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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Winter view

Galilee Diary #420, December 14, 2008

Marc J. Rosenstein


The horizon is a common image of the future. Statues of statesmen are put on high pedestals, and sculptors show the figures gazing farsightedly at the horizon. Open space itself is an image of hopeful time.
-Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place, Minneapolis 1977, p. 123.

…There are days when the green is seven times greener,
When the blue of the sky is seventy times as blue.
Rachel, "Kinneret"

Occasionally, in the winter, on a cool morning after a few days of rain, the Galilee air has a kind of knife-sharp clarity that really makes you stop and look. On my early morning walk the other day, the sun was still just below the ridge to the east, but its angle was such that its rays were striking Haifa and its suburbs, fifteen miles to the west. From a lookout point on the edge of our hill, every detail of the whole panorama was in sharp focus.

To the north, the rough face of Mt. Gilon, with its craggy limestone steps and the rich palette of greens of its olive, carob, and hawthorn-covered slopes now brightened by the new growth of grasses and weeds covering every surface; after months of summer dust and autumn haze and winter mist, suddenly everything was in shocking high definition. At the top of the cliffs, new homes under construction in a neighboring community. Below me, on the flat bottom of the Hilazon valley, a gray-green sea of old, gnarled olive trees, the fruit recently harvested by the villagers of Shaab.

Rising from this sea up the slope of the ridge to the southwest – the jumbled houses of Shaab, a village of 5,000 Arab citizens of Israel – about 40% of them Bedouins relocated here from a village near the Syrian border in 1951, another 20% or so refugees from two nearby villages destroyed in 1948 or shortly thereafter, and 40% natives of the village for many generations. As in many Israeli Arab communities, the meeting of clan identity with democratic politics is not always happy – and how much the more so when the village also comprises groups with very different histories. The results of the recent election, in which for the first time a coalition of "the refugees" got a majority, are currently the subject of a court challenge – maybe the massive fireworks display we enjoyed across the valley on the day after will turn out to have been premature…

A little farther west, a smaller island rises from the sea of olive trees, an unexcavated tel which archaeologists have suggested might be Neiel, referred to in Joshua 19:27 in the description of the boundaries of the inheritance of Asher. Hiking there, one encounters openings of old cisterns, and lots of potsherds.

Beyond the tel to the west, I could make out every car in the morning traffic on highway 70 passing the construction zone where the road is being widened to four lanes, and across the road, the patchwork of fields in the Zebulun valley. The fields end at the Krayot, the industrial suburbs of Haifa. The sunlight shone back in fiery reflections from the windows of apartment buildings, and just before the blue horizon I could see the containers piled on the ships at anchor in Haifa bay.

There's something somehow calming and satisfying about mornings like this: Past and future, continuity and change, Arab and Jew, nature and civilization; it's so rare around here to be able to see with such clarity just where one is.

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