Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reviving the Dead

Today we drove to Tel Dan, at the northern border with Lebanon, in the Golan region. This is a beautiful place, and also of great importance, as it is the headwaters of the Jordan river. Contrary to the old spiritual, the Jordan is neither deep nor wide; in Idaho, we would call it a creek or a stream. Yet it is a significant place in biblical lore, and vital to the land of Israel today as well, for it is the primary source of fresh water in the nation, feeding the Sea of Galilee.

Water is a signficant strategic asset in this region, and it is in short supply. Israel has been through a long drought and the Sea of Galilee is significantly depleted. And in any talk of peace settlements, water is always major point of discussion. Prior to 1967, the Golan was in Syrian hands, and the Syrians tried to divert the mountain runoff away from Israel. As a result, for this reason, and others, most Israelis are very wary of proposals to return the Golan to Syria. Unlike the West Bank and Gaza, after the Six Day War, the Golan was annexed by the state of Israel, and one frequently sees bumper stickers that read, "Ha-Am Im Ha-Golan--the Land of Israel, with the Golan."

I did a week-long archaeological dig at Tel Dan when I was a first year rabbinical student in 1983, and the place has certainly changed in the intevening quarter century. It is now quite a tourist attraction, with handicapped accessible paths along the verdant streams and a restaurant and bookstore. But it maintains its loveliness.

The region of Dan is also mentioned in the Torah as the northern boundary of ancient Israel. God shows Moses the land stretching "from Dan (in the north) to Be'er Sheva (in the south)." So having been to Eilat a month or so ago, we can now claim to have traversed the entire land during our stay here. That's not such a challenge, as it is maybe a quarter the size of Idaho. At one point, just north of Tel Aviv, it is only twelve miles wide, which also points to some of the security challenges. It seems so crazy: the Arabs have so much land, and we ask for such a small slice of the pie--and they want to begrudge us even that little piece.

On the bright side, two days after I took it for a swim in the Sea of Galilee, my cell phone is working again. Talmud says that upon seeing a friend one hasn't seen in a month, one praised God "for resurrecting the dead." This is a nice bit of technological resurrection, for which I am grateful.

Home to Jerusalem for Shabbat tomorrow night. It has been a great trip north. Shabbat shalom to all.

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