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Deniz Bensason

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Israel National Trail Blog:

Segment 02: From Tel Hai to Metzudat Yesha (aka Metzudat Koach)

Deniz Bensason - Israel National Trail

Deniz Bensason
Israel National Trail

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Start point: Tel Hai

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Finish Point: Metzudat Yesha

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Section Length: 18 Km

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Elevation

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      Starting point: 300 m

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      End point: 400 m

      Highest point: 525 m

As mentioned before, there are plenty of other “From A to B” blogs, in a multitude of languages about the Israel National Trail; I do not intend to write another one. I will try and give you, my readers, a personal perspective and thoughts about the route.

Section Map

Undemanding yet extremely beautiful

Since the path on this segment is rather undemanding - no hairpin bends, no slippery water crossings and no challenging climbs or dangerous dips – the mind tends to wander.

Looking down at the Hula Valley, I wonder – things could have been very different here.

Arik Einstein’s song about days gone by יכול להיות שזה נגמר     (Maybe it's all over) intrudes into my thoughts –

Maybe it's all over

יכול להיות שזה נגמר


Originally performed by Arik Einstein
Text: Jonathan Gefen
Music: Shem-Tov Levi
Translation: S. Mandelbaum

במקור מבוצע על ידי: אריק איינשטיין
מילים: יהונתן גפן
לחן: שם טוב לוי
תרגום לאנגלית: שלום מנדלבאום


They say before I was born this place was exciting
And everything was just great before I arrived
A Hebrew guard on a white horse, in the dark of night
On Lake Kinneret’s shores Trumpeldor the hero rides
Little Tel Aviv, one Bialik and Crimson Sands,
Two Sycamore trees, beautiful people full of dreams
We came to this country to build and to be built,
Because this is our land old and new.

אומרים שהיה פה שמח לפני שנולדתי,
והכל היה פשוט נפלא עד שהגעתי
שומר עברי על סוס לבן, בלילה שחור
על שפת הכינרת טרומפלדור היה גיבור
תל אביב הקטנה, חולות אדומים, ביאליק אחד
שני עצים שיקמים, אנשים יפים מלאים חלומות
ואנו באנו ארצה לבנות ולהיבנות,
כי לנו, לנו, לנו ארץ זאת.

Here, where you see this meadow
Once was just mosquitoes and the swamps
It is said that once this was a noble dream
But when I look, I have not found anything.

כאן, איפה שאתה רואה את הדשא
היו פעם רק יתושים וביצות
אמרו שפעם היה כאן חלום נהדר
אבל כשבאתי לראות לא מצאתי שום דבר

Maybe it's now complete.
Maybe it's all over now.

יכול להיות שזה נגמר.
יכול להיות שזה נגמר.

They say before I was born this place was exciting
And everything was just great before I arrived
Palmach, Finjan, black coffee and a starry night
The British, the resistance and a pack of lies
Mustache and forelock, Kufiyah clad, Yaron Zehavi
Alterman, Tamar, beautiful girls, short pants
And they had a reason to get up in the morning
Because this is our land old and new.

אומרים שהיה פה שמח לפני שנולדתי
והכל היה פשוט נפלא עד שהגעתי
פלמ"ח, פינג'אן, קפה שחור וכוכבים
אנגלים, מחתרת וילקוט הכזבים
שפם ובלורית, כאפיה על צוואר, ירון זהבי
אלתרמן, תמר, בחורות יפות, מכנסיים קצרים
והיה להם בשביל מה לקום בבוקר
כי לנו, לנו, לנו ארץ זאת

Here, where you see this meadow
Once was just mosquitoes and the swamps
It is said that once this was a noble dream
But when I look, I have not found anything.

כאן, איפה שאתה רואה את הדשא
היו פעם רק יתושים וביצות
אמרו שפעם היה כאן חלום נהדר
אבל כשבאתי לראות לא מצאתי שום דבר

They say before I was born this place was exciting
And everything was just great before I arrived.

אומרים שהיה פה שמח לפני שנולדתי
והכל היה פשוט נפלא עד שהגעתי.


