Thursday, December 28, 2006

Israel at War - The Galilee and The Golan, Monday December 18

Each day of our trip, a different person was asked to write a blog entry of the day's events for the Israel Experts website. Monday was my day, and so I've copied what I wrote that day below.

If you'd like to read the rest of these blogs from the trip, click here:
I'm proud of the way our group came together, continually asked intelligent, probing questions, and reflected eloquently on each day's events. In other words, I'm glad that each blog isn't just about how much we drank the night before (though there's some of that in there, too, if you're really that curious.) Enjoy these blogs, they're really great. Here's mine:


Day 3 was dominated by stories of Israel’s past military triumphs and reminders of its continuing military struggles.

In the early 20th century, Israel’s pioneers, or chaultzim, recognized that self-defense for the new state of Israel was an imperative. No longer would Jews be forced to move from place to place at the whim and will of their host governments. We met these pioneers, so to speak, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee this morning. There at the Kinneret Cemetery, we listened to Joel Goldman tell the story of his “best friends,” the chalutzim.

The chalutzim were an impressive group of young (a 20-year-old was a senior citizen) Jews who came to the Kinneret to transform the landscape of the long-neglected Holy Land. The stories of the pioneers – their hardships and their passion – was left in volumes of personal accounts and diaries. Mr. Goldman retold them with an energy and spirit that would have done the chalutzim proud.

And the stories can tell us a lot about ourselves. Joel charged us with two tasks. One, to retell the stories so the lives live on forever, and two, to go home and ask ourselves “Does what I do make me want to leap off the haystack everyday,” a reference to the enthusiasm with which the chalutzim faced each day, in spite of the malaria, the heat, and the apparent futility of their dreams.

Their dreams are today the State of Israel. We took their stories with us and continued our exploration of the country they made. Our bus wound its way up into the Golan Heights. Our day in the Golan featured a number of stops to discover Israel’s military tradition. At the Peace Overlook, we gazed into the valley at the pre-1967 Israel-Syria border, and heard about how Israel’s small but mighty army defeated Syria and captured the Golan Heights in the Six Day War. Next, we went to the top of the Golan to see the current Syrian border. The border is closed and has seen no combat since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. By seeing the strategic necessity of this place, it is hard to imagine why Israel would want to return the Golan to a bitter enemy.

A bitter enemy that supported and probably supplied the barrage of rockets that rained down on today’s itinerary only 6 months ago. Our final stop of the afternoon brought the reality of Israel’s most recent war. We stopped to see a new memorial to12 Israeli soldiers, complete with all of their pictures and pieces of the Katyusha rocket that snatched them from their families, their friends, and their country.

As the days go by, we are beginning to learn it is our country, too.

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