Having just recently returned from Israel (as of 1:00AM EDT last Friday morning) I wanted to get my thoughts about the last hike I did while there – the Jilaboun River in the Golan. This was an amazing hike that I did with my younger daughter in the early afternoon last Wednesday. We drove from where we were staying near Rosh Pina up to the Golan and followed Waze until we got to the trailhead. When I read about the Jilaboun trail here I figured that we would be following the trail as they presented it – not quite. While that write-up notes that you park near the remains of a Syrian village (which we did) – we did not find the markings quite the way that article describes it and so we ended up getting on the trail near the Devorah waterfall. Ok – no biggie. As for the description that this trail is of medium difficulty – that’s accurate. It’s much rockier that I had anticipated and required a lot more scrambling than I expected. However, the trail is absolutely gorgeous and waterfalls are just incredible. As you can see from the pictures below the landscape is awesome. If you want a reasonable length hike that challenges you somewhat and rewards you greatly with beautiful views, the Jilaboun is definitely one to try. What I found somewhat amusing (albeit it’s not really *that* funny) is that the board at the entrance to the trail warns you (4th bullet down) to stay on the trail because of the danger of landmines. That’s not something you normally see when you’re hiking the Billy Goat Trail or Old Rag.

I’m wrapping up another trip home to Israel. I have spent the past two weeks in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and now up in the Galilee at Vered HaGalil – a wonderful slice of heaven that can be considered a “guest ranch” – not from from Tiberias and Rosh Pina.

I was born in Israel and have come home to the this wonderful place many times – and I look forward to the day that I come home on a more permanent basis in the near future. I was amazed as Tel-Aviv is such a vegan-friendly city (which is good for me since I am vegan myself) and even Jerusalem seems a little more vegan friendly then it was three years ago. Israel has made a lot of progress – yes, I am well aware that it has its warts but no society is perfect. As much as the BDS crowd and the Palestinians wish to portray Israel as the worst possible country in the world it is most certainly nowhere near that. All countries have their problems – Israel is not immune to that for sure but Israel has people who are working to improve their society and their country. And like all other countries Israelis are people who yearn for peace with their neighbors – be they Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian and Palestinian.

As I sit here on the day before I leave back to the United States (where we also have our fair share of problems which I will not detail here) I marvel at what a jewel Israel has become over the past 71 years. There is still much work to be done but, as always, I am optimistic about Israel and her future.

I am reminded of the joke about the guy who dies and goes to be judged. It is determined that he go to Hell but he’s given options by an angel – he can go to Soviet Hell, Nazi Hell or Israeli Hell. He thinks for a moment and considers: “Hmmm…Soviet Hell – no way that is too oppressive; Nazi Hell? No…that would be like Auschwitz forever.” So he tells the angel “I’ll go to Israel Hell”. Immediately he’s transported to Israeli Hell. He opens his eyes and he’s standing on the side of the road on top of a hill and everywhere he looks there are orchards and fields of crops and beauty all around and thinks “Huh? Is this right?” A few seconds later an IDF Jeep drives up and the driver asks the man if he needs a ride to which he enthusiastically replies, “Yes”. He gets in and he says to the driver “I thought this is Israeli Hell – but it’s so beautiful.” The driver replies “You should have seen what a hellhole this place was 71 years ago!”

This is one of those books that you pick up and immediately grabs your attention and gets you going.  I was infuriated from the very beginning of the book – not with Dr. Lipstadt but with the fact that there are these “deniers” out there who have gone and continue to go to great lengths to revise history and white-wash the German responsibility for World War II and for the Holocaust in particular.

Their methods initially were very rudimentary and poor in that they produced pamphlets that had limited circulation and were of low quality that is was obvious that their target audience was simply like-minded individuals.  Initially much of their effort seems to have been devoted to exonerating Germany’s role in the war and portraying the Nazi regime as more victim of the Allies and of Jews in particular.  The early deniers focused more on minimizing the numbers of Jews murdered in the death camps like Aushwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Buchenwald and others and on blaming those deaths to starvation and to the deprivations Nazi Germany experienced due to the Allies bombing campaigns.  The initial focus was not on the gas chambers but rather explaining away the deaths and minimizing them and even equivocating them to the German deaths due to the Allies.

Over time their tactics changed more to denying that any Jews actually were murdered in the homicidal gas chambers at the death camps.  The deniers focused on making claims that there was insufficient proof of wholesale slaughter (when in reality there has always been ample proof) and that the homicidal gas chambers were actually used for delousing prisoner’s clothes and property.  Over time they went from printing pamphlets to whole books (usually published by neo-Nazi publishing houses) and to updating their presentation to having a pseudo-scholarly look to it by creating an “Institute” for historical research that publishes a “journal” (I hesitate to call it that since the “methods” used by the authors of the “articles” in this “journal” are nowhere near the historiographic bar for legitimate journals). 

Dr. Lipstadt does an amazing effort to expose these people for who they really are: Antisemites who simply are looking to white-wash Germany’s crimes committed during World War 2 (particularly in reference to the Holocaust) and to bolster their false claims that Israel (and Jews in general) are trying to pull a “fast one” over the rest of the world. These people cherry pick their facts, misquote historical documents, or just fabricate lies to bolster their claims. Their behavior deserves to be derided by all – but yet they continue to attract like-minded neo-Nazis and Antisemites to them. What’s worse is that even those who are *NOT* neo-Nazis or Antisemitic sometimes fall into their traps and help promulgate their message unwittingly. The worst cases of these happens on university campuses where students and professors alike – who should have critical thinking skills – fail to realize that not all ideas or speech have merit and need to be defended.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about these deniers and their false messages and the danger they pose to historical accuracy and truth. We must be ever vigilant against them and call them out whenever they appear. Thank you Dr. Lipstadt for this wonderful work.

August 2020

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