The View from the house we stayed in last night An image of a tortoise crossing a road near the Sea of Galilee is the only way I can start this. I feel I owe it to the tortoise. It was walking at quite an impressive pace, but when we went past it, it was 3/4 across unfortunately half a mile down the road a lorry trundled towards it. I’m not trying to be symbolic here, it’s just one of those images that I haven’t come across before, and it’s been haunting me a bit today.
The bit of water to the right is the River Jordan, my digital camera has a delay between pushing the button and taking the picture. Ohad asked me if I wanted to get out the car and take a picture, I said “well can you be bothered?”, he nodded no, so I said “Nah neither can I”. Some people would sacrifice a lot to visit the Jordan River, but for me the Tortoise wins hands down.
Today Ohad, (my cousin), and I, had a mini buddy movie type experience together. We travelled to the Golan Heights and then down to mid Israel (Arad) which is in the dessert. Before talking about today’s trip I thought I ought to give you a bit of background behind why I’m here.My Mother and father met on holiday, they had an affair (I’m being kind here), and I was the result. They didn’t stay together and after a short time lost contact with each other. Throughout my childhood I yearned for my father and through my teenage tears and early twenties sought him out but to no avail. My Mother thought he had moved abroad, so that made matters worse. Five years ago I decided to make a concerted effort to find him and told my Mother what I was about to do. I asked her to seek out any official documents to see what might turn up. During this process she came across an old address book and in it she found a reference to him. The spelling of his name was different to the one I’d been using. So with this new piece of evidence I approached International Directory Enquiries for South Africa and immediately came up with a number. Up until then nothing had ever shown so this was very exciting. I phoned the number and was told that the name was from a previous marriage and that this person was not a blood relation, however they suggested trying Israel, I did so and came up with another number. The conversation went something like this:”Hello I’m looking for a Boris ………., have you heard of him?””Yes, He’s my Brother! Why who are you?””I think I’m his son”Long pause”Where are you?””I’m in London, England””Well why are you calling here?”I explained about calling South Africa”Well Boris lives in London!”I passed my number on to this man and asked him to forward it onto Boris.We said goodbye.I immediately called local Directory Enquiries and found my fathers number.Without any hesitation I called him. The phone answered.”Hello is that Boris……..””Yes””My name’s Simon Smith and I think I’m your son, I hope you don’t mind me calling””Yes that’s right you are my son”‘”I was wondering if you would like to meet up””Yes, what are you doing tonight””Nothing, why where do you live?””Notting Hill Gate, where do you live?””Two miles away””Well come over”So we met up, have got on well and been seeing each other 2 or 3 times a week for the last 5 years. My Father and his family are Jewish and some of them emigrated to Israel. I was bought up C. of E. but am now B. of E. (Bank of England). Since 1948, Boris has visited annually, and I have joined him for the last 4 years running. During this time I have established relationships with my cousins, uncles and aunts and while I shall never have the bonds that can be made between family members through childhood, I have built up a closeness with all of them – possibly not having a history allows a clearer if not deeper relationship. So that is why I am here.One of the problems about not having a history is remembering everyone’s name correctly. One of my cousins has two adult children, a daughter called Dorrit, and a son called Arik. Unfortunately last night I stayed up later than everyone else, and heard the front door open, I thought it was their son returning from a night out and thought he may fancy a chat, so through the darkness I whispered “Dorrit is that you? Do you want to come in here?”, there was no reply, so I assumed that he had not heard anything. In the morning I was surprised when I mentioned Dorrit to be corrected that in fact his name was Arik. God knows what he thought when he heard me inviting his sister in to my bedroom at 3 in the morning. Especially as she was probably 80 miles away tucked up with her husband.This time last year I took a tour to the Sea of Galilee. I ended up sitting on a boat talking to someone about fool.com which is a stocks and shares website. Behind us a range of mountains which are known as the Golan Heights rose up, and today was partly taken up travelling up them.
Some parts of Israel look very much like areas of Britain, and because it was misty and raining it really did have the feel of an English summers day!!!! Needless to say views from the heights were pretty much non existent, however as is normal for me what I found more interesting was the landscape of warfare.
A look out post The Golan Heights were, up to 1967, controlled by Syria. Over the next decade battles between Israel and its neighbours, Syria and Jordan, ended up with the Golan Heights being controlled by the Israelis. The Golan Heights significance lies in its strategic value. From these mountains much of Northern Israel can be viewed and shot down upon. As we drove across the plateau on the top of the Golan Heights and down in to the valley (yes we did break in to Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” as we drove here) on the other side we came to the Border, complete with shootout points and barbed wire.
Of course the area was stunningly beautiful and reminded me of an Alpine valley, however given the minefields and occasional (though rare nowadays) sniping incident, I didn’t fancy a holiday here.
This is the real Road to Hell, well actually Armageddon, notice the brown sign. (Ar-megiddo-n)!
The picture beside it is the symbol for a heritage site, however it looks a bit like a mushroom cloud to me.This next picture is of an arty house in Tel-Aviv that looks like it’s been through Armageddon too.
From the North we made our way back to Tel-Aviv, where we popped in to the hotel to see my father. The journey from the car to the Hotel entrance was my first experience of wind strong enough to almost knock me off my feet. Even Ohad had never felt wind like it.
From Tel-Aviv we drove south to Arad where I shall be staying with another cousin.
Tonight two people have called my mobile phone, and though they are not to know that it costs me over a 1 GBP / minute I can’t help myself answering with the warning “Someone better have died!”
Thanks by the way to those of you who’ve written back to me about this. If you like this please pass a link to other people who you think might appreciate it. My ego needs all the stroking it can get.