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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.

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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!”

Tisha B’Av (translated as the Ninth of Av) is the day in the Hebrew calendar where many tragedies have befallen us.  The First and Second Temples were both destroyed on this day – the First Temple by the Babylonians while the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.  On Tisha B’Av 135CE the Bar Kochba revolt was crushed at the Battle of Betar. On Tisha B’Av in 1290 the Edict of Expulsion was issued demanding that all Jews leave England.  On Tisha B’Av in 1492 the Alhambra Decree was issued expelling the Jews from Spain.  So many tragedies on this one day and even now, two-thousand years later though we have renewed the land of Israel and govern over Jerusalem we are still incomplete.

Today our separation is enforced by the Waqf which retained authority over the Temple Mount after the Six-Day War at the suggestion of then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.  And today the Waqf uses every means and effort, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, to undermine Israel’s rightful claim to the Temple Mount and the rights of Jews to visit there – whether they pray or not.

Yet it’s not enough that the Waqf, supported by the Palestinian Authority, does everything it can to negate and erase any claim or archaeological trace of Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.  Today they now are working to extend their authority to the Western Wall (what they call the “Al-Buraq Wall”).  In October of 2015 the Palestinian Authority tried to get UNESCO to declare the Western Wall plaza an official Muslim holy site.  That effort was criticized widely by western organizations.  In April of 2016, UNESCO’s executive council passed a resolution that referred to the Western Wall plaza only by its Arabic name (“Al-Buraq”) and relegated the Hebrew terms to quotations after the term “Al-Buraq Plaza thereby placing a stake in the ground proclaiming UNESCO’s illegitimate position.

In July 2017 three Israeli Arabs from Umm Al-Fahm used weapons smuggled into the Al-Aqsa mosque to attack and kill two Israeli border policemen of Druze heritage.  In response the Israeli government closed the Temple Mount to Muslim prayer for several days before reopening the Mount with enhanced security through the use of metal detectors at the gates to the Mount and security cameras.  After a standoff between the Waqf and the government the security measures came down and the status quo prior to the murder of the two Israeli border policemen returned.

Now the Waqf as well as the Palestinian Authority and their supporters among Israeli Arabs are setting their sights on the Western Wall plaza again.  After the metal detectors came down, the Palestinians rejoiced and celebrated.  Israeli MK Taleb Abu Arar (Joint List) declared that “Jews have no rights at al-Aqsa Mosque,” and “some people are trying to re-write history in order to strengthen their mistaken claim to legitimacy over al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as to the occupied al-Buraq Wall (the Western Wall), which Muslims demand to be returned to our sovereignty [Emphasis Added].”

Now, on Tisha B’Av 2017 the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, WAFA, claimed that thousands of settlers “raided the courtyard of the Al-Buraq Wall, the Western Wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and organized events, prayers and ceremonies on the occasion of the so-called 9th of Av”  (the Al-Aqsa Foundation did something similar in 2012 when thousands of Jews went to the Western Wall Plaza as Yom Kippur approached that year). In addition the Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi decried the visit of over 1000 Jews to the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av 2017 by claiming that “the number of extremists who stormed Al-Aqsa today stands at a record number that has not been recorded since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967.”

These efforts are not new.  It was Yasser Arafat who pushed the concept of Temple Denial to new heights when he used it as an excuse to scuttle the Camp David peace talks in 2000.  The Palestinians have for years been exclaiming the false narrative that Jews have no connection to the Land of Israel, to Jerusalem and that if the Temples existed at all then they were somewhere either near Bethlehem or in Shechem. Combined with the increasing political machinations of the Palestinians through the United Nations and its sub-organizations the Palestinians are making a full effort to deny our Jewish history, our Jewish heritage, our Jewish connections to Israel and our Jewish connections and rights to Jerusalem.  The goal of their effort is to paint the picture that the Jewish claim to Jerusalem is a fabrication when, in fact, recent archaeological evidence continues to strengthen our claim to not just Jerusalem but to Israel as a whole.  The Jewish claim to Israel, Jerusalem, and Israel as whole is historical and without doubt.  The Palestinians desire to wash away our connections to these places is ridiculous at best and, at worst, scurrilous.

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