Sheila Wilensky was in Israel recently with the American Jewish Press Association.
Before I left for Israel, friends and family asked if I was afraid. “Not really,” I replied. It wasn’t until I was actually there, relaxing on the patio of the Mizpe Hayamim health farm, in the heart of the Galilee between Rosh Pina and Safed, that a moment of fear flashed through me.
Birds were chirping in the background as longtime local farmer Arik Lubovsky and I chatted about his life, bonding over our similar ancestry from Vilnius, Lithuania.
“Since 1967 the Galilee became a blooming place,” he said proudly. As we sat overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the Hula Valley and the Golan Heights, there was no mistaking the sudden loud booms, which were not that far away. Lubovsky, 73, had been talking about rockets fired from Syria twice a day prior to the 1967 Six Day War. “Six years ago, Katyusha Russian rockets started coming from Hezbollah from Lebanon,” he said, adding that in 1990, after the Soviet Union was dismantled, the Russians had sold their rockets cheaply.
“Sitting in this beautiful place I’m concerned with Syria’s chemical weapons,” said Lubovsky. “But I’m not afraid. My great-great-grandfather once told Rothschild, the richest Jew in the world, ‘God put us here and only God will take us away from here.’” Jews had settled the area around 130 years ago, supported by the French Jewish banker Baron Edmond James de Rothschild.
“Chemical weapons?” I asked.
“Yes, [Syria] could start sending them any hour,” he said. The loud booms are probably just Israeli army “rehearsals,” he said. But I was afraid.
Two days later, on Jan. 30, we found out what the “rehearsals” were for: Israel struck SA-17 missiles inside Syria, fearing they were about to be transferred to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.
[The American Jewish Press Association trip was sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism.]