A Villa in the Jungle

Renting a villa for your vacation is one way to travel. Going to a country that is a giant villa surrounded by a jungle is in a category by itself. That would be ISRAEL.

When Ehud Barak stated that Israel is like ‘A Villa in the Jungle’ I thought I comprehended it. However, it was only recently when I was on a trip to the north of Israel that I clearly understood what he meant.

Having just returned from Israel’s border with Syria and Israel’s border with Lebanon, I am fascinated once again by the location as much as the quality of life here. There is no news report that can give a more accurate account of the situation on the ground than a visit to Kibbutz Ortal with Syria in the background or a visit to Misgav Am with its incredible view of Lebanon.

Before my arrival to the kibbutzim, I had a super experience to ascend to the Golan Heights. I was escorted by a jeep that took me on the bumpiest automobile ride I’ve ever experienced, (I had a Sallah Shabati moment) but it was worth being jostled around for an hour or so as this very proud kibbutznik took me through the land without a sole in sight, knowing that just around the corner was Syria.

He drove right up the middle of terrain where battles were fought and halfway through we stopped to take in the view from the Golan Heights. He suddenly appeared with a kettle and boiled water with herbs for a little tea as I began to take in the horizon. I stood upon an old Syrian bunker and looked down upon the country of Israel and felt so proud and excited. I also found the surroundings to be peaceful. My feelings were not just because the land belongs to us, but it was simply the beauty of it all. Similar to what one would imagine a villa to be situated in.

We continued and arrived near orange and grapefruit trees and in an instant my new friend jumped out and began peeling tangerines and feeding them to me as he was so excited about the delicious harvest.

Before I would continue to the next kibbutz, we stumbled upon Assaf Winery which was the most ideal setting for a vineyard imaginable. I can’t wait to return to that spot for a picnic as unfortunately time was short.

Upon arriving to Kibbutz Ortal, the serenity of the place much like the residents was impressive. I saw the daily life among the adults and also among the children that are being raised there; the mood was pure happiness. The children were playing in the sand box with Syria in full view and the giggling and sweetness of the moment was almost too much to believe. Let me assure you it was real. As I glanced toward the mountain of Syria and focused on the complete serenity on the kibbutz, it just reinforced the uniqueness of the concept of a country described as a VILLA.

The next amazing stop was Kibbutz Misgav Am. With all my visits to Israel spanning over 32 years, I cannot believe this was my first visit here. It was a real treat and for two reasons. First, the location of this kibbutz is incredible, with Lebanon as its neighbor from every angle. If you have binoculars you can see into life on the other side easily. The army is of course positioned there because of the location and so they have become very good friends of the kibbutz. The site from there was one I could not believe, given the history as much as the recent current events on the ground. The other treat is that a long standing member of the kibbutz turned out to be a veteran of Yom Kippur and so this meant that he and my husband had to have met all those years ago when they were unfortunately at rehabilitation in Nahariya. This new and old friend of mine was a wealth of knowledge. He was able to show me off in the distance the location my husband was in on the Golan Heights during the war. I was in awe of it all, inclusive of the meeting of him and all that I learned that day. I also saw and felt the peace and quiet on the kibbutz. The most noise was the excitement that the children showed while they played with the soldiers passing through. It was quite a sight to see.

And here you have one side of our Villa in the Jungle.

About the Author
Allyson Altit is from New York. She has worked in the travel industry for over 25 years as a leisure specialist. Her area of expertise is in European destinations and Israel. She has been involved with charity work for the Hadassah organization as well. In 2009 she graduated from Queens College majoring in Jewish studies.
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