Israel 2017–Day 5

30 photos

First stop today is the Hula Valley Nature Preserve, a national park providing a twice-a-year stopover spot for mass avian migrations from Europe to Africa and also attracting birders from all over the world.  Since its not migration time, we get a “fourth dimension” media experience, including 3D glasses, moving seats, air jets and bubbles describing the restoration of this large wetland from reclamation projects that drained it and channeled all its water for agricultural uses.


Then we ascend westward into mountains bordering Lebanon to Safed or Tsvat, an ancient hill town that has provided the home for Haredi since the Middle Ages. Here they wrote and preserved books of the Kabbalah, which decoded sentences, words and letters of the Torah into secret mystical meanings for initiates only. Most of the roads leading to Safed are closed by police to accommodate the tour bus traffic bringing hundreds of thousands of Haredi today to a shrine across the valley where they join the locals in celebrating the birthday of one their founders and celebrate the festival of Lag B’Omer.


We visit the municipal art gallery featuring the work of Nicki Imber, a legendary Holocaust survivor, adventurer and activist, and are greeted by the town’s vice mayor.



We wander through covered streets lined with shops selling Kabbalah-themed Judaica and enter a medieval circular Sephardic synagogue where the caretaker opens the ark to reveal the sacred scrolls.



Next on the itinerary is the Golan Heights, mountainous territory on the East Side of the Hula Valley annexed from Syria during the six-day war in 1967, after it had been used for continual shelling of the Jewish communities below.  This large territory remains sparsely populated and still highly militarized.  At the summit of a mountain we visit a former Syrian fortress now transformed into a historical park decorated with sculptures by a local artist, where we can explore abandoned gun emplacements and underground bunkers.


One can see green agricultural fields below in all directions farmed by kibbutzim as well as the border with Syria that has been quiet lately as a result of the civil war in that country. A neighboring mountain holds an Israeli army outpost. A group of blue hatted UN observers are getting a guided tour of this location at the start of their deployment.



On the way back to Kvar Blum, we stop for tasting at Omer Winery, a successful family enterprise that takes advantage of the fertile soil and chilly climate of the Heights and ships internationally.

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