Happy New Year for 2015.
This week I’m guiding a group for a great Dutch tour organization called Israel Idoed Reizen.
The name means Israel Encouragement Tours and that’s exactly what they do regarding Israel. They tour Israel specifically to encourage Israel and they bring people who want to encourage Israel, by visiting and touring the Land that God promised His people Israel.
On Saturday night we arrived at our hotel, the Astoria in Tiberias, to begin the Galilee part of our tour.
I was up early, 6 0’clock to prepare this letter for you. It was still dark outside.
I couldn’t help thinking about all the wonderful places we had already visited and others that we will continue visiting tomorrow, the day after and all the days of this wonderful tour laid out by Israel Idoed Reizen.
Israel Idoed Reizen has many different itineraries for visits to Israel. This itinerary consists of 4 parts; 5 days in Jerusalem. 4 days in the Galilee, 2 days in the Negev(desert) and an optional 2 day tour to Petra.
The Galillee formed the 2nd part of Israel Idoed Reizen’s itinerary. We started with Caesarea, Haifa, Acre and Rosh Hanikra.
On Sunday with my Dutch tourists of Idoed Reizen of course, we headed northward to Tsfat, Kibbutz Misgav Am, Hazor and Katzrin.
As well as visiting all the usual tourist sites, Idoed Reizen always include visits to places where Israelis and others do charitable and patriotic work to strengthen Israel; these include organizations like “Hineni” which helps the elderly and the needy by providing free meals, hotel accommodation and social activities and military positions on the border meeting soldiers defending their country.
We headed for Misgav Am, a kibbutz at the peak of the beautiful mountains of Naphtali, where Deborah’s great general Barak, came from, and where we met soldiers guarding Israel and members of the kibbutz, who have fought and survived all the vicious attacks launched against Israel at this northern border.
Yet they continue to thrive and are hopeful of one day living at peace with their Lebanese neighbors as they used to before the Hizbulla and Fatach terrorists virtually took over Lebanon since 1970.
This day’s journey took us up past the Mt. of Beatitudes, up the plateau of Korazim and along the beautiful, fertile Huleh Valley, where the farmers on the kibbutzim were preparing the soil for planting wheat and maze and the fruit trees stood naked after their busy Summer of producing delicious plums, peaches and apricots. Dotted among them we saw yellow grapefruit and deep orange colored clementines, waiting to be harvested. Perhaps next time we’ll stop and do a little harvesting ourselves, if the farmers allow us.
We climbed the steep winding road past the famous battle site of Tel Hai, where Joseph Trumpeldor and his brave pioneer followers were massacred by Beduins in 1920, then past Kibbutz Cfar Giladi and the settlement of Margaliot, past the ruins of the Crusader Castle, Chateau Neuf, until finally we could see the electronically controlled warning fence near the border.
We continued past kibbutz Manara and the apple orchards of kibbutz Yiftah. Then at the highest point of our trip we came to kibbutz Misgav Am.
From the look out here one can see directly into a village below that appears quite innocent at first sight, but on closer investigation one notices that the houses have empty spaces where windows should be and one realizes that these aren’t houses for simple villagers but are gun positions, ready for snipers to shoot out of at this kibbutz, Misgav Am. They’ve stopped sniping for the meanwhile because members of Misgav shoot back at them and terrorists are only good at fighting people who don’t fight back.
We stand, protected by bullet proof glass windows all around, looking down into the village. Things weren’t always like this, according to Joseph, who settled here from Rotterdam nearly 40 years ago and Bezalel, old timers of the kibbutz, telling us about living under constant threat of enemies next door.
Once kibbutz members used to join Moslems and Christians in celebrating weddings, births and other feasts, but now it’s deserted, excepting for palatial houses owned by Hisbullah followers, stockpiling weapons for a battle they dream of fighting one day against Israel.
My driver, for this tour, is a quiet, young man, named Fares, which means “horseman”, who has more than 20 years experience driving tourists through Israel and therefore knows the best roads to use for the safest and most interesting journey through Israel.
My tour leader, Jo le Poole, who is really the organizer of the tour from Holland, always makes sure that tourists on his tours have the most comfortable busses and the best drivers and guide.
For me Jo is Aaron and I’m Moses and the tourists traveling with us are the Children of Israel.
Jo, through his organization, Israel Idoed Reizen has brought hundreds of visitors from Holland to Israel and they all return with glowing reports of a wonderful tour to their homeland and encourage others to join Jo on a visit with Idoed Reizen.
Today, those who didn’t go to Jordan to visit Petra, left our hotel in Arad, the Inbar, for the last day of Israel Idoed Reizen’s 11 day tour. This time to go to Shederot, which everybody’s heard about, because of the war in Gaza.
An organization called “Hands of Mercy” entertained us and told us about the charitable work they do, helping people, with a variety of projects; providing food and clothing, entertaining children, relieving trauma, providing employment making jewelry and teaching agricultural skills so that people can grow their own food in difficult times.
There’s an air raid shelter in front of every building and at every bus stop. It’s quite bizarre seeing an air shelter made attractive as if it’s fun to run for cover when there’s a rocket attack, but this helps the people of Shederot overcome trauma. Amazing as it may sound this actually makes rocket attacks scarier to hear about than to really experience.
They only have 30 seconds to take shelter before the rocket falls, but once in the shelter they’re safe, so it’s really neat to get to a shelter in time.
Since the year 2000 more than 15000 rockets have fallen on Shederot. After each attack the police collect the rockets and put them on display at the police station.
Naturally one of the highlights was meeting some of the soldiers guarding the border and bringing them gifts of cakes and candies to show our appreciation for the wonderful job they’re doing.
On our way there we unexpectantly past a lake. Later I looked this up on Google of course. It’s amazing that one can learn so many interesting things about Israel from the Internet.
This is a reservoir of 1.5 million m3 of shimmering blue water brought here, next to the fence of Kibbutz Nir Am, from the densely populated Tel Aviv area 70km away, by means of pipes ranging from 60cm to 2.2 mts. It is one of the biggest water recycling operations in the world. About 70% of all the agriculture in the Negev is irrigated by this water. The system is operated by The Dan Region Wastewater Treatment Plant (Shafdan) for Igudan (the Dan Region Association of Towns for Sewage and Environmental Issues).
Igudan aims at expanding environmental education through its educational-ecological center for visitors in Rishon Lezion at the heart of the Shafdan Plant.
Wishing you a great No Newsday