Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Golan Heights

To complete our rapid tour of Israel, we headed north toward Golan Heights, the upper northeast corner of the country that has been a site of contention more than a few times in the last century. Most recently, it has become a center for wine growing - and, clearly, that was worth checking out.
But it is also home to an air force base (yet another thing that might not be possible on itinerary of the ordinary tourist), and our local connections hooked us up for a tour and a brief lesson in Israel's successful air force history.

We also squeezed in some exploration of the country side in ATV's. It's tough getting the attention of a group of eager riders for a safety briefing, but the word 'land mines' was effective in grabbing everyone's attention. We trekked out, in a very orderly fashion, to an abandoned military base that had evidence of past conflict (read: a hole in the roof where an explosive came through).
Passing through Galilee to get to Haifa, it occurred to me just how many places that I have been to on this trip (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazereth, and now Galilee) that always seemed the stuff of stories to me before. It is strange for me to see that these places actually exist.

Our final stop was in Haifa, where we saw two more facets of Israel's religious landscape - the Druze and the Bahai. If you haven't heard of the Druze, it might be because, apparently one must be born Druze in order to be Druze, which makes the pool of potential candidates quite limited.
Of course, that could be misinformation, as our guide for this part of the tour struggled with the facts. Her discussion on the Bahai faith went a little something like this:
Guide "The Bahai people pray five times a day"
Us "Really? what do they pray about"
Guide "Oh, they dont pray, they are not like muslims"
Us "Huh?"
I guess that's where wikipedia comes in handy.

In any case, one of the best trips of the year. Israel - you should check it out.


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