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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Israel! Golan Heights: Druze villages, a waterfall, wineries and MEAT!

The Golan Heights, Israel

Let me start this blog post by stating that (sadly) I did NOT get to go skiing! :-( I have wanted to ski Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights in Israel for 30 years (and have been bragging all this time howt you can ski & snorkel in Israel on the same day!), & with Dan's blessing (he doesn't ski) I planned this small part of our truly fabulous month in Israel (made possible by Ben Gurion University of the Negev) in the hopes that there might still be snow on the Hermon in April! No such luck! We were too late for the snow- as you can see from the glorious flowers- & I didn't get to ski! G-d willing, I WILL get to ski Mt. Hermon, and sooner rather than later!

Dan and I drove up to Neve Ativ in the high mountains of the Golan Heights from Akko, and passed thru several Druze Villages, including Majdal Shams, where I photographed the extraordinary sculpture depicting Druze culture and history in the town centers. I had many Druze friends in the Israeli Border Patrol in Jerusalem, all of them Israeli Army (IDF) veterans from Israel's top units. I'd illustrated an important meeting of the Druze Sheikhs Amin Tarif (who was awarded the Israel Prize in 1990, and who died in 1993) and Kamel Tarif  in Julis in 1982, as well, and I have great respect for the Druze people and their culture. The Druze religion is, in many ways, a 'secret' religion, but the website provides a great deal of interesting information. A monotheistic religion that recognises the prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, & Muhammad, the Druze believe in the divinity of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (985 – 1021?), the sixth caliph of the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt, & believe in reincarnation & transmigration of the soul: that, at death, one's soul is instantaneously reincarnated & reborn into another life, & through successive reincarnations, the soul eventually unites with the Cosmic Mind. Interestingly, Druze women can and do attain high positions of religious significance; their rights are almost identical to those of men, and Druze women are preferred over men in joining the uqqal (sages), leaders of the Druze religious community, as they are considered to be better "spiritually prepared". And Druze men serve in the Israeli Army. The Druze Star is made up of 5 colors: green for "the mind", necessary for understanding the truth, red for "the soul"; yellow for "the word", the purest form of expression of the truth, blue for the mental power of the will, and white, the realization of blue, where its power has been materialized in the world of matter.
I remember with great fondness and deep appreciation how my Druze friends in the Border Patrol protected me when I called them for help, & how they visited me while I was in the Israel Army and in the hospital in Jerusalem, running down the hall in uniform to see their "little sister"- to the amazement of the other patients! (And boy, was I proud!) They jokingly said I was "hetzi Druzit" (half Druze), all of us knowing that such a thing wasn't possible: if you are Druze & marry outside of the religion, that's it: your children are no longer Druze. (You cannot convert & become a Druze, either). The Druze are famous for their hospitality: three interesting sites about visiting Druze villages in Israel are Holiday In Israel - Druze Villages  and Druze and Circassian Villages in the Galilee and Carmel and Tourist Israel - Druze Hospitality.
Druze Village Sculpture

Druze Village Sculpture

Driver Dan and I spent so much time enjoying the fascinating trip up and down the mountains through the villages, that we got to our adorable "Alpine Chalet" at the Rimonim Holiday Village in a pitch-dark, foggy downpour, and it was a Joy to finally sit ourselves down in their cozy bar and enjoy an Israeli beer and a glass of wine!
Road Food! "Mc-Drive"
We HAD to do this- for Dan! LOL

Spring green! On the road through the Golan...

Our Alpine Cottage at Rimon Holiday Village
Neve Ativ, Golan Heights, Israel

Happy Dan w/his Israeli beer!
And happy me, with my Israeli wine!

Rimon Holiday Village 
 The next morning we drove up to Mt. Hermon, but the rain was so heavy and the fog was so thick that we couldn't get to the very top. :-(
Villages in the Golan, from Mt. Hermon

Love in the Golan!

Dan, Mt. Hermon, Golan Heights
Mt. Hermon: as far as we could go!

So we compensated by finding a magical waterfall, and then going
wine-tasting thru the Golan Heights!
Where Route 989 meets 99 we accidentally found the magnificent Banias Waterfall & Nahal Hermon Reserve, a place I'd wanted to see for decades! Named for the 5 grottos in the nearby cliff that are remnants of a shrine to the god Pan (the origin of the name Panias (or Banias, as it's pronounced in Arabic), the Banias spring begins at the foot of Mount Hermon, & its water rushes with great force through a canyon-like channel, dropping 190 meters over a course of 3.5 kilometers, & forming the Banias waterfall, one of the most beautiful in Israel! After 9 kilometers, the Hermon River meets the Dan River, & the two flow into the Jordan River. A staircase connects the Banias spring to the Banias cave; at one time the spring actually bubbled from within the cave. A short path leads from the cave to a white structure atop a step on the cliff, which is the graveside of the Druze Saint Nebe Hader, and outside the cave are the remains of a temple built by Herod! The site Caesarea Philippi is holy to Christians, as well, and Christians who make pilgrimages to Banias use the two prayer areas there.
It's truly an amazingly beautiful place!

Nahal Hermon Reserve - Banias Waterfall

Dan, at Banias


Alpine flowers in the Golan

Fresh Zatar!

1973 (Yom Kippur War) memorial to 
fallen soldiers Yoel Porat and Avi Diashi
Golan Heights, Israel

The Golan Heights, Israel

Our next stop was Bazelet HaGolan, a boutique winery in Moshav Kidmat Zvi. The rich Golan Heights soil lies over a cap of basalt (bazelet) rock, & thus creates an ideal wine-growing climate; the careful attention paid to all aspects of the natural wine production process (Bazelet HaGolan's grapes are harvested by hand, for example, & their wine is aged in special oak casks designed to bring out their unique flavors & aromas), all contribute to the outstanding quality of their Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a delightful wine tasting and bought bottle of both their excellent Cabernet and powerfully yummy Grappa!
Wine Tasting, Bazelet HaGolan Winery

Our next stop was the world-famous Golan Heights Winery, which truly put Israel on the world's fine wine map. Most famous for their "Yarden", "Gamla", and "Golan" wines, the winery was founded in 1983, long before Israel had 300+ award winnng wineries, and is located in Katzrin, high up on the Golan Heights. We took their tour, & had both a wine tasting & a lesson in pouring, savoring, & appreciating fine wine, and then (of course) we bought several bottles to take home- and local olive oil, too!
Golan Heights Winery

Wine Tasting, Golan Heights Winery

Our final stop of the day was for a GREAT- and truly gourmet - dinner of Israeli-ranch-raised meat at Meat Shos! 
Meat on the grill, at the table, at Meat Shos


A wonderful dinner at Meat Shos!

Wild West Israel! Israeli Cattle Ranch & Cowboy

Art Show at the Fire House

Meat Shos is NOT easy to find, but I'd read about how they featured only fine meats from Israeli ranches (YES, we have ranches in Israel!), and with Dan driving & me with the map on my lap & reading the Hebrew road signs, find it we finally did! Meat Shos is in a small strip mall known as the Qasrin Industrial Park, next to a Fire Station that hosts art exhibits(!), and it does help if you can read Hebrew signage! But BOY was it worth the trek! Their meats are sold by weight, prepared to order, and described by their Golan Heights ranch pedigrees, & they have a great selection of Golan Heights wines, too! We had another one of our "tasting" dinners, & so got to sample a selection of delicious, local beef, lamb, and sausages prepared in a variety of special ways, along with an assortment of house-made salads, and a truly scrumptious Druze Sineya, made with ground meat, tehina, and spices!
After dinner we enjoyed the Fire House Art Show, and then drove to our next destination: Safed!

Next: Safed: Jewish History, Kabalah, and a B-&-B in the Artist's Quarter!

1 comment:

Keren Waranch said...

The Golan Heights portion of your visit sounds amazing! I'm so glad you were able to go back to Israel.