UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Tuesday, November 12 2013:
**IDF soldiers and Jewish community security personnel continue to do their near-miraculous job in stopping attempted Palestinian terrorists from carrying out terrorist attacks. Last night, an alert soldier spotted a suspicious woman at the Tapuach Junction. When he asked the person to show her hands, it became apparent she was carrying a large butcher knife with which she later revealed that she planned to carry out a stabbing attack against Israelis waiting for buses at the Junction. In another incident last night, a security patrol at Beitar thwarted the infiltration of a group of Palestinians into the community.
**Thank you John Kerry. Following Kerry’s reckless comments on Israeli TV the other night saying that Israelis should fear a “third intifada” (to many of us who actually listened to Kerry, it seemed as if he was calling for a third intifada), many Palestinian officials have suddenly popped up in the last two days calling for . . . you guessed it dear reader . . . a third intifada.
Yesterday, we had the spectacle of Fatah Central Committee member, Abu Sultan, declaring at a memorial ceremony for Yasser Arafat in Shechem (Nablus) that it is now necessary “to stimulate a surface uprising against Israel.” He specifically called on the young people of Shechem to not be silent and to “rise up” against Israel.
We can expect many more such pronouncements how that John Kerry has come out of “the U.S. is a neutral facilitator” closet.
**Welcome to the new Middle East. In a sight not seen in Egypt since 1992, a Russian warship docked in Alexandria yesterday. The missile cruiser Varyag’s arrival was accompanied by gun salutes and national dignitaries. Tomorrow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Cairo for talks with their Egyptian counterparts.
According to Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper, members of the the Russian delegation include representatives of Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, one of whom had this to say yesterday: “The upcoming visit will help us outline the prospects of our military cooperation.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy was more direct saying that Egypt is becoming more “independent” and “broadening its choices of cooperation” following the Obama Administration’s suspension of military and financial aid to the country.
Your humble servant loves taking trips to all corners of Israel. The beauty of this country is amazing, and the history and diversity of its people is a source of unending delight.
On Sunday, we traveled north stopping first in the Talmudic city of Tsippori with its exquisite mosaics and archaeological fascinations.
Tsippori is located beside Nazareth and from the crusader fort on top of the hill at Tsippori, one has a panoramic view of Nazareth, Nazareth Illit, and other Israeli villages up and down the nearby valley.
After an all too short visit, we continued north passing Tiberias and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) along our way to the magical, kabbalistic Tzfat (Safed). Walking down the narrow alleyways, entering into the tiny synagogues that were the “homes” of the Kabbalah masters, we felt like we had been transported back to the 1500s. Finishing up our stay in the area, we visited the tomb of the greatest Kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai–who was known as “Rashbi” (the acronym of his name)– on Mt. Meron along with thousands of orthodox Jews who make regular pilgrimages there. Rashbi wrote the primary book of Kabbalah–the Zohar.
Then it was on to Neve Atif–a small Israeli community high up on Mt. Hermon–where we had a reservation for the evening. Neve Ativ was named for the Israeli soldiers who died in the area in 1968 during battles with Arab terrorists. The dark road from Kiryat Shmona north was winding as we began to climb to about 1000 meters above sea level. But by 9:00 pm we had checked in and settled in for the night.
And then the booms began.
All night long there were outbursts of artillery and mortar fire seemingly all around us though they actually were emanating from just across the mountain to the northeast–in other words, from Syria.
Of course, being from Ashdod and having experienced the 312 missile explosions directly over our house last November, the continuous “booming” was not a major cause for concern. But after one particularly intense episode at about 11:30 pm, your humble servant wandered down the hill to the lobby to ask the night clerk if this was “normal”.
She told me that the firing had been going on every night for the last two or three months–a fact that was confirmed by other locals we talked to the next morning. Anyway, after a restless night, we awakened, had breakfast, climbed in our car, and headed to the top of Mt. Hermon–with the sound of occasional artillery fire booming in air.
The beautiful narrow winding road was an anomaly as we climbed higher and higher–an anomaly because there was absolutely no traffic other than IDF jeeps and personnel carriers going to the IDF base on the mountain.
Finally we reached an elevation about 2800 meters–just over 9000 feet.
One final note: the endless artillery and mortar fire that Israelis in this area endure is almost never reported in the Israeli media–and never reported in the international press.
Tomorrow: part 2–our drive along the Israeli-Syrian border, from Majdal Shams to Katzrin.