9 – Today the weather became windy and unstable. Not ideal for the briefing in the Kibbuz Merom in the north of Israel. The speaker was difficult to listen to outside, even behind a huge rock.
The kibbuz is situated next to the Syrian border and is also used by UN soldiers. Damascus, the main capital of Syria, is only 60 km away. The wordplay with the name of the cafe in the base, on top oft the mountain, „Coffee Anan“ means in Yvrith “cafe in the clouds”, which it is during the winter months, when the clouds are hanging down to the „Har Bental“. The name may also be read as „Kofi Anan“, the name of the former UN General Secretary.
The street winding up to the kibbuz crosses through extinct volcanic craters. Passing by the kibbuz the street climbs up to 1.170 m above sea level and ends on a parking ground. Due to very bad sight it was impossible to enjoy the 360° panorama, possible with good weather conditions.
A small foot path leads up to the top of the mountain. On the right and left there is a small exhibition of strange looking „animals“. They are built by Johannes de Jong, one oft he kibbuzniks. The used materials are scrap from Syrian tanks.
The Syrian border is easily to recognize in the valley below. On the Israeli side, the fields are healthy and green, on the other side of the fence, everything is dead. On a clear day one can see up to the Mt. Hermon, which is covered with snow in wintertime. The UN camp can been recognized by the white buildings. The UN soldiers are here to protect and secure the buffer zone between Syria and Israel. Not far away the ruins of the town „Kuneitra“ can bee seen, which today is controlled by the UNO. If Kuneitra has been destroyed by the IDF or by Syrian troops was never completely revealed.
The slopes of the Mt. Bental lead down to the „Valley of tears“, the region Avigdor Kahalani spoke about.
The border crossing Kuneitra is during this ongoing war a place of heavy battles between the troops of Assad and of the rebels. The national troops and the rebels fought several times over the ownership of this place. Even if it has no practical purpose to them, it is for Israel of strategic importance. It is the place where Syrians, civilians, fighters and rebels bring their wounded or sick people, knowing they will be picked up by the IDF and will be treated in Israeli hospitals without any charge.
In this place history and present exist side by side. Around the top of the hill trenches dating back to the War of Yom Kippur can be seen and visited. Machine-guns out of use are exposed there as well. They prove, that Israel from the very first day of is existence, was forced to defend itself, and did so very successful! On another mountain top, even higher then the Bental, the IDF installed a high tech surveillance station. Even the move of one single Syrian tank triggers an alarm, any movement of the enemy towards Israel must be recognized. This proves, that till today, Israel is forced to defend itself and does so! Nobody may take away from us this right of self-defense. Nobody!
We tried to find a shelter against the inclemency of the weather in the Coffee Anan. On our way we passed a pole with signs, marking the distance to some places of interest: Jerusalem 150 km, Office of the PM 153 km, our best friend in Washington lives 11.800 km away from us and Bagdad is situated as near as 800 km.
Bagdad was the place some 4.600 Jews where exiled to after the destruction oft he first Temple in 597 BC. A long way to go there, and a long way to come back home. But according to historic sources, the exile was not that bad, as we learned about. During the time of exile the Talmud Babli was written, which is more important for the Judaism, than the Talmud Jerushalmi.
The kibbuz generates its income by offering most spectacular ATV rides along the Syrian border and by running a guest house.
10 – Our visit to kibbuz „Misgav Am“ (Stronghold of the people), founded on Nov. 2nd 1945, which was in 1917 the day when the Balfour Declaration was signed. The kibbuz is defined as „Kibbuz at the end of the world“.
If one looks around, this definition may be correct. 50 km to the west the Mediterranean (which can be seen on a clear day) next to Tyrus in Lebanon, 80 km to the east, Damascus is situated, 150 km to the south is Tel Aviv and 150 km to the north we reach Tripoli in Syria. Maybe the definition should be: “Kibbuz in the middle of the world”?
A kibbuznik, whom we would rather imagine living in Americas Wild West, then here, in the very north of Israel, only 20 m away from the Syrian border meets with us in the conference room. His name is Ayea Ben Yaacov, born in Cleveland, Ohio.
To enjoy this very special man, please take 30 minutes and look and listen to this youtube. That’s exactly what he told us.
Btw, this is the only kibbuz where you can harvest „gefillte fish“ directly from the fish ponds – that’s what Ayea told us. Why should I not trust him??
After we left the room Ayea met his rocker-style friend for a coffee. The gentlemen might look odd in a kibbuz, but both have been very tough Israeli soldiers and are dedicated kibbutzniks.