Friday, July 12, 2019

Israel, day 4: Helos and Borders, oh my!

What did the Romans ever do for us?
Yesterday was such a long and busy day that I was too tired to write this post. We took helicopters up,to the Golan Heights, a bus from the landing pad to different spots among the various borders, a lunch with a Druse woman, and then back to Jerusalem for dinner and meeting an NGO guy (for my previous posts regarding this trip, go to here, here,and here)

What did I notice and think about along the way?
Agriculture outposts of all kinds with
nets mostly indicating banana farms.
The line on the left is the border with Lebanon,
the white buildings to the right are for UN base
    A tourist destination--viewing spot of Syria
    from the corner of the Golan Heights.
  • The banana trees are covered in nets apparently to keep the flies in for sweeter bananas.  Which led to a mystery: lots of banana farms, no bananas on our tables.  Turns out Israel doesn’t import bananas and they are not in season.
  • I have always scoffed at the “the Jews turned the deserts green” but seeing from the air the patterns of farming and such, the Jews here are mighty good at irrigation.  However, I am guessing that the Palestinians don’t irrigate as well because is the challenges of owning land in the occupied territories.
  • The Golan Heights are never going back, as they are obviously super strategic given how the owner has big military advantage over the non-owner.  Plus not many Palestinians here so not that difficult (not that I support Trump’s recognition of annexation)
  • We had a former SOF General as tour guide.  I didn’t buy everything he said (“we can destroy Hezbollah in a month next time) but he did provide some keen analyses like there being 7 different conflicts here (Sunni vs Shia; intra Sunni; secular vs religious in Syria; Turks vs Kurds; US vs Russia; those who prefer high oil prices vs low; Israel vs Iran)
  • A common theme that several speakers have repeated:Israel has tried to pick leaders in the neighbors and they suck at it
  • Israel has attacked Iranian targets in Syria over 400 times.  Which means that they have coordinated or deconflicted with those flying over Syria: US led coalition and..... Russia.  Hmmm.  Most of the attacks seem to be launched from planes flying over Israel.
  • Israel would have to do more of US left Syria but nothing they can’t handle (including special ops)
  • Iran is said to have a concept of ops: to support proxies to produce Shia led countries... 4.5 so far (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen) which works if a country has weak regime, civil war and some shia.  Jordan is next target but I asked: where are the Shia?  The general said they can be imported from Iraq.  I am sceptical, but Israel is working hard to prevent this.
  • We had a fantastic meal made by a Druse woman, Mona, whose business is hosting tour groups like ours and explaining Druse identity, religion and life. ‘‘Twas very, very interesting.  The
    Druse didn’t choose to become Israeli citizens both to protect families in Syria and Lebanon and because they are hedging in case the border changes again.  Her tale might not be the average tale, however.
  • We learned the story of Eli Cohen who penetrated the highest levels of Syrian govt in early 1960s--the statue to the right is of his wife waiting for him to come home see this wiki page
We then returned to Jerusalem, landing on a pad adjacent to the largest Jewish cemetery here.  We had a speaker after dinner who works for an advocacy group... but I was tired and he was not the best speaker.  Still, best day of the trip. I learned more than I reported here, including understanding better why the Israelis had contempt for Obama and now for Trump.  A post for another day.

Somebody before us put up some AE graffiti
at a former Syrian army hq in the Golan Heights.

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