Before lunch, we drove through the skiing base holiday village…
… and past Mount Hermon.
I’m not sure how Mount Hermon’s the only one with snow on it, when other mountains around are the same height and completely snow-free.
There are four Druze villages around the base of Mount Hermon and we went to one for lunch, where we ate labaneh, or “Druze pizza”. It’s basically a giant flatbread with goats feta…
… and hyssop…
… and then fried for a moment until crispy.
As we were waiting for it to cook, we had fried pita chips.
It was 40 shekels (US$10), and came with salad and a drink. The olives look like they were picked and pickled right there! There were leaves and stalks still with them.
The view as we were eating was spectacular.
A cat joined us as we were finishing.
The Druze in this area faced problems with loyalty for a while after Golan became part of Israel. Part of the Druze religion is that they have to be loyal to the state they live in, but many of them still had families in Syria and couldn’t be seen to support Israel for fear that harm would come to their families. These days, with everything that’s going on in Syria, they’re not afraid to show their support for Israel anymore.
Druze don’t drink alcohol but they don’t keep kosher, either. They like to hunt and eat deer, although sometimes this gets them into trouble with the municipality, which has rules about conservation and wildlife. Druze are monogamous (only one wife), only marry other Druze, and have a very low divorce rate.
Religious Druze women wear long black dresses, a black skullcap, and a translucent white scarf. Religious Druze men wear black baggy Turkish-style trousers, black shirts, moustaches, and large white skullcaps.
Around Golan, we saw a lot of Druze selling homemade products such as apples, olive oil and picked olives, nuts, and eggs.
From lunch, we went to Bental, a dormant volcano near the Syrian border.
I’ve marked the border in red.
Right at the top of the mountain is a bunker which is ready to be used if a crisis arises, but visitors to the mountain can go in if they want.
Bental seems much more of a local day-out sort of place than a tourist site. Alongside the path to the top are lots of statues made out of scrap metal.
I bought freshly-squeezed carrot juice for 15 shekels (about $5) from the café at the top.
Since cafés here take your name and call it out when you’re food’s ready, I’ve finally worked out how to get them to spell my name right on the receipt: pronounce it the Israeli way. It doesn’t seem like rocket science, I’ll admit it. But I got one slightly surprised look for pronouncing it that way, especially as Westerners are apparently unable to pronounce the CH sound in the middle.
On the way home, we passed a herd of cows being transferred from one paddock to another.
Because Shabbat (Sabbath) started at sunset this evening, dinner was a bit different. Yuval taught us a song with two lyrics (“Shabbat” and “shalom”), and we started the meal with pouring and sipping wine, saying a blessing, breaking bread and eating it with salt, and reading Proverbs 31. The tables were all done up nicely with cloth napkins and the wait staff were dressed more formally than other nights.
There’s a group of practicing Jewish tourists hear this evening, and I’m sitting in the foyer of the mini-market watching the children playing hide-and-seek.