I'm currently touring Israel with several of my grown-up children (we're visiting my oldest daughter, who presently lives and works here). Right now we're driving around the Golan Heights and northern Israel, and we're staying a couple or three miles from the border with Lebanon. This is a fascinating area, well off the beaten track for most pilgrimage tourists, but one which gives valuable insight into what makes Israel tick, together with a more general insight into the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Two miles from where we're staying is Kyriat Shmona, where over a thousand Hezbollah rockets landed during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Yesterday we drove up Mount Bental, taking photos into Syria just a stone's throw away with Damascus some forty miles away, before spending some time in the Druze town of Madjal Shams on the slopes of Mount Hermon (various new houses being built here). From time to time you encounter the odd relic of the 1967 Six Day War (an abandoned tank here, painted in gaudy colours and sporting and Israeli flag, or a more sombre memorial remembring the Israeli war dead over there). Today we visited the border town of Metula, a stone's throw from Lebanon (we photographed a UNIFIL tank and vehicles patrolling the border, compete with UN initials and emblems). Yet despite being in one of the world's tensest conflict zones, for now all seems peaceful. It is a beautiful area, with scenic views from the mountains which are so militarily strategic. One is also struck by the intense amount of agriculture on the Israeli side,whether by idealisic kibbutniks, or the Druze orchards producing goods which apparently they can export to Syria. For many Israelis here existence seems to represent a form of resistance, driven by idealism in the face of danger. Why else would anyone set up home a stone's throw from nations intent on your destruction? One is also struck by how this area is so central to Israel's security - overlooking the country's Galilee basin and water supply as it does - and I can't see how the country will ever give up land for peace as long as there are Iranian proxies based right on her borders in Lebanon or Gaza, or with Syria right next door, particularly when giving up land in Lebanon or Gaza failed so dismally. Seeing the terrain here one begins to appreciate much more fully Israel's obsession with security and how this must be addressed before there can be any chance of land swaps.