The Only People at the Hotel

Sunday morning, Tsfat, Villa Galilee Hotel.

We are the only guests left. Sunday is a weekday, a workday, for Israelis, and they left in droves yesterday.

So our table is the only one in the dining room, set with my favorite, Israeli breakfast, and the coffees available are the ones I drink at home.

This land of Israel, so fresh, so intense, so poetic. Yesterday, we traveled from one mountaintop to another, overlooking Lebanon. It’s quiet now. The last time I was here, in the north, 19 years ago, people went back and forth across the border through the Good Fence, though you could hear guns and bombs in the distance.

The view into Lebanon from Israel’s north.

Now it is quiet. And there is no movement between the two countries. Hezbollah controls the south of Lebanon, backed by Iran, and white U.N. trucks traverse the roads. Israel keeps a watchful eye on its borders. Don’t come too close or we’ll show you what it means to mess with Israel.

From Mt. Bental, looking into Syria.
The Banias waterfall

Then we drove east to the Syrian border, also quiet, though Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Syrian Army battle daily, tossing bombs you can see from the top of Mt. Bental.

In between, we hiked along the Banias waterfall and river, just south of Mt. Hermon, Israel’s highest peak. We saw flocks of birds and beautiful cranes in the Hula Valley. We had another incredible day in this incredible place.

At 2:30 a.m., the kids called. Three days of radio silence as they celebrated holiday and Shabbat with their father. Then, quick, fill in all the details, all the blanks, and our voices connect in a virtual hug. Three days until I can hold them again.

Hula Valley

For now, the fresh mountain air comes in from windows and doors and piano music plays overhead. A man reads a newspaper in Hebrew. Dan is 47 today. He reads the headlines on his phone.

Breakfast was incredible. Little squares of light and fluffy quiche, smooth cheeses, vegetables and Israeli salad drizzled with olive oil pressed not far from here and fresh squeezed lemon. Halvah so good, and a custard dessert and fresh plum jam drizzled over cake. Fresh, fresh, fresh.

Yesterday, lunch was on a kibbutz called Dag el Dan, fish from the Dan River, and the young woman who worked there said, “I was not born in the north but I came here for school and now this is home. I love it.”

In Israel, you hear testimony of love of the land, love of the people, love of the place. Intense passion for identity and connection. Who you are and where you are from intimately intertwined.

At the nature preserve yesterday, there was a poem about taking flight, mounted on the wall of the observation platform where you can get the best views of the beautiful cranes:

I am the wings of the kingfisher
A flash of turquoise
Just as an opal reflects the sun

Listen closely
to the whisper and rustle of the purple grasses
they are my voice

I am carried
by the fingers of the wind that caress your cheek

Here, wherever your gaze alights
I abide
all that is beauty
I am become

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