Weekend in the Golan

We went away this weekend with a group of people to a place in the Golan called “Keshet Yonatan.” Keshet, which means “bow” (as in bow and arrow), is the Hebrew equivalent of Kuneitra, the nearby Syrian town. Keshet is the name of the village where Keshet Yonatan is located. The name Keshet Yonatan has a dual meaning since it means both Jonathan’s bow (referring to Jonathan, son of King Saul) and Jonathan’s Rainbow. Indeed, the entrance to the community is decorated with rainbows. It was named in memory of Yonatan Vodak, who fell in the Yom Kippur War.

We stayed in what used to be a field school, a group of buildings with spartan accommodations that was used by the Nature Preservation Society for seminars and as a homebase for hiking in the area. Our room was capable of sleeping seven people! Fortunately, we weren’t asked to take in five strangers.

On Saturday afternoon, all of us took a three hour walk through fields of waving grasses, past cows and horses and stacks of hay. We walked past a lake that serves as a reservoir, Standing at the edge of the lake was a sole white horse standing so still, he looked like a piece of statuary. We continued on and walked through fields of high grasses. As the pace quickened, so did my pulse and suddenly looming before me was a most overwhelming sight—a very high mountain with ruins of some sort at the top.

“Oh,” I said to my husband, “that must be the mountain that I am going to watch you climb.” He just ignored me. He knew that I wouldn’t opt out. So we made our way along with the rest of the people, through the tall grasses and briars and brambles and up the rocky path to the top of the mountain, climbing over boulders and feeling the prickly stickers on our ankles and calves.

When at last we reached the top, we continued walking through the ruins to a shady place and listened to our guide, a young woman who was doing her national service, talk about the battles fought in the area during the Yom Kippur War. We heard of the bravery and the innovative thinking that enabled a scant, under-equipped force of Israelis to vanquish the large, well-armed Syrian army.

Descending from the mountain, we walked back through the village to our base and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with the group.

After the Sabbath, we walked and looked up at the stars. Even there, the street lights interfered, but not nearly as much as the near-daylight of lit streets in Modi’in.

Sunday morning after breakfast, we left for another hike, this time through woods not far from the Syrian border. The woods were dotted with flowers of every shape and color from deep purple to lavender to pink and red and yellow and white. I couldn’t help thinking that the landscaping was beautiful. We looked down at a huge lake and horse and cows far in the distance. The winds blew a cool breeze on an otherwise hot day and we made our way with awe and thanksgiving for the beauty in the world.

On our way home, we stopped along the east side of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret) at Ein Gev where there is an excellent fish restaurant situated in a park-like setting along the shore. After a relaxing meal, we continued home.

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