Posts Tagged ‘war’

Israel: A New Place, A New Year

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

On the eve of a new year, I began my newest adventure in the land of Israel. Sleepless night turned into tired morning as the sun wiggled its way under my door. Being jet lagged is never fun, but when you open your door and feel the Israeli sun on your face for the first time, many things are forgotten. I opened the door to a clear crisp sun on a slightly hazy day that seemed to have been sung in by birdsong.

Breakfast was in the same room where we had eaten dinner the night before and the contrast was shocking. The things that we had heard were outside those windows, but couldn’t see for ourselves was now splayed before us in all its splendor. Palm trees and eucalyptus trees swayed in the wind outside of our window, framing the Sea of Galilee and the umbrella spotted beach where the waves crashed down in a slow rhythmic fashion. Hills surrounded us with cities terracing the mountainsides.

The hotel was just the beginning though, it would be our home for the next couple of days, but during the day we would adventure outward and explore Northern Israel. So we hopped on our bus to begin our first day in Israel.

Through the tinted glass of the windows inside the bus I got my first views of the Israeli countryside. In the north, rolling hills and mountains frame the land with their snow-capped tips, which looking down on rows of agricultural countryside in the valleys below. After a ride through the farmlands we arrived at the base of a huge mountain which is now a nature reserve but many, many years ago this was the biblical city of Tel Dan. At Tel Dan, there is a river, the main spring, that comes from the mountain that rushes along tree framed pathways.

It was a beautiful time to be at Tel Dan, fall was still in the air even though winter had made itself a guest here for some time, and the leaves were still yellow. We walked along the paths of Tel Dan that ranged from walkways littered with fall leaves, to pathways made up of individual rocks between which spring water ran, snaking its way between the cracks.

Along the pathways we found beautiful leaves, some in the shape of hearts and others that were large and fan like that came from fig trees all around us.


Finally at the end of the beautiful walk through the wilderness we came to the ruins of Tel Dan. Not much left besides the old crumbling foundations of this biblical city that thousands of years ago was a thriving center of religious activity; second only to Jerusalem in its time.


We took our very first group photo of all of us together at the foot of the Main Spring. It was a truly beautiful place and the yellow accent of fall leaves made it a magical first stop in Israel.

Afterwards we drove deeper into the Golan Heights of Israel where we took an off-road jeep ride through the old occupied land that was and still is a place of tension.

Our jeep driver was a really nice guy with an odd sense of humour who really seemed to enjoy entertaining American kids with off colored jokes and sarcastic quips.

We traversed the eucalyptus spotted hillsides along muddy gutted back roads in an open aired jeep where there was no separation between us and the Israeli countryside.

Oh and the beautiful countryside we were driving through was also an old land mine area. We were let out of the jeep once and they told us not to venture far for fear of land mines. It was quite an interesting experience being in what some might consider an active war zone.

If being near where old land mines were once was a startling experience, then I was not prepared for our next stop, Mt. Bental. Mt. Bental is a huge mountain, once a volcano, that has an amazing view from high above the world. Standing atop it we could see Damascus, Syria, and Lebanon. As the sign below indicates, from here, on a clear day almost anything can be seen.

The view of the countryside below is Syria. While standing atop Mt. Bental we could hear loud bangs in the distance. We quickly learned that not far away we were hearing the sound of bombs going off in Syria because of their current civil war. It was shocking to be that close to a very active war zone, to hear the ear drum rattling sound of a bombs impact. It makes me shudder, wondering what happened when we heard those sounds from so far away. What about the people who were not as lucky as us to be far away? The people who live there, the people who die there? But here we were sitting atop a mountain, listening to what could very well have been the last sound that some person ever heard in their lives.

In the biting wind we stood at the top of Mt. Bental listening to the sounds of war ring out, it was something you don’t forget.

After Mt. Bental we returned to our hotel at the shores of the Sea of Galilee for an early preparation for the New Years Eve Party. We were all exhausted, I was getting sick, but we all went out for a talk by the shore. A great blue heron stood on a pole of the pier and the sun was setting in shades of soft pinks and purples as we listened to the gently lapping waves of the Sea of Galilee.

