Thursday, November 6, 2014

Coffee in the Clouds and the Life Worth Living

By: Chad Weisman
Produced & Edited By: Zainab Kandeh

Kfir Shoshana shows up to Coffee Annan long before the first tour buses and day-trippers glide up the side of Mt. Bental to look eastward over the Valley of Tears. He flicks on the lights in the wood-paneled shop, warms up the espresso machines, grinds up the beans, and “make the bakery. [sic]”

“Like heaven,” says Shoshana, the manager of the mountaintop cafe. “When you get up in the morning, you can see the clouds—a clear view.”

Coffee Annan translates into English as ‘Coffee in the Clouds.’ It is a play upon the name of the former U.N. Secretary General
Clouds and Conflict
Mt. Bental is less than 2 miles west of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Zone, a buffer between Syria and Israel on the eastern cusp of the Golan Heights. Tourists on Bental can hear the clamor of explosions, and see the roiling clouds of smoke hovering over distant Damascus, where civil war has raged for the last three and a half years.The peak’s Arabic name, “Jabal al-Gharam,” translates into English as “Mountain of Lust,” and reflects a roundly divergent perspective on the place. Lush vegetation extends across the Valley of Tears, which was the site of a major tank battle of the Yom Kippur War. The greenery ends abruptly at the Syrian border.

© CiF Watch
“It is very nice to work here, but we hope that the border will be quiet sometime soon,” said Shoshana.

Two days earlier, Israel shot down a Syrian plane as it entered airspace over the Northeastern Golan Heights. The employees of Coffee Annan were too busy working to witness the altercation firsthand.

“We hear the bomb, we go outside, we see the cloud of smoke,” Shoshana said with a kind of offhand stoicism; he is adept at describing a situation without painting a picture.

“It is a little bit disturb,” he said. “We hear the bombs all the time. We don’t afraid because we have a good army, but we hear all the time bombs. It is disturb to hear the war.”

It is quite amazing the resilience of Israelis,” said Gili Houpt, a tour guide from New Jersey, who has summited Mt. Bental many times since moving to Israel in 2010. “When there’s an air raid siren, they run to the bomb-shelter, but a few minutes later—after the ‘all clear’—they go out and continue with their lives.”

There are no monuments on Mt. Bental—at least not to any individual. In October 1973, after being attacked on the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar, 3,000 Israeli troops faced 28,000 Syrians in the Valley of Tears. It is estimated that the 100 Israeli tanks in operation were outnumbered 12-to-1. By emerging victorious—at a tremendous human cost on both sides—Israel retained control of the Golan Heights, a source of freshwater and defense from Syrian and Lebanese rocket-fire.
Scattered around the mountaintop are scraps from the wreckage of ruined weaponry, since converted into large works of art—presented as emblems of continuous renewal. The trenches used during the Yom Kippur War remain, and tourists can pace among the scattered silhouettes of posturing cutout soldiers fashioned from recycled metal, all while enjoying a hot latte or espresso.

“It’s not just a historical place,” said Houpt. “It’s also a place of tourism, and in Israel every place of tourism is also connected with the history; the history of Israel cannot be separated from the military aspect.”

Home is Where The Heart Feels Safe
© Coffee Anan Restaurant

Coffee Annan is owned and operated by Kibbutz Merom Golan, an agricultural-industrial settlement replete with a “Resort Village…suitable for couples and families.” Merom Golan was founded in July 1967, shortly after the Six-Day War. Residents cultivate a range of crops including apples, pears, kiwi, cherries, and mangos. The kibbutz also farms livestock, and houses Bental Industries, which supplies “power and motion components… for industrial applications, defense, and aviation platforms,” like Boeing, I.B.M., and the Israeli Defense Force.
The kibbutz is classified as an illegal settlement under Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. Israel opts instead to term the settlements in the Golan, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem ‘administered territories,’ thereby denying the declaration of the international community.
Merom Golan resident Joanne Klein, a British transplant working for the kibbutz’s tourism department, is proud to live in Merom Golan. “It’s a small community,” she said. “We have a great life. We have four seasons... It’s an amazing part of the country to live in.”

Klein resents the international community’s classification of her home.

“The U.N. is a waste of space,” she said. “Syrians have been killing their own people for the last three years, Iran is trying to make a bomb and kill us… The U.N. has not done anything to solve serious problems, but when Israel defends itself because Hamas has been sending bombs… then the U.N. has to investigate.”

Much of Kfir Shoshana’s family lives in Beersheba, in the northern Negev. When the city came under rocket fire from Gaza this summer, he feared for them, but was forced to focus on the day-to-day operation of Coffee Annan.

“It can be pretty hard in the land of Israel,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to open this place—to bring the water, to bring electricity. Sometimes it snows; we have winter here. It is not a normal place, but this is what I like.”

Kfir served in the I.D.F. from 1997-2001, fighting in the Second Intifada in 2000-2001. His children live with him and his wife on the kibbutz.
“We’re just living our lives,” says Joanne Klein. “We get up in the morning, we take our kids to school, we work; it’s just like anywhere else. We only worry about the other side because it affects our lives. We don’t affect their lives. One week a bomb was sent over our neighborhood, and my children had to run from it. I know of no reason why a child should ever have to live through that.”

The Young Victims
Five hundred thirteen children are estimated to have died in Gaza between July 8 and August 26, 2014 during “Operation Protective Edge,” Israel’s most recent campaign in the exclave region.

On October 22, a Palestinian terrorist killed a 3-month-old American infant named Chaya Zissel by vehicular homicide. Her death came only 6 days after West Bank youth Bahaa Badr, 13, was shot and killed by IDF on October 16 outside of Ramallah. Badr was only 3 years younger than East Jerusalem teen Muhammed Abu Kdheir, 16, who was burned alive on July 2 to avenge the kidnapping of three Israeli teens—Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19—who were killed on the morning of June 12 while hitchhiking to their homes.

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