Minefields, the Golan Heights, and the Lebanon border

Day 7 Thursday

My cold is in full bloom today, and instead of sounding like Barry White, I sound like I’m going through puberity. This was an eleven hour day, and maybe it’s the cold I’ve got, but I’m getting tired of seeing churches and riding around from one end of the country to the other.

Interesting fact: Most of the events in the bible took place within three miles, with the fartherst one being were we are tonight, at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee.

We drove down to the Jordan River, then north along the border for two hours. Along the border were two separate fences, about six feet apart. If the fence is cut or someone climbs over, the surveillance and sensors on the fence bring the Israelie’s running. The responding military unit contains a Bedouin tracker to locate anyone who made it through or over the fences. Turns out the Jordanians also use Bedouin trackers, and cooperation between the two groups is pretty good.

We then drove to Bet Shean, an important Biblical City in the Upper Galallie. It was destroyed by an earthquake, but they’ve dug up about ten percent of the city. There is a hill next to the city and they have discovered that there are twenty different civilizations that have been overlayed above the ruins of the current city.  (see photos).

            

Next stop was the Church of the Ascencion, a church devoted to Mary. There are a number of Churches all grouped together in Nazareth. It is in the Palestinean Territories, so there is real friction. At the base of the Cathedral, there is a piece of land that the Palestineans decided to use to build a mosque. They started construction, and there was so much flack that the Israelies came in and leveled it. It now resembles a concrete park of sorts, but the Palestineans have erected banners proclaiming the usual religeous threats to non believers. I’ve added a photo, not the misspellings. 🙂

The Church is very beautiful. (Photo is of the side view of the Church). And underneath it, actually next door, the Franciscan’s excavated a tool shop. It is believed to be the workshop of Joseph. Actually, they have no idea if the location was attributable, but like everything else in the Holy Land, it’s close enough and representative enough to serve the purposes of the faithful. I’ve added a photo showing how they built the new church (50 yrs. old) over the old ruins of the original town of Nazareth.

       

We then went to the Golan Heights. After crossing over the Jordan River, we climbed into the foothills in what used to be Syrian land. This territory is controlled by the Isralie’s but on each side of the road stretching for miles are Syrian minefields. (see photo).

When we reached the last Isralie forward checkpoint, we looked down out of the hills over the UN peacekeeping encampment, and a Syrian town recently in the news as a site where rebels blew up Syrian government officials. The photo shows the city in the distance, but we were actually a lot closer to the actual border just below us, but between the border and the town is the UN enclave.

We the traveled back through the hills and over the Jordan River on land still controlled by the Isralies. The Golan Heights is a plain about thirty miles long and ten miles wide. We passed a number of Isralie tank, artillary and inteligence bases scattered within the forrests. Interesting story. Back before the ’73 war, the Isralie’s had a spy who was friends with a number of officers in the Syrian high command. He persuaded the Syrians to hide the military encampments in the Golan by planting Eucalyptus trees all around their fortifications. They did, and when the ’73 war broke out, the Isralies’s knew exactly where to target their tank and artillary fire. The Syrians hanged the spy, and his remains have never been returned to Israel.

We crossed back across the Jordan River (more like a small stream at this location), then to a hillside City called Kiryat Shmone where we saw a very old Synagogue and an artist colony. I got a fresh squeezed lemonade for 5 Shekels. It was pretty good.

Back in the bus….again! This time we drove right past the border with Lebanon. I’ve included a photo of the Lebanonese border partol units watching us pass by.

Then…. finally, we arrived at the Kfar Giladi Kibbutz Hotel on the border with Lebanon, overlooking the Golan Heights. It’s a fairly large facility, with a massive swimming pool, gym, etc. I was given a room in a building close to the main facility. It’s basic, but clean and nice. Internet service is spotty, so I can’t pick up the NY game seven, but I’ll be in Barcelona (Sunday Barca time) when the Kings play in St. Louis on Sat. (St. Louis time). Dinner was buffet style, and believe it or not, every hotel, etc. on this trip has served the very same food. A fried fish, beef stew, or roasted chicken entre, veggies consisting of peas, carrots, corn, or a mixture of one or more of these, fried potatoes (everywhere), rice, and salads out the ying-yang. It was good, particularly when you’re really hungry, but I was hoping for something a little more exotic… like maybe a camel burger, or bacon…. Not a chance. 🙂 Our lunches have been Swarma or Flaffel, and that’s been really good. But you have to find an arab run restaurant to get that kind of fare because the Isralie’s don’t generally eat them as part of their cuisine. The Isralies love their sweets, and every buffet has tons of different cakes or pies, etc. to eat. I’m trying to be really good and not overdue it, but it’s difficult.

I went to bed about 9 pm, and now it’s 4:30 am and I’m wide awake. The cold is no better, so I’ll tough it out today. We’re going down to the Sea of Galilee, to Capernaum, and I understand that we may be taking a boat trip. I plan to cast a net and try my hand at walking on water. Hope there are no sharks.

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