Israel National Trail - Section 02: Finger of Galilee

Israel National Trail
Section 02: Finger of Galilee

The Galilean Panhandle

Not only in the song....

Joseph Trumpeldor, mosquitoes and swamps, the Palmach and the British, Natan Alterman in addition to David Cherkasky (Dudu) as well as many lesser known figures like Mordechai Schwarz have played their share in making the Galilean Panhandle into what it is today.

All this area I am looking at, hiking though and photographing, is called the Galilean Panhandle or in Hebrew - אצבע הגליל‎, Etzba HaGalil (lit. "Finger of the Galilee") – called "finger" because it resembles a finger pointing north.

The" panhandle" is that elongated geopolitical area in northern Israel comprising the northernmost section of the Upper Galilee, and the northern Jordan Rift Valley (Hula Valley), with Lebanon to the west and north, the Golan Heights to the east and the Sea of Galilee in the south.

The Galilean Panhandle - Kiryat Shmona - The Hula Valley - the fish-ponds - are the result of accomplishments of 3 people and a tin can.

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Joseph Trumpeldor

Israel National Trail
Joseph Trumpeldor

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Mordechai Schwartz

Israel National Trail
Mordechai Schwartz

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Dudu Cherkesky

Israel National Trail
Dudu Cherkesky

Israel National Trail - Section 02: KKL Tin box

Israel National Trail
KKL Tin box


3 people and a tin can

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Sykes-Picot Agreement borders

Israel National Trail
Sykes-Picot Agreement borders

Borders can be moved

The aftermath of Tel-Hai

Originally, according to the Sykes-Picot agreements, the Hula Valley and what is today the Galilean Panhandle was supposed to be part of the French “sphere of influence” and to be incorporated in what was later to become Lebanon and Syria.

It was in recognition of the courage and fortitude of Joseph Trumpeldor leader of the eight who were killed defending Tel Hai in 1920 the French agreed to cede the area of Tel-Hai, Kfar Giladi and Metula to the British Mandate in Palestine.

So the “shape” of the finger as well at the name of the principal town Kiryat Shmona (Hebrew: קִרְיַת שְׁמוֹנָה , translated “Town of the Eight”) can be traced back to the actions of Joseph Trumpeldor and his troop.

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Ascent from Tel-Hai

Israel National Trail
Section 02: The Ascent from Tel-Hai

 

Mini Gallery - Above Kiriat-Shmona

  • Israel National Trail - Section 02: Above  Kiriat-Shmona
  • Israel National Trail - Section 02: Looking down on Kiriat-Shmona
  • Israel National Trail - Section 02: Over  Kiriat-Shmona
  • Israel National Trail - SSection 02: Manara Park

Fish Farming in Galilee - Mordechai Schwarz

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Fishponds in the Hula Valley

Israel National Trail
Fishponds in the Hula Valley

One cannot but notice the big blue-grey expanses of water when looking down at the valley – the fishponds of Galilee. Fish farming is a major industry in Israel today - fish farming knowhow and technology an exportable commodity.

The unsung hero of this exploit was one Mordechai Schwarz. He stated experimenting with carp growing, as a pupil, in a concrete irrigation pool in the school orchard at Mikveh Israel in 1926.

Schwarz continued a few years later when he established a fish pool near Tel Hai. In 1939 he returned to Galilee and established a series of fish ponds in cooperation with Kibbutz Dafna.

The partnership dissolved in 1940 and he went into business with his two brothers, Moshe and Feivel on an isolated hill - Tel Na'ama – next to what today is Kibbutz Kvar Bloom.

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Fishponds below Kibbutz Manara

Israel National Trail
Fishponds below Kibbutz Manara

Emulating the success of the Schwarz fishery farms, kibbutzim and other agricultural organizations followed suit – fish farms became viable businesses.

Carp breeding was soon followed by St Peter’s fish (מושט, Tilapia Galilea, of Gospel of Matthew 17:24-27 fame).

Later, using the cold waters from Mt Hermon, trout breeding was introduced in the 1970’s.

The industry has grown dramatically since then, now producing around 20,000 tons of fish annually – and the landscape is dotted with fish ponds all because of the determination and persistence of one Mordechai Schwarz.