It was an extremely peaceful moment of reflection, waiting for the new year to roll in on our heels. The history of this place is unbelievable, astounding, and awe-inspiring. The shore was littered with tiny shells and glinted like secret treasures as I sifted this foreign sand through my fingers. This was my new years, spent in a land utterly foreign to me, yet vaguely felt like home. I never imagined I would be spending my last days of 2012 in Israel, let alone the first week of 2013 there. It was a strange bridging of the gap that was utterly unexpected yet invigorating. This new place, opened new horizons, and I welcomed the new year with open arms with no idea of what lies before me.




Thursday, May 24th, 2012

The post of the mailbox shook, reverberating the metal mailbox with a steady but anxious beat. Like a drum struck with hesitant but impatient strokes of a hand not quite large enough to have a melody or harmony of its own, the mailbox sang its steady tune. The hand struck the mailbox post absentmindedly, not even aware of the affect that enabled the mailbox to sing. Hanging listless and open the small hand swung like a pendulum back forward and down again, encountering the slowly splintering wood that was breaking apart under the stress that had not yet cracked the young boy. The pendulum of this grandfather clock belonged to a young boy and each swing of his short but sinewy arm kept the beat of a clock counting out the seconds, then minutes, and eventually hours of the day with all the consistency of the human heart and its resounding drumbeat.

The mailbox faced forward but the boy faced the side, looking down the long stretching road all the way until it terminated at a bend. Even as the wind blew around him shaking the trees and causing the little red upright flag to hum gently into his ear, the little boy stood upright with all the attentiveness of a sentry on duty, watching the road that remained unchanged save for the few leaves which had been torn from their branches and cast into the sea of asphalt. Every once and a while his eyes would briefly wander to follow the leaves as they tumbled without grace or passion across the road, desperately trying to grab onto a crack in the road so as not to be blown away. At the slightest noise he would snap his attention back to the bend in the road, righting himself and mentally berating himself for his lack of discipline. But still, every so often, his eyes would wander. Blue and determined they focused on the end of the road, waiting. The only thing in his way was himself. His sandy yellow hair kept being blown into his face by a playful gust of wind, blocking his perfect view. But he was in no mood to play, he was on duty. So he would purse his lips with displeasure just as he had watched his mother do time and time again and with a huff of breath blew the strands of hair from his eyes, enabling him to return to his watch. But still the wind tousled his hair like an affectionate hand being run through his light shaggy hair. A small smile cracked his reserved exterior as he felt the wind’s fingers run through and play with his hair-

The smile was torn from his face with a sudden and sharp pinch from the abused wooden mailbox post. With a loud yelp of pain the little boy hunched over slightly to shelter his hand and observed his battle wound with pouting lips. The little splinter sticking out from the side of his hand stung with the pain of a knife from the vindictive mailbox post. With shaky but practiced fingers the little boy used his fingernails to carefully remove the splinter leaving only a small angry red dot of blood behind. Sucking on the side of his hand to get rid of the sting and the blood, the boy eyed the mailbox post with malice burning in his hurt eyes. Pricked with pain he felt his anger build in his chest like a bad cough. Suddenly he lashed out and kicked the post. The metal mailbox let out a shriek but otherwise remained unmoved. The pain built in him until his eyes burned and brimmed with tears. Pain more than a splinter could supply. With all the might in his small frame he kicked the post again, and again, and again until the splintered wood creaked and groaned. The upright red flag shook and quaked under the pent up pain of the little boy. Crying out in his rage he gave a final desperate kick to the mailbox post, unearthing it from its sentry spot sending it crashing to the ground in one violent movement. The metal mailbox crashed to the ground, unhinging its jaw on an unfriendly rock where it had fallen, spilling its contents onto the street: one lonely letter.

