"A man will sometimes give himself away completely by his laugh, and you suddenly know him through and through." (Dostoevsky)
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Places to Visit in Israel: Golan Heights
Common Kingfisher at Hula Lake
Israel have occupied the Golan Heights – part of
Syria since 1946 when the country was created – since the Six Day War in 1967.
Har Bental (Mount Bental), Golan Heights
The scene of more fighting in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War, the area is strategically
important owing to water. Israel's rationale for holding on to the land east of
the Jordan River is to stop the Syrians diverting the rivers that rise on Mt
Hermon and flow to the Sea of Galilee away from Israel and into Syria.
From Har Bental looking south-east towards Syria (upper left)
As Syria continues to implode, the Israeli government/army
(same thing, really) will be hoping that the writing is not yet on the wall for
the Assad dynasty. Most Jewish Israelis’ view of the so-called Arab spring is
that it won’t be followed by any summer, as regime change is likely to mean
that the new rulers will have to be more in tune with the populace, and the Arab
populace in general terms neither recognises the state of Israel nor its right
Yehudiya Nature Reserve, Golan Heights
The Golan Heights are sparsely inhabited
and amazingly peaceful given their history and geography. Yehudiya and Gamla Nature
Reserves are decent places for a walk, and just far enough apart for the Israelis
to charge you separately for walking in each (27 shekels a throw – or US$8.50).
Gamla Nature Reserve - Gamla is the Masada of the north
So, when I see a Mossad man tramping on the Maclehose, I'll put on that CPA hat
I nicked and tell him to cough up 50 bucks. Or maybe not – don’t want him
hunting down my entire family …
Crab at Gamla
Also known as Agamon Ha Hula (The Little Lake at
Hula) – a place is nothing in Israel unless it has a hatful of names – Hula Lake
Park (actually in Upper Galilee rather than the Golan) is a terrific place to go when the birds are on the move between November
and April. When I went, there were an estimated 10,000 grey cranes in
residence. If you can, go on a Friday or Saturday, when the park opens at
6.30am. The birds are more active then and there are fewer people around.
Grey Cranes on the move
Don't go to the Hula Nature Reserve four kilometres
south, unless you want to sit in an auditorium and be educated and propagandised.
Talking of propaganda, those seeking the winner of the Gold Medal for
Propaganda – am I allowed to call it the Josef Goebbels Award? – are advised to
go to the Herzl Museum in Jerusalem, next door to Yad Vashem. This fat bearded
bloke who pops up in just about all of their propaganda flicks regales the faithful
(and the odd goy like me) with improbable tales, not the least of which is that
“You don’t have to emigrate to Israel to be a Zionist”, which struck me as a
bit of a stretch. Nothing like keeping the billions flooding in from Toronto,
New York and Los Angeles, ’though.
Foreign Donors, City of David, Jerusalem
Some of this money is probably being diverted to restock
Hula Lake with fish, after the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, was introduced
from South America some years ago in a hare-brained scheme to farm the beast for
fur. The capybaras aren’t complaining, ’though, as they vie with one another for
the honour of being the first guinea pig to tip the scales at 200 lbs.
Amazingly for Israel, admission to the park is only 3 shekels (US$1), but they
make up for this by stinging you 50 shekels for cycle hire. It's only 8.5
kilometres round the lake, so get up early, take walking shoes, binoculars,
cameras and some grub, and enjoy a very special experience.