Tel Aviv to Switzerland in 2 Hours. By Car. By Udi Goren, from Israel

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Last year Israel experienced its biggest storm in 50 years. Jerusalem was sieged, Tzfat was knee-deep in snow and cars were stranded on highways that shut down without warning- no one was ready for the extreme weather (Israeli standards, yes?). I wasn’t ready either. I knew it was coming, but between work and previous obligations, I didn’t get to go out and play as much as I wanted.
Last week the weathermen warned us about an even harsher storm coming our way. This time the people and the authorities were prepared: snowplows were ready to go, municipalities stocked up on blankets and heaters and supermarkets in Jerusalem ran out of groceries as people were filling their pantries. I had only finished walking the Israel trail a few days before and was aching for a day under the covers, but I wasn’t going to give up shooting this storm.
I debated whether I should go north or south, where it was supposed to snow as well (snow in the desert!). I began driving, spoke to a few friends in both areas and decided to play it safe: I was going north to see the Galil and the Golan like I’ve never seen them before.
A few minutes later I reached the road to Tzfat, but a police patrol truck made it clear nobody was going up there at that point. Not knowing where to go, I just kept driving north, towards the Lebanese border. As soon as I skipped the turn, the storm hit me with all its might and just like Dorothy, the storm picked me up and transported me to a completely different place. Biria forest turned into a European wilderness, all tucked up under a blanket of snow. Free range cows grazed and walked around the forest, a sight that took me miles away from the horrible industrial sheds where they’re usually found in Israel.
Then, came the sight that completely threw me off: a pack of dogs ravaging a calf carcass. I’ve known that farmers would sometimes just leave out carcasses to be eaten by scavengers, but I’ve never seen it happen. A black mutt, stronger than its peers and fearless, kept eating as I was watching. It seemed that the smell of blood brought back all of his primal instincts, as it was ripping piece after piece. The cold frozen forest, the roaming cows and this scene- that felt like a European forest to me…
Once the storm cleared a little, I kept going as large patches of snowy vines framed the road. On the way to the Golan heights I made a quick stop by the Jordan River, where it curves and flows rapidly before dropping down to the Jordan valley.
The Golan was white as a snowy Alpine mountain. Two cows grazed as the sun began to set, painting the snow with a yellow hue. I made it just in time to Mount Bental, to watch over Southern Syria. I thought that the snow and the cold would mean no fighting, but I was sadly mistaken. As soon as the sun went away, gunfire started blasting in the distance, reminding me that in spite of the majestic beauty around me, this is still the crazy Middle East…
With frozen toes and fingers, I ran back down. I didn’t want the illusion to be broken so abruptly. The last image I have from that day is of Kibbutz Marom Golan, a circle of glowing light in the snowy wilderness. That’s what I took back home with me.

Udi Goren,

YaLa Young Leaders

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