Sunday, July 1, 2007

In the Gallilee

We're in a cottage at a "Moshav" (farming community) in the Gallilee, Northern Israel. This place reflects the contrasts of this nation -- ranging from pure desert in the south, to incredible fertility (and farming diversity) in the north. The contrasts and conflicts affecting Israel are also rather apparent -- we aren't imminently near the Lebanese border, but we passed some Arab villages on the way -- and these communities explain this land's contrasts.

Arabs within post 1948-67 Israel enjoy full civil rights and Israeli citizenship; they elect local municipal leaders and have a few seats in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). But they are not truly equal citizens -- they are free from military service obligations, and their local municipal councils in many cases have a simple policy towards local tax collection -- they don't. Their attitude is that the Israeli government isn't theirs and they don't feel an obligation to collect taxes -- instead, they virtually demand that non-Arab communities support them through subsidies. This just adds to the tensions here.

We are here with a guide -- Moishe ben Barouch -- who will show us around northern Israel this week. Moishe has clear political views -- he has little patience for left-leaning idealists and thinks that Israel is foolish to return the "occupied territories" from the 1967 war. I'm not sure how I feel about things; here in this agricultural community, I am reminded of my time in Inyanga, Rhodesia (before it turned to Zimbabwe) in 1976. We were in remote, beautiful lands, almost idyllically perfect; but soon to be overrun by war and revolution. Of course things here are much different than Rhodesia; the Jewish presence is much better entrenched and the army has proven its match in many conflicts since 1948.

Before lunch, we took a close look at the City of David, the base of biblical Jerusalem; now an archaeological site near an Arab community just outside the walled city traditionally associated with 'old' Jerusalem (the walls are more closely associated with the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire than biblical Jerusalem; though some parts of the biblical city -- namely the Temple Mount and Al Asoka mosque) are within the 'new' 'old city'.

Our tour took us through the biblical history, of invasions by Assyrians, Babylonians (Iraq!) and Romans; the Crusades come further along the historical path. Clearly, Israel's conflicts with its neighbours have plenty of historical antecedents -- this is not a new conflict, by any means.

So where do we go from here? From our base here we'll be touring the north including the
Golan Heights for the next five days. This is not high-end luxury accommodation, but technology has found its way here with free high speed Internet. So I'll be able to blog each day without difficulty.

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