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Tags - lebanon
All my live I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
for the people to say
that we dont wanna fight no more
they'll be no more wars
and our children will play" - Matisyahu lyrics
This morning we went to the border with Lebanon, where we were given a presentation by an IDF Commander. Having been to the Syrian border, it was enthralling to realize the complexities of Israel's relationships with its various neighbors; for examples, since the 2006 war, the IDF focus mostly on civilian protection at the Lebanese border, seeing to maintain the status quo in the area. Having seen both these borders and stood at the edge of Gaza, one of the things that most amazed me was how small and unprotected the borders looked. We were well aware that they were nothing if not well-protected, but from our vantage point they looked like mere fences...how is that really meant to keep terrorists out, especially from Syria? On an interesting tangent: the IDF uses Arab Bedouins to patrol the borders...by simply looking at the ground, these people can tell if someone has crossed the path and then give you their gender, weight, height, etc. Incredible (especially because they are Arabs, although Israeli citizens)!
After the border, we went to the national park of Tel Dan for a walk through the beautiful natural preserve (again, I had a huge urge to go hiking here when I return in a couple of months!). Interestingly, in the middle of this preserve one can also find one of the oldest stone arches in the world! After Tel Dan, we went kayaking down one of the tributaries of the Jordan River!! Ralph and I paired off in our own kayak and really enjoyed the 30 minutes of making our way down the river, stopping at strategic bends in the river to splash the other members of our group. At one point, a group of Orthodox Jews who DID NOT KNOW US, grabbed our kayak and held us hostage while they splashed us with their paddles - what??? On the drive back, exhausted, cooled down, and content, Ralph and I listened to Matisyahu together (he had a headphone splitter!) as had been our custom throughout this trip!
In the evening, several of us got quite the treat: a Shlomo Artzi concert!! He is an incredibly well-known singer/songwriter who has been performing in Israel for several decades. The concert was outdoors on an absolutely perfect night, and the grounds were filled with people of all generations, entire families, dozens of IDF soldiers dancing in their uniforms. The air was buzzing with (no joke) good, clean fun! Interestingly enough, Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke (LIVE! IN PERSON!) at the beginning of the concert! Although we could not understand a word he was saying, Rach, Brady, Scott, Hunter, Ohad, and I danced the night away! I also feel obliged to point out that Dr. Brog knew all the words to every song! What a wonderful way to wind down and laugh on a clear Israeli night. Perfection.
"Aint no one gonna break my stride, aint no one that can hold me down, oh no, I've got to keep on moving" - Matisyahu lyrics (originally from Ace of Base?)
The theme of day was ‘The Judean Wilderness," enough said. In the morning we began our descent into the desert to the south. On the way, we stopped in Tiberius to volunteer with Christians who had emigrated from Lebanon; for almost twenty years they had formed the South Lebanese Army and fought on Israel's side, but after Israel pulled out in 2000, they were harassed, persecuted, and forced to flee from their homeland. As a result, they are in Israel. We did some crafts with the kids, played soccer, learned traditional Lebanese dancing (!!), and ate amazing carbohydrate concoctions. They were extremely thankful to have us there and to have the support of the larger international Christian community; it was incredibly touching to see their response to such a small gesture on our part, which once more served as a reminder of the kind of positive effect our smallest actions can have!
After this, we drove to the Dead Sea, where we swam (or rather, floated), covered ourselves in mud, and generally relaxed for the rest of the day! In the late afternoon, we went into the pool at our hotel room, where we stayed for (no joke) several hours. On a tangent: at one point we chose to entertain ourselves with chicken fights, and I must say that I won all of the girl matches!!
In the evening we had a Shabbat dinner. The women lit the candles and Avi and Ohad sang the traditional songs...in the middle of our hostel we had a truly heartfelt dinner. Then we all went to bed early, in preparing for the marathon day that our last day in Israel was sure to be!