Monday, May 16, 2011

To UNDOF We Go: What's up Syria and Lebanon

FIY: I took this trip more than a week ago and haven't been able to post the pictures. I am not up there right now with all the craziness going on for Nakba Day.

My school organized a trip for us to visit the UNDOF headquarters in the Golan Heights. Technically in Syria. So, yeah, I went to Syria.

We started out early. Too early. 7:30 is really early for grad students.
Our tour guide works for an eco/green non-profit so in addition to learning about the Golan Heights' political and military history, we learned about the environment. Like how Syria wants a little corner of the Kinneret Lake (Sea of Galilee) as a precondition to negotiation, though now the lake has receded so much so they wouldn't actually get access to Israel's only water source. Just the sources of it in the Golan Heights. Awesome.

Lots of sleeping going on.

Here is the view from the bridge over the MIGHTY RIVER JORDAN. 
That's right. You can walk across it. Without a bridge, even. 

We drove up through the Golan Heights to get to Mount Bental to meet the representatives of the UN Disengagement Observer Force. You can see the main sites of the Golan Heights including Mount Hermon (called Mount Herman by the Austrian UN guy), Kunetra on the Syria side, the Valley of Tears. On a clear day you can see the sea.

Tour guide telling us about volcanoes. I totally know this.

A very handy sign that shows the distances to various places. 
The Washington DC arrow points the wrong way.
Just saying.

What's up Syria?

Trenches at the top of Mount Bental.

Trenches and our group trying to ignore the loud Israeli school groups.

Tour guide making a really Israeli gesture.

E. and D. looking lovely as usual!

Austrian UNDOF guys. The photographer was the object of admiration of many of the ladies on the trip.
He's married, though. Sorry ladies.

This is the best photo I managed of the beautiful wildflowers of the Golan Heights. This is across from the UNDOF base. You can see the apple orchards too. I finally had good apples!


The location of the best Indian food in Israel. Or Syria for that matter.
There are Indian, Japanese, Philippine, and Austrian troop stationed there. But the Indians have the best food.

You can just about see the soldiers at the other tables.

Shortly after this picture was taken, the soldiers came over to us to have pictures with us. My camera died then, but I snagged a picture from a classmate's facebook page:

After lunch and a UNDOF presentation, we piled back into the bus and headed West  to the Lebanese border, picking up Mitch, the IDF spokesman for the North.

We got scary-close to the border. 

"Please turn around. You are not allowed to be here.
Thanks! Bye now!"

We went to a look out after that to see what Hizbollah has been up to.

They've been building that fake village behind me! It's completely empty and brand new. The IDF has been monitoring the construction and notes that the buildings have no livable interior spaces, just reinforced concrete. Not really residential. More like bunkers, I think.

It was a great time and I had a nice chat with my classmates and one of our guests (the brother of a classmate). A fantastic time was had by all! 

Just so you know, these are the borders that have been breached by protesters in the Nakba day protests.

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