We had planned to travel by car up to the north of Israel, to the area around the Sea of Galilee. At the last moment, a business friend of Daniel’s offered to accompany us, and that couldn’t have been more perfect.
The north of Israel is greener and more hilly than the rest. Flowering plants bloom everywhere, and I was told that it is even more beautiful during the wet season.
First we traveled to the Sea of Galilee. Here we saw two churches, each right next to the other. One was devoted to the miracle of Christ’s walking on water (and the anointment of Peter as his agent on earth, if you’re into that) and the other was supposedly set on the place where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplying the loves and fishes.
Across the sea are the Golan Heights. Like all Israeli citizens, Daniel’s friend had served in the Israeli Defense Force. He had fought in the Golan Height. He said that, as a mountainous area looming over the Sea and the plains below it, the Golan Heights were of too great strategic importance to be left to the Syrians. He pointed out that, had Israel left the Goal Heights in Syrian hands, the Syrian Civil War would now be right on the edge of populated and undefensible areas in Israel.
Then we went offroading and drove right into some Non-Specific Military Training. In real life it was highly specific, but our guide asked us not to share the details in public, although we were allowed to take pictures. We sat and watched for a while, alternating our attention between the exercise and trout jumping in a nearby stream. The fascinating thing about this was how casual it all was; what do you think would happen to the unlucky civilian who stumbled upon a U.S. military training exercise? But here there was no tension. The soldiers didn’t check our passports or ask our names or our business.
I asked Daniel’s friend about this and he said “Israel is too small. If we give too much to the military, we won’t have any country left. So everything has to be open to both military and civilians.”
Here’s a picture of a thistle that is no way related to any military equipment: