Metula is the northernmost city in Israel, a peninsula jutting into southern Lebanon. The fact the village of 2,000 has been attacked before and is vulnerable to attacks from all but one side is visible everywhere. A few examples in the photos below.
This constant threat weights heavily on the people who live here, such as our tour guide Yaniv Elhadif. His voice is decidedly pro-Israel and he doesn’t hesitate to place blame on Hezbollah in Lebanon. He claims Israel has done nothing wrong and only wants to live in peace. He told many stories of sniper fire coming across the border to strike close to farmers in the field and soldiers on patrol. He pointed out how vulnerable Metula is because the positions across the border in Lebanon are higher and, thus, more strategically advantageous.
He reported Hezbollah announcements and threats made toward people in his community, including the Metula mayor. And after all this, the simple question is, why not leave? The answer is one we’ve heard many times on this trip - for Jews, being in Israel isn’t just a place to live, it’s a calling, a destiny.
Some might say Elhadif sounds a little paranoid. Are people really trying to attack him from all sides all the time? Even though he’s a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces, he said the IDF thought he was crazy when he claimed Hezbollah was building tunnels under the walls and under Metula. He insisted he and his neighbors heard strange sounds in the night underneath their houses. But no one would listen. Until three months ago. The circle of vertical concrete barriers in the middle of the photo below are shielding workers from potential sniper fire as they pour concrete into a tunnel that crosses under the border wall from Lebanon into Metula.
After Metula, we headed south and west toward Nazareth. This is one of many religiously historic cities in Israel. Here is where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to the son of God, Jesus; you might say Chapter 1, Page 1 of Christianity. As is typical in Israel, you can go to right where that happened. In the bottom level of the Church of the Annuciation crowds gather to see the cave where Mary and Joseph lived, and where she got the message.
We wrapped up the day with a welcoming, filling Shabbat dinner. This is the weekly traditional meal that Jews share with family leading into the day of rest, the Sabbath.
Of particular pleasure was sitting down with Sonia, who fled to Peru during the Holocaust, but is now able to spend time with her extended family in Israel.
Other photos of the day: