One of the classes I am taking this semester is called "Sites of Conflict and Diplomatic Horizons"- twice a month we go on study tours to different sites in Israel which hold strategic or historic military/security importance for the state of Israel. Today was our first excursion and we traveled to the Lebanese border- about two hours north of Tel Aviv. We visited several sites along the border and discussed the reality on the ground along this part of Israel's perimeter, the history of the confrontations with Islamist militant groups (specifically Hezbollah) during the last 30 years and the circumstancecs/results of those incursions, especially the second Lebanon war in 2006, the internal situation in Lebanon, and the ramifications of the Arab Spring for security along this border.
Needless to say, it was fascinating. Our guide was a journalist who was a military correspondent for Haaretz News in Israel, and he knew his stuff. It's amazing how small this country is- about the size of New Hampshire, and after two hours on a bus (that left at an obscene hour this morning) we were standing on a hill looking at Lebanon.
It's also noteworthy to explain that seeing the geography of the country really changes the way one understands the security concerns along Israel's borders. She is surrounded by enemies on basically all sides. And to have citizens living in towns visible from the borders with hostile territories creates certain complications for Israeli decision makers. A couple of the sites we visited today were places where Israeli soldiers stationed along this border were attacked or killed just for being so close to Hezbollah militants who wanted to capture soldiers and broker prisoner exchanges.
We also visited the memorial for a helicopter accident that took the lives of 73 Israeli soldiers. It happened in 1997, and I hadn't ever learned about this particular incident before, check out the link I'm providing- its actually very interesting. The memorial built there was beautiful and very moving.
The whole event wasn't completely heavy though. At one point we stopped at a checkpoint outside of a village which straddles the Lebanon/Israel/Syrian border, and I noticed that there was a distinct lack of stray cats...but a LOT of stray cattle. Huh.
Winter is here (for probably a few weeks) which means every few days it rains for awhile. Today was one of those cold, rainy days, and on our drive home I saw a rainbow.
"I wish I could bake a cake made of rainbows and smiles." - Mean Girls
In all seriousness- the moment on our drive home this evening when I saw this rainbow (which was a double arc, by the way, it just didnt photograph well from a moving tour bus) was a moment of clarity for me. This was a day where I was legitimately living the dream I've held on to for four years- learning about security and diplomacy, meeting new people who share these interests, and doing it in Israel. I fell asleep on the ride home knowing I'm exactly where I should be.
It's 1:23am here, and I can't sleep cause the peals of thunder keep waking me up, but I have Amal Jamal's class tomorrow. It's so boring. I need to be rested so I'm not yawning like an asshole all through his lecture on democratic theory...