Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Kibbutz Lavi

We moved to this kibbutz hotel yesterday. Vivian doesn't enjoy 'roughing it' -- the combination of two dogs, a mangy cat, and the requirement to cook and prepare meals at the cottage place we had reserved just took the 'vacation' out of the vacation for her. So our guide recommended this place.

It's a full-service hotel, with some distinctive features. The facility is owned by a collective Kibbutz. The original agricultural ideals of the Kibbutz movement still remain, but now most modern Kibbutzim operate other businesses to pay their way. Hotels are common. This one has a rather specialized business as well; it manufactures Synagogue furnishings,and ships them around the world. Of course international purchasers can visit the site and stay in the hotel, which (appropriately for its location) is fully Kosher and observes all the necessary rituals and processes required for observant Jews.

Today, we head to the Golan Heights. Our guide doesn't hide his pro-settler perspectives. The Golan, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, is of course of great strategic and political importance.

Yesterday, we visited the ancient city of Zippori, which in Jewish tradition claims to be the place where the Mishna (codification of Jewish laws) was written. The archaeologists have been digging on the site since the 1930s, uncovering an astoundingly rich and sophisticated biblical-era city.

There is much Jewish tradition and history here -- at its height, Zippori had several synagogues. In the fertile Galilee the city enjoyed true wealth; roman era villas and public places had amazingly intricate mosaics and toilets with running water (provided by a sophisticated aqueduct and piping system). The Jewish community here survived the destruction of the Jerusalem temple because the community did not resist the Roman occupation -- and ultimately enjoyed good relationships with the occupiers. Successive invasions with Arabs and Crusaders tore apart the town; but it was revitalized in the 19th century by the Arabs, and was a thriving community in 1948 when the UN partitioned Palestine and Israel -- now an independent country -- found itself in an immediate and intense war with its Arab neighbours.

Several surrounding Arab communities remained -- in fact the area is dotted with sizable Arab towns and cities (total population about 800,000 in this area), but (I recall our guide as saying), the Arabs in Zippori, particularly hostile to Israel, fled). It seems the Jews decided to level the town -- leaving it as a purely archaeological site. (I'm sure I will be able to find some literature in the Arab world complaining about this event; of course, these were hot wartime conditions and Israel truly had been created by the United Nations partition legislation. The sizable number of apparently thriving Arab communities in this region suggests that the story for those who did not fight the partition turned out to be quite positive.)
(Some of my facts may be imperfect -- I wasn't recording the guide's comments and am relying on memory, which is imperfect at the best of times.)

I have to leave now -- will write more this evening.

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