Israel: Part II

November 8, 2009

After meeting with the Israeli soldier in command of the security fence, we continued up north through historic rain to Nahalal, a moshav in the north of Israel.

It’s a planned farming community that’s less socialist than a Kibbutz, where all of the essential elements of the town are in the center of the circle, and the farms radiate outward.  It was beautiful, if a little Truman-show-esque.  There we met with Elliot Chadoff, a lecturer from Haifa University, a part-time army volunteer, and what he called “a modern day pioneer.”  He had been living in Chicago in the early 1980s when he and twenty other families decided to move to Israel.  They set up a community, which is now a hundred families strong.  Hearing his story was interesting, as was seeing the gun he had stuck in the waistband of his khakis beneath his short sleeved button down.  Just in case, he said.  His home was surrounded by a few huge Israeli Arab communities.

A few hours later we arrived at the Golan Heights Winery for a lesson on how wine is made at this huge complex that pretty much corners the market on kosher wines, and had a wine tasting.  I didn’t expect to see huge stainless fermenting vats, and rows and rows of barrels.  The wine wasn’t bad, and our tour guide/MC/owner was definitely a showman who had done this a million times, and also packed a piece below his talit, the strings hanging down to his knees.  We spent the night at the Ramot Guest House–with rooms straight out of a commercial for Mount Airy Lodge.  Each had its own jacuzzi steps from the bed and saunas in the bathrooms.  It was kind of awesome.

At dinner that night, we heard from MK Hanna Swaid, an Arab Israeli Member of the Knesset.  His perspective was a great foil to the speakers that we had previously heard, however he was then attacked a bit and it got a little tense. The group was mostly elderly and obviously all squarely on the Jewish Israeli side, and didn’t necessarily want to be convinced that there are more sides to this story than the one that they support. My family spent a long time afterwards debriefing what had happened, what some of the code is that people use, where this situation could possibly go.

The next day we listened to talks by Colonel Egndell, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Liaison to UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Micky Attiach, the Senior Liason Officer for the North District, who essentially patrol the same area under different auspices.  That day huge amounts of arms were detected in the region, headed for Hamas.

We had a few minutes to walk around Safed, a beautiful old city with all limestone buildings and blue doors (Scott’s pictures to follow in another post.) For lunch, we stopped at part of the Jordan River, Yardenit, that is supposedly holy and people go to get baptized.  More a rest stop than a pilgrimage destination, the water was an opaque green.  There were changing rooms for people to put on bathing suits and white robes, and a path of stairs where you could dunk yourself.

Back in Jerusalem, we had a great dinner at La Guta, and an Israeli Journalist who’s name I can’t remember was fantastic.  She spoke about the sham of the Egyptian Elections, and the 1500 tunnels that snake between Egypt and Gaza.  She, more than anyone, eluded to the code, the bargaining chips gained or lost by the Palestinians trading openly versus underground.  Not so optimistic.

We finished our trip the next day with Yad VaShem, which I’ll write about in another post, and a great dinner with the Israeli ADL board.  We were happily seated at a table with two former ambassadors to the US, and their lovely lives.  One couple talked about living in London from 1968 to 1972, and how they dragged their children to John Lennon’s memorial in New York in the early 1980s.  The other couple had been best friends with Charlie Wilson while they lived in Washington, DC.



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