Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Northern Exposure

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 13 August 2005.

Earlier this week, we spent several days in beautiful Ramot Naftali, overlooking the Hula Valley in the upper Galilee. It was our second stay at the Avitan Guest House; it won't be our last. In Israel, many people call bed & breakfast hotels (or guest houses) tzimmerim, though you probably won't find that word in your Hebrew/English dictionary. Like many words in the Hebrew vocabulary, like many people in Israel... indeed, like many interesting sights in Israel, it comes from a different culture.

While Ramot Naftali is just one relatively small community, there is much of interest. I have already mentioned Amram's lovely boutique winery, which we discovered on our last visit. Also during our previous stay, we visited the memorial shown above. It honors the life and memory of Eitan Belachsan, who grew up in Ramot Naftali and who, in 1999, died too young defending his country. When we return, as I'm sure we will, perhaps we will find more memorials, this time to the battles fought there in the spring of 1948. The community of Ramot Naftali was established in the 1940s, and I have heard that one of the founding families lives there to this day.

Another interesting sight, not far from the gate of Ramot Naftali, was this structure. According to our host, Yitzhak Avitan, it is the tomb of a sheik, Nebi Yusha (which was also the name of the area before 1948). Unfortunately, the site was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and I was unable to get a closer look. From the roadside, the tomb seemed to be in ruins. To me, it serves as a reminder of one of the many peoples who once called this spot home.

Another nearby spot that tells the stories of previous inhabitants of this area is Tel Kedesh. Archaeologists have found evidence of many cultures, from the ancient tribe of Naftali, to Phoenicians, and more. Some fascinating artifacts have been found there, over several years of excavations. Interestingly enough, the team of American archaeologists working the site has also repeatedly stayed at the Avitan tzimmerim. Though we located Tel Kedesh, we didn't have time to explore. It has been added to the list of things we hope to see on our next visit.

The Metzudat Koach Memorial is located just a short distance away from the sheik's tomb. The site commemorates 28 brave Palmachi soldiers who died fighting to gain control of this strategic spot in April and May of 1948.

This is one of the things I find most special about Israel. So many different peoples have inhabited this land over the centuries, many more than I have mentioned here. Thinking about that makes me feel, on the one hand, like I am part of a timeless continuum. Perhaps one day people will study this time period, and ponder the lives of those who lived in the distant past of the 21st century. At other times, I feel that as one link in this long, long chain, the ups and downs of my life - indeed, of all of our lives today - are just one small part of a whole too enormous for me to comprehend. In this way I have discovered that living here is both uplifting, and humbling.

(c)Amy Samin

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