# 27 – Gamla by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
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# 27 – Gamla

Helping others to understand Israel - and Israelis to understand others...
  • Joined Sep 2016
  • Published Books 409
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March 29, 2004

You must tell me if you’re fed up with these. Don’t be shy…..On second thoughts, stay shy.

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This is being written from Kibbutz Ayelet Ha-Shahar. B & B here is called ‘Zimmer’ or in plural: ‘Zimmerim’. We are at the base of the Golan Heights and close to the River Jordan. We look northwards and upwards, and not more than 1-2 km distance, we see the areas that were once controlled by Syria. The manager of the B & B tells us of the times when they had difficulty walking/running from school to home or house to house. Each time, a gunshot would ring out, or a bomb lobbed in.

No politics today – this is a reminder of Israel’s beauty, normality and eccentricities…

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Gamla – home to most of Israel’s birds of prey. We walk along, and then sit atop a cliff, overlooking a valley with a sudden pointed peak in the centre. (The ladies were the ones who said the whole thing reminded them of  a woman’s…..). The peak in the centre is the site of yet another battle between the Romans and the Jews. Massada is the more famous one, but this was more dramatic, and was also the last stand of the Jewish resistance at that time.

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We watched for perhaps an hour – I wanted to stay all day.

  1. Did you know the difference between eagles and vultures? Eagles catch their prey with their talons and then eat; vultures rarely do the killing. They wait for the others to do the job, then come in and eat directly from the carrion. Hence the longer and curved necks.

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We saw Griffon Vultures, the largest flying birds here, with wingspans up to 270 cm. Also short-toed and Bonelli’s eagles, and long-legged buzzards.

Glorious…

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Then we were at Banias, originally the site of a Greek Temple to the God, Pan. Wonderful remains, some in remarkable conditions. But today, the big attraction are the waters of the Dan river, which flow through canyons and down waterfalls.

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We ate at “Dag al Ha-Dan’, a terrific fish restaurant on the banks of the Dan. On one side of us, the fish in the river. Around and among us, beautifully coloured cockerels, clucking and crowing and begging for….bread. (The scraps of fish were thrown to the ….fish).

We viewed sites of recent battles between the IDF and the Syrians, the Kibbutzim on the borders, sites of tragic infiltrations and mortar bombings from Hizbullah….stop! No politics.

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I was fascinated by the types of many of the tourists…

  • A busload of religious girls from USA – aged around 15-17; most from Michigan, some from New Jersey. All covered almost as totally as their Moslem colleagues… They were in the charge of 2 religious guys. The more rabbinical of the two had a rifle slung across his back.

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  • 2 busloads of religious boys. Average age perhaps 10 years, all with sidelocks, most with glasses. They were from one of the most religious Jewish towns. They spoke only Yiddish. Seems odd, living as they do in the Land of Israel. But for them, Hebrew is the language of the bible, and must remain so.

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  • Then there was the religious family whom we kept on bumping into. Mum and Dad no more than mid-30s. 8 children and going strong. We had nice chats with them, and the kids seemed well-behaved. But we have problems with the fact that the State still gives more financial support for those with more children.

  • And the group of perhaps 20 Arab girls – older teenagers, bare tummies and tight t-shirts.

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  • Watching the eagles with us, a squadron of young Israeli soldiers, with brown sun-whipped faces, and white mosquito-bitten legs (espied when the trousers were raised for a scratch). They were obviously tired, but were so interested in the talk given by one of the guides.

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At sunset, we walked along some of the newly-developed Jordan bank in this area, and stepped over and around families having picnics, Arabs, Jews and Druses. We smiled at young couples, some puffing at a nargila, others drinking wine (which they had bought earlier from the Golan Wineries), and one couple enjoying the antics of their year-old golden retriever.

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One more observation: At one location, Druse women were making their famous pitta bread (more like 60cm. diameter chapattis), and selling it, served with za’ata spice and a local version of raitha, a spicily-prepared yoghurt. (Who or what are Druses? They are distant cousins of the Arabs, residents of this area. They are not Moslem. Their religion is ‘secret’; monotheistic, respect for the Koran, but fiercely independent.

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They live contentedly on both sides of the border. During the 50 years they have been settled on this area, beautiful orchards and fields have sprung up, as a result of the co-operation between the 2 peoples. Many actually volunteer for serving in the IDF.

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So, back to these women…..a religious Jew wanted to take a photo. She almost screamed at him. He immediately apologized, respecting her privacy, and promised to destroy the picture. We watched the event. I wondered what the big deal was; they were covered anyway from head to toe. What difference does a photo make?  We imagined she would have OK’d the photo if he had offered NIS 5.00. But what was special was the peaceful and warm reaction and solution.

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This was a special day. On the one side, we saw many aspects of the natural beauty of this country. And we saw peoples whose cousins hate and kill each other, smiling, communicating and warming to each other.

A land of extremes.

Stephen

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