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Quest for Peace


 
On a Jeep tour of the Golan Heights
Monday, December 28, 2009

on another beautiful morning, we headed out early toward the northern most kibbutz in Israel, Misgav-Am. We were greeted by Aryeh Ben Yaakov, a 70-year-old American who moved to Israel when he was 21.

The kibbutz is located on the border with Lebanon and looks down on a Hezbollah-occupied valley. In 2006, the Hezbollah from the valley attacked Misgav-Am 24 hours a day for 34 days. The Hezbollah dwellings had no glass in the windows in order to make rocket launch attacks on the peaceful kibbutz easier. After surviving four wars in Israel, Aryeh’s position regarding the bordering countries was very clear. He said, “If you want to be my friend, then I will be your friend. If you want to hurt me, then I will break your face.” We toured the kibbutz, and the children in the group wrapped gifts in a bomb shelter for the younger residents of the kibbutz. The shrapnel dents in the back of the cafeteria building, the bunkers and the bomb shelters were just a few examples of this war zone located in one of the most idyllic settings on earth.

As we boarded the bus for our next adventure, Saul pointed out that in his 25 years of traveling to Israel, he never had experienced such a clear and beautiful view from Misgav-Am. Next, we headed for a Jeep 4X4 tour of the Golan Heights. Fortunately, we hadn’t eaten, so the roller coaster ride was no problem. The cows, dogs, gazelles and undulating green mountainside hid the struggle that exists for control of this land. Only the “CAREFUL LAND MINE” signs indicated any danger in the area. Our jeep guide shared the history of the land and his optimism that there may someday be lasting peace in the area.

A quick stop in Mas’ade for lunch introduced us to the Druze people who although Arab in nature have sided with the Jews since the founding of the state in 1948. Our next stop was Mount Bental, where we could gaze into the abandoned city of Kuneitra, which has a United Nations outpost nearby. Avi, our guide, provided an insightful explanation of the Yom Kippur War in the North Galilee, where Israel was able to prevail over Syria. The Syrian tanks outnumbered Israel’s tanks by 10-to-1. The Israeli forces’ will and heart led them to make decisions that were not based on military strategy but, rather, the fear that if they failed, then no one else could stop the Syrians from taking Israel. A late-day stop at the Pelter Winery for a magnificent tasting of reds, whites and blushes was a perfect way to end the afternoon. Those who preferred sweets were able to go to the De Karina chocolate factory to make their own chocolate confections.

To end the busy day, we had a magnificent dinner at a wonderful steak house (with some great wine purchased earlier at the winery). Three young soldiers from the IDF, who serve on the Lebanese and Syrian borders, joined us for dinner. We were able to ask them many questions, other than about their politics. It was interesting to get their perspective about mandatory service in the army. They were all in favor of it. Their Israeli pride shone through, and it was great to connect with regular teens who just happened to have machine guns on their laps. It was a great meal that we will forever remember sharing with our new friends.

— The Cohn Family


Back to Israel Journal (2009)


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Standing in front of the fence with Lebanon at Misgav-Am
Standing in front of the fence with Lebanon at Misgav-Am
That's Lebanon right behind us!
That's Lebanon right behind us!
In the trenches at Misgav-Am on the Lebanon border
In the trenches at Misgav-Am on the Lebanon border
In the trenches on the Lebanon border, with commuication towers
In the trenches on the Lebanon border, with commuication towers
The kids leave gifts for others in the bomb shelter
The kids leave gifts for others in the bomb shelter
Jeep rides are LOUD!
Jeep rides are LOUD!
Rabbi Goldsmith with his Jeep ride buddies
Rabbi Goldsmith with his Jeep ride buddies
Riding up the Golan
Riding up the Golan
Catching that perfect shot
Catching that perfect shot
Hearing from a local guide about the history of the Golan Heights
Hearing from a local guide about the history of the Golan Heights
Evidence of war on the Golan Heights
Evidence of war on the Golan Heights
The kids with our awesome driver!
The kids with our awesome driver!
Enjoying Druze pizza for lunch
Enjoying Druze pizza for lunch
Enjoying the Druze cuisine in Mas'ade
Enjoying the Druze cuisine in Mas'ade
Ring around the rosie...Druze style!
Ring around the rosie...Druze style!
On top of Mt. Bental, a volcano overlooking the Syrian border
On top of Mt. Bental, a volcano overlooking the Syrian border
Avi points out the Syrian border from the top of Mt. Bental.
Avi points out the Syrian border from the top of Mt. Bental.
THIS is where we are!
THIS is where we are!
Enjoying a tasting at Peltar Winery
Enjoying a tasting at Peltar Winery
With some of our new friends at dinner
With some of our new friends at dinner
Learning to hold a gun with an Israeli soldier after a great dinner
Learning to hold a gun with an Israeli soldier after a great dinner
Israeli soldiers are great!
Israeli soldiers are great!
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