Fresh Winds Over The Golan Heights
Some weeks ago I saw, high in the sky, two Israeli missiles trying to intercept a Khamas’ rocket. The Israeli missiles were too fast and were shot too soon in order to reach the interception point before time. No worry. The Khamas’ missile, that was slowly climbing behind them to a decent altitude, disintegrated high in the air and its parts fell somewhere on the way in an open space. I thought to myself: “How typical.”
The last skirmish in the south-west of Israel made us forget of the north. However, I have just finished most of the Golan Trail in the north and the Golan heights rustle with rumors about special relationship between Israel and Syria. A young Druz, who was graduated in Damascus and was looking for a post in Israel, said to me some time ago that Israeli and Syrian officials run meetings in (or around) the village of Majdal Shams. “Assad is not the issue”, explained the guy, “He is mostly a symbol. When everything will calm down they’ll make the appropriate changes”. However, when the bus driver in the Golan (also a Druz) heard my question about discreet meetings, he “could not confirm anything that was not published in the newspapers already”, but a big smile of satisfaction covered his face. The Druz of the Golan, which are decent Israeli citizens but repeatedly declare loyalty to Syria (and enjoy both worlds), are very happy to be considered a bridge between the rivals. Another rumor is about a field hospital that Israel deployed near the border for wounded rebels. I doubt if Israel would do something of that kind without the silent approval of Syria. If it does exist, who exactly are those rebels who would be treated there – it is also not clear. It is possible that non of the rumors are true. However, their existence reflects a fresh atmosphere that winds over the Golan. I guess that a peace proposal between Israel and Syria was delivered to Israel in the last few years, and in conditions that Israel could only dream of in the past. Such a package would also include some kind of an arrangement with Iran, and an open border in Lebanon. The Shi’a of Lebanon were traditionally pro-Israelis until the summer of 1983, and it was never appropriately explained what exactly have turned them into a rugged nest of hornets about a year later.
Anyway, If Israel accepted such an offer, it would no longer be able to serve as a key function for Nato. In the long run, the inverse means that Israel, even though a secondary front, will get the first blow in any unconventional global war that might erupt. It is probably for this reason that president Peres spent 6 hours in a very intimate meeting with president Vladimir Putin of Russia about a year ago. Peres reported that meeting recently in an interview for the independence day, saying (among other complements) that unlike his image in the local media the president of Russia is a very intelligent person. Shimo’n Peres is among the senior world politicians at the moment and his declarations can not be over estimated. President Putin visited Israel a couple of years ago, in a visit that started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Did the Israeli hydra again promise something it couldn’t fulfill? They did it before with the president of China. I doubt If the state of Israel would accept this offer if it was given. c’est la vie.
Meanwhile we’ll keep walking. And the Golan trail is a good place to do that. The Golan is inhabited to the extent that provides a grocery store and a water tap at the end of (or during) each day of hiking, and not more than that. The relatively large open spaces, the deep canyons and gorges, as well as the military restricted training zones (which are normally open for the public at the weekends and holidays) and minefields, turn the Golan into a reserve of wild life that enjoys the wide spread natural water resources of the region. The middle of summer might not be the most recommended time for hiking in Israel, and indeed in the lower altitudes of the trail I needed to take a long rest in the shadows during middays (that means definitely not starting a climb before 16:00-17:00), but in the high altitudes I managed to walk the plateau quite deep into midday before taking a rest. If starting early, taking a good traditional-to-the-region hot (and sweet) cup of tea below a shadow, only marginally decreases the daily destinations.
The trail is challenging by all means: Just like with the Israel Trail, also the Golan trail hardly provides any facilities for hikers and hikers need to improvise solutions if camping at settlements as well as solutions for washing themselves and their clothes (at least once in some days). Don’t sleep on the grass in parks and gardens or you might get wet at night. Most night camps away of settlements don’t have running water – Don’t drink water from pools and streams because of the cattle around (unless it was confirmed to be o.k.). If no other choice – boil the water before drinking. Trail angels are not a very reliable solution and should be taken as a supplementary only. cheap accommodations, as it is the case in undeveloped regions of the world, are absent in Israel. Maybe only the Bedouins can still provide it, but they are not aware of the potential. I don’t Know if there is a good description of the trail in English, so a good map and a compass are mandatory for foreigners. All minefields are fenced and marked by signs. They have red triangles every some meters and yellow written warnings. However, don’t take your own enterprises: if the trail stops or leaves a gorge, for example, don’t try to walk beyond it. just follow the trail.
Overall, the Golan is definitely rewarding. Even though it is not blooming right now and the vegetation is mainly Yellow, it provides a really different atmosphere, and variety of locations and landscapes. Those who may finish it in the Sea of Galileo may take another half a day along the Sea of Galileo-Round-Trail, discover the secret privet beaches of the old settlers and baptize in the Jordan river afternoon (and spend the night there, its lovely).
Read also: The Sad End of the Canaani Culture
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