A Tel of Two Cities
I think we just visited the Garden of Eden. Well, maybe not the actual garden. The biblical story of the Garden of Eden is based upon the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq. But the place that feels most Edeny to me is a place called Dan, in the very northern area of Israel. The Tribe of Dan moved to this northern area after the Philistines kicked them out of their coastal home. The place they moved to, the northern area of Dan has a spring that gushes copius amounts of cool water. In fact, the river Dan becomes the largest tributary to the Jordan River. The cool water and the shade of the trees create a beautiful and comfortable place to be.
We went on a short walk in into the forest, passed by an old, defunct grain mill from hundreds of years ago, and waded into a cool pool to see if we could walk on the water (the trick is to step on the stones).
By the way, the rumors that I got lost while on the walk is not true, even if everyone else knows it is.
I had visited Dan almost 40 years ago, as I participated in an archeological dig that was the only place that King David is referred to outside of the Bible. At that time, we had discovered the oldest extent arch at the time made out of mud bricks and is estimated to be over 4000 years old.
After leaving Dan, we visited Tel Faher, an abandoned Syrian outpost that once threatened the northern towns of Israel. If someone wanted to threaten the people of Camarillo, they could just sit atop the hills of Newbury Park that overlooks Camarillo and lob bullets and grenades in their direction. The topography is very similar in an area called the Golan Heights which overlooks the Hula valley below which contains many Israeli communities. As we visited Tel Faher, we could see how the Syrians were dug into the hillside with easily defended trenches and tunnels. The Israelis know they had to dislodge those Syrians and the others who were threatening the lives of their northern citizens. During the Six-Day War, a group of brave soldiers broke through the Syrian lines and land mind and defeated the Syrians. In many ways, it was like a modern version of the story of Chanukah. Right after the war, Israel decided to annex the Golan which they conquered during the war.
We then had lunch in a Druze villiage called Mas’ade. The Druze are an Arab community with its own religion that is neither Muslim, Christian or Jewish. The restaurant, called Al-Sultan has the best falafel balls and Turkish salad that many of us had ever had.
We then divided into two groups: one went for a wine tasting at Odem winery. Because the Golan Heights are actually a defunct volcano, the earth is dark and rich. I think the consensus was that the Cabernet was their best wine.
The other group visited the Odem Freedom Farm Animal Rescue Center and learned about their efforts to heal people and animals that are both suffering from emotional or physical trauma.
Still high up on the Golan Heights, we got in Jeeps or SUVs and drove down some of the very roads that the Golani soldiers used to reach Tel Faher. For a stretch of the ride, we saw cobblestones on what seemed like an otherwise dirt road. These cobblestones were laid by the Romans some 2000 years ago after they took control of the Holy Land. Finally, we fully descended the Golan Heights and returned to our hotel at Kibbut Kfar Blum for another delicious meal and some needed rest.