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Israel Trip 2013 Tag

The last in my series of posts from Israel: After leaving the Valley of Tears battle monument, we descended from the Golan Heights towards Israel's northernmost town, Metula. But along the way, we stopped at the Druze town of Mas'ade for lunch at the Nedal Restaurant.  Here's the view towards Mount Hermon (lost then recaptured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War) from in front of the restaurant: [caption id="attachment_60845" align="alignnone" width="501"](Mas'ade Druze Village Israel, looking towards Mount Hermon) (Mas'ade Druze Village Israel, looking towards Mount Hermon)[/caption] You can see on this map how far north Metula is: [caption id="attachment_60711" align="alignnone" width="505"](Metula, Israel - Map View) (Metula, Israel - Map View)[/caption] These map view give a good perspective on how Metula is surrounded on three sides by Lebanon: [caption id="attachment_60710" align="alignnone" width="464"](Metula, Israel - Street Map View) (Metula, Israel - Street Map View)[/caption]

Another in my ongoing posts from Israel: After we left the Tel Saki Battle Memorial on Monday, we continued north, to the Quneitra Crossing, the only active border crossing between Syria and Israel, manned by U.N. forces.  Several weeks ago Syrian rebels briefly seized the area on the Syrian side, and there still is fighting in the area. Here is the view of the crossing from the recently opened Israeli Avital Volcanic Park.  There was smoke rising in the distance, but it was hard to capture because of the lighting conditions: [caption id="attachment_60691" align="alignnone" width="512"]Quneitra Crossing Golan Heights view from Avital Park (Quneitra Crossing, Golan Heights, view from Avital Volcanic Park)[/caption] We then headed to the nearby Golan Heights Wind Farm, which had a better view of the smoke rising from the area: [caption id="attachment_60693" align="alignnone" width="516"]Golan Heights Wind Farm - map view (Golan Heights Wind Farm - map view)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_60692" align="alignnone" width="537"]Golan Heights Wind Farm - View of Syria (Golan Heights Wind Farm - View of Syria)[/caption]

Another in my ongoing posts from Israel: We spent the day on the Golan Heights and the Lebanese border near Metula.  We were accompanied by my good friend from Moscow days who I mentioned in a prior post. We were led by Hadar Sela of BBC Watch blog, who lives on the Golan and has an amazing knowledge of the topography, history, people, and politics. I had intended to do one blog post -- but soon realized there was just too much to cover so I'll break it down into three posts to run on separate days -- The Battle of Tel Saki, The Valley of Tears, and The Lebanese Border.  The blog posts will track our journey from the southern to northern Golan, then down to Metula in northern most Israel. We started the day where we stayed overnight last night, Kibbutz Sha'ar HaGolan to the south of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), in the shadow of the Golan Heights: [caption id="attachment_60600" align="alignnone" width="501"](Kibbutz Sha'ar HaGolan, Israel - Map View) (Kibbutz Sha'ar HaGolan, Israel - Map View)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_60601" align="alignnone" width="547"](Kibbutz Sha'ar HaGolan, Israel, view towards Golan Heights) (Kibbutz Sha'ar HaGolan, Israel, view towards Golan Heights)[/caption] We then drove on the snake-like Highway 98 up the side of the Golan Heights facing Jordan across a deep ravine.  The border fence along the road is shown in this photo -- my reaction was the same as yours probably is -- that's the border fence!  We were assured that the Jordanian policing of its side of the border together with the topography was sufficient. [caption id="attachment_60603" align="alignnone" width="527"](Highway 98, Israel, climbing Golan Heights - Jordan Border Fence) (Highway 98, Israel, climbing Golan Heights - Jordan Border Fence)[/caption] Note also the red triangle signifying a minefield -- something we would see repeatedly throughout the Golan even away from the border.  Vigorous warning signs not to leave the established roads and pathways were everywhere.

