Israel Journal: When Everything is Old

by Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times

JERUSALEM—In the United States when I look around, I know the earth itself is old, but everything around me is new. I see new buildings, new ideas, and people who seem to always be on to the next, newest thing with little regard for the past.

But in Israel, I feel the weight of history everywhere I go—even in the metropolis of Tel Aviv. The people seem to carry it in their bones and on their backs. During a tour of a tunnel beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I saw how this ancient city is actually one ancient city built on top of another, on top of another. And someone is always digging something up, or building on top of something that is incredibly old.

It’s like my Israeli sister-in-law said last Saturday during a family outing in the Jerusalem forest. We were having a big picnic and nearby was an ancient cistern for gathering water (which are everywhere around here). The cistern now makes a perfect swimming hole—if you can handle crawling inside the small opening. The hills around us were full of remains of ancient people. I thought the whole thing was pretty amazing, and told my sister-in-law so, to which she replied, “In Israel, everyone is always digging something old up.”

But even with the frequency of discovering ancient artifacts and buildings, it can still cause a stir. Once in a while, it even causes controversy.

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Gray Whale Returns to Mediterranean After 200 Years

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JERUSALEM—The gray whale, thought to be extinct from the Atlantic Ocean for 200 years, has been sighted off the coast of Israel.

On May 8, the whale was seen off the coast near Herzliya in Tel Aviv by members of a local yacht club traveling in two yachts. After people on one yacht sighted the whale, a second yacht with researchers from the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Centre (IMMRAC) spotted it as well.

At the time it was thought to be a sighting of a sperm whale, as no gray whale sightings have been made in the region for two centuries. IMMRAC researchers followed the whale for an hour and photographed it.

IMMRAC is sponsored through the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel. It is a volunteer organization that includes scientists, students, veterinarians and members of the general public. Due to a lack of funding, members often ride with boats that are already going out to sea.

On May 9, the photographs were circulated among IMMRAC scientists, who realized it was a Gray whale. They gender of the animal is unknown.

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Israel Journal: A Land Without Borders

GOLAN HEIGHTS, Israel—Last week I took a trip to an area of Israel known as the Golan Heights, in the northeast corner of the country. Describing the Golan is difficult—above all else, it’s beautiful like a fairytale land that breathes life from every molecule of rich, volcanic soil.

The sense I had there was of floating in the clouds—the Golan sits on a plateau that gently slopes downward on two sides. This feeling lasted throughout my two-day background tour with a group of journalists. Traveling in our small bus with the staff of the organization that coordinated the trip, we went from the south of the Golan near the ancient Sea of Galilee to the heights of Mount Hermon at the Syrian border.

To say the “Syrian border” is actually a bit of an inaccuracy, or an incomplete statement, depending on whom you talk to. In 1967, Israel occupied most of the Golan. By 1974, due to instability and firing of weapons, there was a cease-fire and the U.N. established an observer force that acts as a buffer between Syria and Israel. So going west to east, there is Israel, a cease-fire line, a demilitarized zone (DMZ) where the U.N. sits, and then Syria.

continued….

Read the rest of the weekly column, “Israel Journal” for The Epoch Times here.