Monday, September 04, 2006

Can we get it out of our systems? 

Our vacation last week is now so completely over that we've even caught up with the residual loads of laundry and have the kids weaned off the chocolate cereal. The only thing that hasn't yet recovered from the vacation is my blogging.

So, rather than attempt to fabricate one more meaningless post from a brain that still hasn't returned, I'm going to exercise the problem and get the vacation out of my system by writing about it. I'm astonished it took me this long to get around to reducing my family's holiday to little more than low-grade blog fertilizer like this, but better late than never.

In case it wasn't clear from earlier posts on the subject, we spent four days and three nights in Israel's north, near the shores of the Kinneret, the Sea of Gallilee. We stayed in a zimmer -- essentially a guest-house or a small cottage -- at Batei Nurit (warning: audio, busy but pretty web site) and were very happy with our choice. A week in a different zimmer a few years ago had left us with very limited expectations for the experience, but the cottages at Batei Nurit were truly nice and very comfortable, a vast improvement over our previous selection despite the relatively modest price. If anyone is googling for information on these particular cottages before choosing where to stay in Israel's north or the Golan for a few days, I would give a very warm recommendation.

Our vacation was very kid-oriented, which meant that every day involved getting wet in multiple ways. There were repeated trips to the shores of the Kinneret itself, along with a swim in a nearby hotel's pool, and a rafting trip down the Jordan River. The family (other than hot-spring-phobic Abba) even took a brief dip in the hot springs and water slide (a natural combination) at nearby Hamat Gader -- don't worry, they have a very sturdy fence between their live crocodile exhibit and the pools.

And yes, the girls loved simmering in the sulfer-smelling hot springs, just like their mom. I'm doomed. It doesn't look like a family vacation touring the various sites of baseball's spring training is in my near future, but I'm making the best of it.

Of course I can't really blog about a vacation to Israel's north just weeks after the War with Hizballah quieted down without mentioning that war's effects. I'm not going to post photos of Katyusha damage or anything like that, first of all because we specifically tried to keep our kids' vacation away from that kind of thing, but also because in the area where we were, there really wasn't too much of that.

Sharon heard that there were only two Katyusha hits anywhere near where we were staying, and the old-timers she spoke with said it was no big deal. Perhaps in the context of what was going on in the rest of the north it was indeed no big deal, but if only two Katyushas were to strike even remotely near most other neighborhoods in the world, it would be a very big deal. So we're lucky we weren't vacationing in those neighborhoods, or there would have been no one there to give us the keys to our room.

As a matter of fact,though, not everyone agreed with the old-timers' steadfast assessment of the situation. The war's only direct impact on our vacation was that we did not receive free breakfast service as advertised because the staff manning the breakfast room where we were staying fled during the war and hadn't returned. War is hell -- in our case a very tiny hell limited to minor inconvenience, but hell nonetheless.

While the war had little effect on our vacation, it was hard not to consider the effect it had on all of those who make their homes and earn their livings in the North. Sure, the Kinneret's beaches were full and the zimmer occupancy high by the time we took our vacation; things seemed back to normal. But it was hard to ignore that almost the entirety of all that economic activity, the tourism-based life-blood of much of the region, was scatter-bombed out of commission for a full month. The restaurants, the hotels, the operators of the river rafting and the little mini-markets selling mega-SPF sunblock, all are struggling to recover from the loss of a huge chunk of their yearly income -- not to mention those who suffered the misfortune of being hit by one of Nasrallah's missiles. If you are considering a vacation in Israel anytime soon, you might consider spending some of your vacation shekels in Israel's north, even if you hadn't otherwise planned on it, as a way to help give their recovery a shot in the arm.

While I was only looking at the economic activity in the immediate area of our vacation, obviously there was also a vast impact in Lebanon as well from the war -- damage, death and loss of important income for so many. To the innocent who've suffered on both sides of the border, this is a true tragedy. I know Israelis do not wish for such things, and would love nothing more than peace and quiet in which to pursue their lives and build an economy, and in which their neighbors can prosper as well. I know many Lebanese feel the same way, and I hope that as time passes and tempers cool, it will be these Lebanese whose voices are heard most loudly by Nasrallah when he starts to toy with ideas of what to do with the rest of his missiles, so he knows they won't again tolerate his taking hostage the dreams of peace and prosperity of the very people he claims to care about -- as well as my people, not that it matters.

Despite my cynical tone as I've been commenting on the international community's vague efforts to make these problems -- not to mention the even greater dangers of Iran's looming nuclear power -- just go away already, I maintain the hope that Lebanon and Israel and perhaps even others in the region will find a way to get along as neighbors. If only this latest war can be a similar wakeup call to a sane majority of Lebanese, in the way that Hariri's assassination stoked the fires of Lebanese democracy. If only average Iranians can recognize this tiniest hint of the greater future martyrdom Ahmadinejad has planned for them, and take back their country before Mr. A. realizes his dream of using them like a national suicide bomb -- and, not coincidentally, blowing my family up along with them.

If we can all look at how much was lost in this conflict not as a victory for Nasrallah but as a preventable abuse of the millions of average people who have to live with the destruction, maybe there can be a chance. We can do little more than hope and blog, though, so long as Nasrallah has his missiles and Ahmadinejad keeps Iran's geiger counters crackling.

And on that upbeat note, with the kids back in school already, I hereby declare our summer vacation fully over, in the hopes that I will be able to shake the cobwebs out of my system and finally write something interesting again.

CORRECTION: ExpatEgghead of Neither Here Nor There points out that my original spelling of the word 'zimmer' as 'tzimmer' was mistaken, and I have made the corresponding correction throughout. Thanks Egghead.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: