Not as photogenic as the Masada of the South, nor as dramatic to look at. But Gamla is green, or is during the spring and fall when it rains more. Remains to be seen what it’ll look like this Wednesday when I climb over its ruins for the first time. I stayed at the overlook on my first visit in March, 2011.
This is on the Golan Heights, which Syria claims despite losing it in 1973 in an invasive war they started. But there’s little development up there as the Israeli government still holds out the faint hope of someday trading it for a permanent peace treaty. Or as permanent as anything can be with an autocratic Arab state.
Gamla, however, dating as it does from pre-66 C.E., readily shows who owned it originally, as does the archaeology. It wasn’t Assad & Co. I expect Mrs. C. and Mr. B. will prefer to watch for eagles at the overlook above the place rather than tramp the lone trail down there with me. This is a nature preserve. But we’ll see.
UPDATE: Mr. Boy opted to go down the steep, rocky trail with me to see the oldest synagogue yet discovered in Israel. We enjoyed the visit. And it was a good thing he came. ‘Cause while he ran back up the quarter-mile trail like a mountain goat, I like to died getting back up it. Without his encouragement, I might still be sitting out there mumbling, “just a few more minutes until I catch my breath.”
These wildflowers on the Golan Heights this time of year remind me how much alike the Texas hill country and Israel are, because we’re approximately on the same latitude and our climates are similar. Our wildflowers also are coming out all over, and although it’s getting steadily warmer, an occasional cold front still blows through every now and then.
The Golan’s wind was icy on March 29, when we spent the night up there in a Moshav’s (religious community’s) B&B. The overhead lights in my unit quit late in the evening, but the room heaters kept working. Thankfully.
It was like the Davis Mountains of West Texas, except that the Golan is a three thousand feet higher in elevation than the rest of Israel. The Davis Mountains, which are suffering wild fires this spring due to our severe drought, are between five and six thousand feet above sea level.
One of the places Snoopy and I were planning to visit in October was the Golan Heights. Now he’s recovering from a heart attack and I’m trying to decide whether I’m still adventurous enough at sixty-six to go there alone.
Fortunately, there’s always Michael Totten, and his good reporting, editing and picture-taking. This piece of his on the Golan both encourages me to go and makes me realize that I don’t have to. Thanks to the Web, and its undercutting of the old mass media gatekeepers, I can get a feel for the place without leaving home.
I used to donate money to Michael before he went to work for Pajamas Media. Then I got to the bottom of his piece and discovered he still needs contributions. I sent him ten bucks. If you like the piece you should consider it, too. It’s much cheaper than a trip.
UPDATE: Snoop returns to posting. He’s just going to be a lot slower for a while.
The Iraq Study Group’s recommendations for solving the problems in Iraq? Make them bigger by, among other things, offering to return the Golan Heights to Syria. Huh?
"The normal approach to a difficult problem would be to bound or simplify it. But the ISG recommendations try the exact opposite: it adds complexity to the already complex situation."
It will be interesting to see what the headline writers do with this one. Simplicity ain’t in it.
UPDATE The Wall Street Journal dubs it "The Iraq Muddle Group," but notes it serves the useful purpose of denying any fast departure and underlines the stark consequences of a failure there.