Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The elemental heights of the Golan

This weekend, the stars aligned in a particular fashion. It was the weekend before my birthday; we had arranged far in advance a cottage in the Golan Heights to celebrate it; it had rained and snowed throughout the week leading the weekend; the storm broke on Thursday night; and the next weather front only appeared on Sunday afternoon. The meaning of these circumstances is that my wife and I enjoyed an amazing weekend in the Golan Heights.  I do not mean fighting the traffic jams and lines to Mount Hermon, Israeli's only ski site, not to mention the sheer density of people there.  I am referring to the amazing pleasure of the most basic elements of the Golan Heights experience: its rocks, water and wind.

Only an hour away from the Galilee where I live, the Golan Heights are immediately distinguishable by its rocks, mostly created by its volcanic past. The grounds are liberally sprinkled with basalt rocks of various sizes as if they had been dumped there by trucks.  The wall of old buildings, whether from the ancient Talmudic period or the more modern Syrian period, are made from basalt. The Avital Volcanic Park, an artfully adopted quarry site, provides an amazing inside view of the volcanic forces that shaped the area. Finally, we never got tired of looking at the white shiny peak of Mt. Hermon, covered in snow and glowing in the winter sun. Each view was better than the previous.

Accompanying the solidness of the rock was the omnipresence of water. Created by the heavy rains and sustained by the almost solid rock below, almost every field had one or more blue pond, often with a happy-looking cow or horse enjoying the green grass around it. All along the roads, streams were noisily flowing. Where ever nature had created the proper conditions, waterfalls, big and small, played their music. The water created a sight and sound concert.

However, the unsung hero of the Golan heights was the wind. On the one hand, where we had to stand unprotected by any breaking feature, it was cold, lowering the temperature by several degrees. However, as we were properly dressed, I cannot say that we suffered from the cold. On the other hand, the wind carried the sounds of nature: flowing water, birds and singing leaves. The sounds of the mass movement of people, roar of vehicles and general noise of civilization were almost never be heard. The result was a magnificent and peaceful, albeit a bit lonely, feeling.

Together, these elements, not to mention some great food, made for a wonderful weekend and created a taste of “od” as they say in Hebrew, meaning the desire to do it again. While some people go the Golan for its skiing, I enjoy its more fundamental pleasures.

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