Possession is nine-tenths of the law

Platoon Commander (Lieutenant) David Cherkasky aka Dudu

In 1938 the British Mandatory authorities built Tegart's Wall a barbed wire fence on the northern border of Palestine in order to keep militants from infiltrating from Syria and Lebanon to join the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. With time the security system further included police forts, smaller pillbox-type fortified positions, and mounted police squads patrolling along it.

Israel National Trail - Section 02: Sunset in Lebanon

Israel National Trail
Sunset in Lebanon

After the rebellion was suppressed in 1939, the wall/fence was dismantled; the forts and pillboxes remained.

On April 15, 1948, in anticipation of their imminent departure from Israel one month later, the British vacated the Nebi Yusha fortress. As in so many other places, they handed over control of this critical location to the local Arabs.

The Jewish leadership understood that the key to the future of the towns and farms in the valley below (places like Metulla, Kfar Giladi, Kibbutz Dafna, Kfar Blum and others) depended on controlling this strategically located fortress.

On April 20 and 21, the Palmach’s 3rd Battalion attacked in an attempt to wrest control from the enemy. The assault was repelled with heavy losses. On May 16, a concerted attack by the Yiftach Brigade succeeded in capturing the fortress.

Total of Israeli losses in those operations: 28 soldiers including Platoon Commander David (Dudu) Cherkasky.

28 in gematria is כ"ח and the word כח can be translated as “might”, “strength” or “power” so in time Nebi Yusha the fort became "Metzudat Koach" ("Fort of the 28").

From another perspective.

David (Dudu) Cherkasky’s mother Hannah (nee Epstein) was one of the original defenders of Tel Hai and compatriot of Joseph Trumpeldor. She survived Tel Hai, married Moshe Reuven Cherkasky and had 3 children. David (Dudu), his twin sister Tamar (Tata) and Haggai (died 16.10.15)

David Cherkasky was immortalized in Haim Hefer’s epic poem "Dudu".

Dudu

דודו


Performed by Arik Einstein
Words: Haim Hefer
Music: Alexander Uriah Boskovich

ביצוע: אריק איינשטיין
מילים: חיים חפר
לחן: אלכסנדר אוריה בוסקוביץ


Israel National Trail - Section 02: The KKL - JNF Box

The Hula Reclamation stamp

And the last hero of our tale:

The Little "Blue Box"

Until very recently, Lake Hula and a lot of the Upper Jordan Valley was a swamp. The marshland was a breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitoes. A huge effort in manpower and funding was needed to drain these swamps.

This is where the JNF (Jewish National Fund - Hebrew: קרן קיימת לישראל‎‎, Keren Kayemet LeYisrael - KKL) comes in. Established in Basel in 1901 originally with the aim to purchase land in Ottoman and later Mandatory Palestine. The JNF-KKL morphed into a principal administrator of lands as well as prime mover in land reclamation projects.

The little Blue Box has been part of the JNF – KKL since its inception. At first it symbolized the partnership between Israel and the Diaspora. After the creation of the State of Israel – the partnership between gargantuan national projects and the "little man – or woman".

It is this march of agurot, cents, pennies and dimes that partially funded the drainage project of the Hula in the early 50’s.

These little Blue Boxes were more than just a fundraising device. The box was a instrument in the relationship between the donor and the implementer, the diaspora child and the Israeli laborer.

Israel National Trail - Section 02: The KKL - JNF Box

The classic KKL - JNF Box

Many families are able to tell stories associated with the little Blue Box. There were family rituals - children getting pocket money and tithing part of the sum into the little Blue Box. Bringing the box to class and passing the proceeds on to the local JNF representative. Getting a colorful donors certificate from the JNF at bar/bat mitzvah.

Today the original metal blue boxes have become collector items – but the concept of the Blue Box is still here – it transformed from buying land to reclaiming land to afforestation to creating parks to educating toward ecology and conservation of nature.

This concudes my first day on the Israel National Trail.


Comments

The story about Mordechai Schwartz is new to me.

Can you please provide details?

 

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