We traveled north from Tel Aviv today to several Kibbutzim on our way to exploring the Golan Heights on Monday. First we stopped at Kibbutz Ein Shemer about mid-way between Tel Aviv and Haifa, not far form the large Israeli Arab town of Umm Al-Fahm. [caption id="attachment_60503" align="alignnone" width="480"](Kibbutz Ein Shemer, Israel, map location) (Kibbutz Ein Shemer, Israel, map location)[/caption] Founded in 1927, Ein Shemer is a fairly typical Kibbutz, about 650 people, with a variety of agriculture (dairy, cotton, etc.) as well as factories. Facing pressures facing many Kibbutzim, Ein Shemer voted a couple of years ago to allow limited “inequality” of income (up to 2.5 times what the Kibbutz pays members) for those with outside jobs in order to retain and attract younger residents. [caption id="attachment_60501" align="alignnone" width="545"](Kibbutz Ein Shemer residential courtyard) (Kibbutz Ein Shemer residential courtyard)[/caption] We then went on to climb towards the Golan, stoping at the Mount Barkan lookout point, near Mount Gilboa, which has a tremendous view of the Galilee region of northern Israel. [caption id="attachment_60506" align="alignnone" width="523"](Mount Barkan Lookout Point, Israel, map) (Mount Barkan Lookout Point, Israel, map location)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_60505" align="alignnone" width="552"]Mount Barkan Lookout Point (Mount Barkan Lookout, Israel, view)[/caption]

Another in my ongoing posts from Israel: Today was a rest day, with the only real activity some time at the beach in front of our hotel in Tel Aviv. The Mediterranean Sea was warm, and the waves and undertow strong.  It was great to ride the waves, but one man drowned just after we left the water. [caption id="attachment_60407" align="alignnone" width="553"](Tel Aviv beach in front of our hotel) (Tel Aviv beach in front of our hotel)[/caption] In the evening I did my part to break the boycott of Aroma Café, of which we have written before.  (Remember, Buycott Israeli companies to defeat BDS.) [caption id="attachment_60408" align="alignnone" width="413"](Aroma Café, Tel Aviv Seaport) (Aroma Café, Tel Aviv Seaport)[/caption] But the big news of the day was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released an Open Letter (read the whole thing) to the Israeli public signaling his intention to seek Cabinet Approval on Sunday to release all Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners convicted of security offenses prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords, thereby complying with a promise John Kerry had made to Mahmoud Abbas as a precondition to peace negotiations.

Another in my ongoing posts from Israel: Today we reunited with a family I was close to while a student in Moscow in 1980, and had not seen since 1984 in Moscow.  It was great, and very satisfying.  The parents, now in their early 80's, have a life story about which history books should be written.  To see their son (my age) and his beautiful family in Israel was beyond anything I could have expected in those horrible days in which they were subjected to retribution and imprisonment. Most of the day was spent touring the central "West Bank" area including Itamar, Barkan and Ariel in the Shomrom hills.  This represents only a small slice of the "settlements." For background on the legality of the settlements and the popular misconceptions and deceptions, see:


The longest part of the trip was the drive to Itamar, which is located on top of a high ridge overlooking Nablus in the distance with views towards the Jordan Valley. [caption id="attachment_60307" align="alignnone" width="550"](Itamar map, Samaria, Israel) (Itamar map, Samaria, Israel)[/caption] Itamar, founded in 1985, is an rambling agricultural community of 175 families spread over quite a distance, with a dairy, goats, chickens and vineyards (which looked to me to have been recently planted).  The products are "organic" and apparently sell for quite a high price in the main Israeli cities.  We had some fresh yogurt at the small public café. Unlike Barkan and Ariel, discussed below, many (but not all) of the homes were nothing more than simple trailers or small block houses: [caption id="attachment_60297" align="alignnone" width="513"]Itamar Trailer Home (Itamar, Samaria, Israel)[/caption] In this photo of my wife taking a photo of me, you can see how Itamar towers over the surrounding landscape (our "guide" for the day -- my friend from Moscow days -- is to the left): [caption id="attachment_60298" align="alignnone" width="545"](me at Itamar) (me at Itamar)[/caption] Itamar has a long history of being attacked by Arabs from neighboring villages, the most infamous of which was the stabbing murder of the Fogel family, including a baby in its crib.  We covered that event extensively:

Another in my ongoing posts from Israel: Today I toured areas of the Western Wall in Jerusalem I had not previously seen. First, the part of the wall to the right of the Kotel (live webcam here) beyond the Mugrabi Bridge, where there are fallen stones from...

