Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Valley Betwixt Gilad and Gilboa

When you live less than two km away from Jordan, nearly every tiyul (tour) your garin takes from the kibbutz involves passing by the border. On Thursday August 20 one of our staff, Chovav, led us on a bike tour through the fish ponds of Tirat Zvi, along the border and then over to a nearby maa'yan (natural spring). The Valley of Bet She'an, the sauna of Israel (really, that is how locals describe the valley!), is dotted with numerous ma'ayanot and for obvious reasons, they tend to attract even larger crowds than most water-spots in Israel. Which is saying something, because Israelis love their ma'ayanot like nowhere else.

Bet She'an Valley also lies between the hills of

Mt. Gilboa

and Mt. Gilad.

Both hilltops are associated with the bible's most Shakespearean figure, Saul, the Jewish people's first and most tragic king. Saul and his son Jonathan, my namesake, met their end on Mt. Gilboa, falling to the Philistines. And it was the brave men of Jabesh-Gilad, located on the slopes of Mt Gilad that are located just across the border, who rescued the bodies of the king and prince and gave them a proper burial.

Bet She'an Valley also tends to confuse visitors when they hear that the valley, and Tirat Zvi in particular, lies due east of the Palestinian town and refugee camp of Jenin. In April 2002 Jenin saw the fiercest fighting during Operation Defensive Shield, the IDF's response to the score of horrific suicide bombings that culminated in the deadly Park Hotel Passover attack on March 27 2002. The Battle of Jenin proved to be almost as costly, especially when scores of Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush after the army decided to send infantry to minimize civilian casualties.

One of those killed was Ma'tanya Robinson, 21. Born in Tirat Zvi to American parents who immigrated to Israel in 1979, Ma'tanya's name has been bestowed on a small hilltop that overlooks the kibbutz. His family remain active members of Tirat Zvi. On our fourth week on kibbutz, the Robinson family celebrated the wedding of one of their sons. Included in the festivities was a girl in our garin, who has been "adopted" by the Robinson family as part of an effort to make our garin feel at home in Tirat Zvi.

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