prices and a hotel in the plans, horse back riding, and a cafe on top of Har Ben-Tal with an amazing 360 degree view of the area.  It also grows many crops including some of the best apples in Israel including pink lady, broccoli, kili, watermelon, cabbage, lichee, avocado, and a chicken run.  They also still raise cattle and have the tuff quarry where my ex-husband once worked.  There are also lots of small private businesses on the kibbutz.  The couple that lead the kibbutz politically in many ways, Yehuda and Tzippy HarEl still live on the kibbutz as do four of their five children and many grandchildren.

Our hostess, Inbar, fed us a lovely dinner and also surprised me with an old acquaintance from 40+ years ago, Moshe Davidi.  Inbar and her family have lived on the kibbutz for 12 years.  The kibbutz began to offer plots of lands to "residents," a status different from members, around them, and many have become very active in the kibbutz activities.  Inbar, for instance, was on the steering committee planning the 50th year celebration activities.
Moshe Davidi and I
Then Inbar escorted us to the apartment where we would spend the next three nights, the extra apartment of Ziona and Moshe Yishurun.  When the kibbutz went to semi-privatization, each family got an extra apartment and part of what had been a central gathering area in each building.  Some people combined the two apartments into one larger one, but Ziona and Moshe decided to keep the upstairs one for visitors.  When I walked into the apartment, I was sent back  40 years as it looked identical to the one that Paul and I had had when we were members of the kibbutz except they had added some wood paneling to one wall.

The next morning, after breakfast Inbar took us on the Path of the Fallen שביל הנופלים that members of the kibbutz created for the 50th anniversary of the kibbutz.  It is 5 kilometers (3 miles) long, as a remembrance for the 8 kibbutz members who have fallen during military service.  I knew six of them, so walking down the path and seeing the memorial to each was very emotional for me.
In the top row, I knew Micha, Cobi (#3)--whose son was in the same baby group of Timna, and Avremeleh (#4) who was Paul's boss. .  , In the bottom row, Sharon, who was killed by friendly fire,  was in a children's house for two year olds where I had worked.  Smiling Menchi was so full of life.  and I also knew the last man, Menachem.

Regional fruit packing house in the background with cow grazing in the foreground

Sharon Tamir, age 21 when he was killed in an army exercise
Micha Fichman
Micha saved my life and that of my unborn daughter Timna in November, 1972.  I was in the general laundry area, working with clean laundry when Micha biked to our place and said to get to a shelter as the border was heating up.  Five minutes after I left the place, it got a direct hit.  For many years later, I had blue sheets that had shrapnel holes in them.   Micha then biked over the the vehicle repair shop to tell others to get into the closest shelter.  Then had to run a good 50 meters and waited for a cannon barrage to stop, thinking that all were shot at ones.  Unfortunately, they were wrong and as they were running, one shell exploded about two meters above them, sending shrapnel in all directions.  Micha was critically wounded and died in the arms of a friend as the ambulance was taking him to the hospital.  His daughter was born 7 months later--and he had not known that his wife was pregnant.
Menchi is remembered above, overlooking the landscape he loved.

While walking, we met an unusual man named Eitan Rilov who was jogging on the path.  He was 82 and in great shape.  It turns out that he has had a company that traced terrorists through money.

Along our way, cows and their baby calves grazed in the fields.

After the walk through the past, we headed out to Masadeh, a Druze village on the Golan, to go to their weekly market and have lunch. The Druze, an ethnic, religous, linguistic, cultural and political minority, are neither Muslim, Jew, nor Christian.  An 11th century offshoot of Ismailism, their secret beliefs are known only to select elders. About 26,000 Druze live on the Golan concentrated in 4 villages, Majdal Shams, Masadeh, Buqata, and Ein Qiniyyeh, and over 100,000 total in Israel.  It turned out that the market was not open as the villagers had just celebrated a major festival the night before.  But we enjoyed a great lunch at Nidal's restaurant.

 We had a bunch of delicious "salads" and also got amazing stuffed grape leaves...more leaves that stuffing, and very tasty falafel.
 The labaneh and grape leaves were my favorite!

And after lunch, we stopped at the bakery down the block.  The desserts were super-sweet, filled with honey.

 And sampled several...The one below has shredded pistachios on it.

A favorite of Inbar's family

That night, we went to the kibbutz dining room for Shabbat dinner.  It opened in 1972 or 1973 and was going to be closed for remodeling the next week.  At dinner a woman approached and remembered me from when I lived there 40+ years ago.  I remembered the name of her husband, Elisha, but not her.  She looked great!

Below the dining room is a kibbutz store for food as well as an art store, displaying and selling the work of many creative people living on the kibbutz.

A creative plant holder

A whimsical Hanukkiya

Fleece for the cold weather in all sizes

One of many metal artists did these.  
The most famous metal artist on the kibbutz, known internationally is Joop de Jong.

A lot is sprinkled around the kibbutz.  .

Our last morning at the kibbutz I walked outside and spotted a group of pet peacocks, wandering around.

Before leaving the Golan on Sunday, we stopped at Coffee Anan/Kofi Annan, a cafe and souvenir shop on Har Ben-Tal next to the kibbutz with a marvelous view of the surrounding area.  We drove up a winding road to get to the top.

Some of Joop's art is also here.
My Favorite!

  It was created when Kofi Annan was the head of the UN so it a play on words.  Anan in Hebrew means "cloud" the place where you can have coffee in the clouds.  It is also the highest restaurant in Israel.

3,822 feet above sea level

Crossroads to the world

An old style shelter built in the hill
 Near the entrance, A Druze from a nearby town was selling homemade delicacies: Carob syrup, fruit jams, and tehina with different fruits added.  I bought the Carob syrup as I love fresh carob but it was too sweet for me.  The tehina, however, was delicious!  The man selling the items was a high school math teacher and several of his children have graduated from Israeli universities and work in the area.  He was very proud of them.