Blinking back his sudden outburst of rage, the little boy surveyed the damage he had done. The casualty of war lay on the ground before him, slain by his own hands and feet. Seeing the letter lying there he felt a regret and a guilt burn inside of him that was greater than any anger could have been. The tears that had come to his eyes out of anger, now spilled out of regret. He flung himself to the concrete ground trying to grab the letter as the wind picked it up and blew it farther away. “No please, I’m sorry,” he screamed as he chased it down the street. The wind tore the letter across the jagged road tearing it until it caught desperately in a crack in the road. The little boy leapt and grabbed the letter in his small fists, letting out a triumphant laugh as he held it in his hands. Scratched from the road and bleeding, he slowly returned to the fallen mailbox. Tucking the crumpled and slightly torn letter into his pocket he tenderly picked up the mailbox returning it to its rightful place. The only noticeable sign of the battle was a slight tilt left behind by an act of rage that could not be fixed entirely. He worked carefully and tenderly to place the hinge of the mailbox door back into its place and rub off the dirt from its shiny metal surface which the ground had tainted. When it looked almost right he took out the letter from his pocket, simply addressed with one word, smoothed out as many wrinkles as he could, and gently placed it back into its sheltered cove inside the mailbox’s mouth. Then he turned with tracks of tears running down his dirt smudged face to face the bend in the road which was now blocked by a square white van.

The old mail truck pulled up to house number 187 as it did every single day, as it had always done and would always do. In front of the sole house out in the deserted wooded area that had slowly but surely lost its population as the military base had moved out to another location, stood the little boy who had stood there now for everyday of the last year and a half. Charlie let out a sigh, put the truck into park and slowly got out of the truck to look down at the little boy. Charlie let out a sigh as he stood over the little boy who had normally been so patient and put together but now stood before him a scuffed up mess. His jeans where ripped, his white shirt stained with dirt and possibly a little blood, and his sandy head of hair sat as a disheveled mess on his head. The little boy didn’t say anything but smiled a little as he sniffled and wiped the tears from his face. He looked up at Charlie with a newborn excitement, which was actually never new, it had been that same look for the last year and a half as the little boy did as he always did. He rushed to the mailbox, opened its bruised jaw, which squeaked now as he pried it open, removed the letter, and reverently handed it to the mailman.

Charlie heaved another sigh, his cheeks filling with air like sails in the wind, he removed his hat and slowly rubbed his quickly thinning hair as he watched the little boy hold up the letter with a big smile across his tear stained face. Kneeling down he placed a large calloused hand on the boys shoulder. It lay there heavy and solid, it made the little boy frown under its weight.

“You know kid, it’s been over a year and a half now-“

“578.300148 days”

“… Yeah. I know that is hard to hear, but little man, he’s gone.”

The little boy slowly looked away, back down the road that he had watched for so long. The smile slipped from his cheeks, which were still plump with innocence and eyes that still burned to believe.

“I know. Just one last time.”

The little boy held out the letter again this time not with the usual smile but a smile filled with pain and hope. Charlie looked with pity in his heart at the young boy, forced a smile on his face, and took the crumpled letter from the boy. They didn’t exchange another word, just looked into each other’s eyes knowing that that letter would never be received, but both hoping that it would be. Charlie laid a hand on the boy’s head and ruffled his hair. He nodded towards the little boy’s home and turned back to his mail truck, which bent and swayed as he stepped back inside and started the it with a great protest of sound. The little boy smiled, waved, and turned away. He ran down the gravel path that cut through the dark woods where just beyond sight, a woman stood on a porch with her thin arms wrapped around a column as she stood just as silent, just as determined, watching the path as she did everyday for her little boy to come home. As soon as she heard him coming home she would wipe the tears from her face and go about the house as if she had not abandoned everything to wait for her son. AS if she had not been waiting every minute of every day just as her son down at the edge of the road.

Charlie shook his head as the truck lurched back into motion down the long lonely road. He placed the letter on the seat next to him in a pile of others, all neat and crisp except the newest addition which was crumpled and torn. Five hundred and seventy nine letters sat on the old passenger seat cushion entitled with only one word; Dad.