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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Israel's most popular vacation spot

I mentioned last night that the kids had seen some tanks on the way up here - we saw some more today. We are staying on a Moshav (which is nothing like the Wikipedia entry on the topic, so I am not linking it) in the south central portion of the Golan, about five miles west of the Syrian border.

Those of you who have never been to the Golan may be surprised to hear what the country's most popular vacation destination for Israelis looks like. I have been taking some pictures and hope to post some of them next week, but just to give you some idea, there are marked mine fields all over the area, there are places marked as firing ranges, and there are buildings that were clearly Syrian bunkers in 1967 that are bombed out or pockmarked and empty. And yet, as I said, the Golan is Israelis' favorite vacation destination. Why?

For starters, it's gorgeous. The views are stunning and trails for hiking - a favorite activity here - abound. Today, we hiked through a river bed (Mrs. Carl and most of the kids spent most of the time in the water - yours truly and two other kids (most of the time) hiked along a trail that runs along the river) that was clean and cool in the 100-degree heat (no exaggeration). The River is called the Snir, although many of you may know it as the Hezbani, which starts in Lebanon and which the Lebanese and Syrians have tried to divert away from us from time to time. The Snir is one of the three rivers that feeds into the Jordan River. Then we decided to duck indoors and went on a tour of an olive oil factory in Katzrin, the Golan's largest town. And then we came back to the Moshav where we are staying.

Another reason Israelis come to the Golan is that it is safe. We've had a hostile border with Syria since the State was founded, but there have been almost no incidents here since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 bli ayin hara (warding off evil eyes). Most of the Moshavim like this one are fenced in and have an electric gate that closes at night, but the Syrians are nowhere in sight and you can even drive through the Druze villages here (most Israelis would not drive through most Arab villages in Judea and Samaria these days - they are much more hostile). We bought gasoline on the outskirts of one of the Druze villages today and drove right through another one. Most of the Druze are quite friendly, and probably prefer Israeli rule to that of Bashar al-Assad.

Third, it's one of the few places in the country that doesn't have a desert feel. In Jerusalem, we have sand everywhere year round and everything is constantly dusty. Not so in the Golan, where everything feels fertile and rich. Granted, unless you are a farmer or in the tourist industry, there is not enough local year-round employment here and many people commute elsewhere in Israel or even abroad or telecommute. But if you want to live a quiet, peaceful life, this is the place to be despite all the arms on both sides of the border.

Fourth, it's quiet and peaceful. It's just the place to get away from the fishbowl that's Jerusalem and from the madhouse that's Tel Aviv (which advertises itself as the city that never sleeps). If you want peace and quiet, despite all the outer trappings of a war on the way, this is the place to be. And so, the Golan is full of tour groups. Most of the groups we met today seemed Anglo and religious, but they're mostly people who live here and not people coming from abroad.

I don't really believe the Syrians are going to try to 'recover' the Golan anytime soon, and the army is so well-prepared for them that I doubt that the Syrians could get back here even if they wanted to. But that doesn't mean that they cannot make life miserable. And that would be a shame.


At 1:18 PM, Blogger Sudipta Das said...

well I think right now Israel is going through a war. & it's wouldn't be safe to go to Israel. Instead this weekend I have decided to spend my time on cost of Florida. & the vacation rentals in florida is very low.


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