Jet lag finally caught up with us. Three days of running on adrenaline stopped cold. But the day was not lost. I had a chance to spend some time with reader Israel Pickholtz, better known as Jerusalem Genealogist. I didn't recognize him without his beard. [caption id="attachment_60032" align="alignnone" width="476"](me and Israel Pickholtz aka Jerusalem Genealogist) (me and Israel Pickholtz aka Jerusalem Genealogist)[/caption] Later, we visited the cemetery on Mount Herzl, where many of Israel's founders and political leaders are buried, including Golda Meir: Golda Meir Grave Mount Herzl

Another in my ongoing posts from Israel: We previously covered the failed Palestinian attempt to get a French court to stop the Jerusalem light rail project which was being constructed in part by French contractors.  It's a part of the continuing lawfare against Israel. Commenter Vince suggested that I check out the light rail project, and bemoaned the fact that he had not yet been on it:
If you get a chance when you’re in Jerusalem take a ride on their light rail system.  It’s a relatively modern overhead line system with 23 stops that runs approximately 14 km long. I have all of the stops geocoded if you would like that? I’m a bit of a light rail buff.. my goal is to ride all of them!  Haven’t made it to Israel yet :(
I can't make your wish come true, Vince, so here's the best I can do: [caption id="attachment_59896" align="alignnone" width="512"]Jerusalem Light Rail (Jerusalem Light Rail)[/caption] I also had the pleasure of meeting the famous Carl in Jerusalem, of Israel Matzav, with whom my wife and I shared a (soft) drink around noon today: [caption id="attachment_59892" align="alignnone" width="491"]William A. Jacobson and Carl in Jerusalem (Me and Carl in Jerusalem, in Jerusalem)[/caption]

Today, I had the great pleasure to meet three of the Israeli bloggers we link to and write about, on my road to Jerusalem. We took the ride from Tel Aviv to Petah Tikva, one of the earliest Jewish towns, where we met Anne from ... (take a guess).  Anne lives on a nice, quiet street. [caption id="attachment_59868" align="alignnone" width="491"]Petah Tikva Israel (Petah Tikva, Israel)[/caption] We lunched at a nice restaurant near the Intel center in Petah Tikva: [caption id="attachment_59824" align="alignnone" width="493"]William A Jacobson and Anne In Petah Tikva (Me and Anne in Petah Tikva)[/caption] We then headed on the road to Jerusalem, stopping in to see Adam Levick of CiF Watch, a blog devoted to taking The Guardian newspaper to task for its frequently distorted coverage of Israel.

We landed late on Saturday in a very uneventful overnight trip non-stop from JFK. The first day or two are going to be time adjustment days, since Israel is 7 hours ahead now. We walked around Tel Aviv from the central area (near the Hadima Theater) where we are staying past the Carmel market.  Some vendor told me that he had the best dates and figs in all of Israel, and I believed him! [caption id="attachment_59646" align="alignnone" width="422"](Carmel Market Tel Aviv) (Carmel Market Tel Aviv)[/caption] We then walked through some of the older sections, but you can't escape the contrast with old and new, as skyscrapers are in the distance and construction (both new skyscrapers and renovations of older sections) are everywhere. [caption id="attachment_59647" align="alignnone" width="466"](Old section of Tel Aviv with skyscraper construction in background) (Old section of Tel Aviv with skyscraper construction in background)[/caption]

Off to Israel late tonight. My itinerary is something along the lines of Tel Aviv-Jerusalem-Tiberias-Golan Heights/TheNorth. I'm scheduled to meet some really interesting people, so there likely will be some posts from me while I'm away.  (In addition to some prescheduled posts, and well, I do have...