Israel / Places We Go

Metula, Israel

On the very edge of the Lebanese border one can find the town of Metula – Israel’s northernmost settlement…

That’s all Lebanon past the tank:

metula

Established by the Rothschild family at the end of the 19th century under controversial circumstances, Metula was situated in an area under French control after World War I. However, under Zionist pressure the French ceded the settlement to the British. In 1926 the “Good Neighbor” agreement was signed between France and Britain, allowing Metula’s farmers to cross the border with “transit documents” to farm their fields that lay on the French-controlled Lebanese side of the border. After the 1948 War, however, the fields of Metula came under Lebanese control and they now remain uncultivated.

Approaching Metula (the town is on the right):

metula

A view of the town of Metula from the Dado Lookout… Metula is in the foreground, but beyond the fields in the middle, all is Lebanon:

metula

Given the proximity to the border (and Hezbollah), security is heavy up here…

Israeli bunkers on Mount Tsfiya (the hill on the left in the second picture) overlooking Metula:

metula

There are many, many mine fields in the area:

metulla

And a lot of closed military zones:

metula

In the 1980s Metula was swarming with journalists on their way through the Good Fence border crossing to Lebanon. Opened in 1976, the Good Fence also served Lebanese workers employed in Metula and southern Lebanese citizens seeking medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. Since 2000 when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, the gate has been closed.

The Good Fence gate is just ahead of the point where this picture was taken… In other words, this is right on the border (all of the buildings in the background are in Lebanon). A sign well behind this point said that entry was prohibited as this is a closed military zone, but the gate was open and no one was guarding it, so I drove in to get this picture:

All is not mine fields and restricted military zones here though… The fields and orchards surrounding Metula are quite attractive:

metula

metula

However, just after taking the above pictures, the sound of heavy automatic weapons fire along the border zone caught my attention. Naturally, I was drawn to this sound and drove around a bend to see this group of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers practicing drills with live ammunition. They were a little surprised to see us, but did not give us a hard time or tell us to leave:

metula  IDF training

Despite its lovely location and pleasant weather, most Israelis unfortunately know Metula primarily for 1985’s “Safari Disaster”…

The Safari Disaster transpired in the afternoon of Sunday, March 10, 1985, a convoy of IDF soldiers on their “Safari” model trucks were driving from Metula towards the Lebanese town of Marjayoun. Dozens of soldiers, just returned from Shabat, were on their way to duty. In accordance with regulations, one armed jeep in the forefront and two on the tail, the soldiers were wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests. They were just crossing the narrow bridge over Nahal Ayyun at 13:45, when they noticed on the other side a red Chevrolet pickup truck driving towards them. The soldiers of the first jeep noticed just one driver, smiling friendly. They signaled him to pull over to let the convoy pass. The first jeep and the first safari truck passed, when at 13:50 a tremendous explosion occurred, which shattered windows even back in Metula. The red truck exploded in a huge fireball, and hurled soldiers through the air. Twelve soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the explosion.

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3 thoughts on “Metula, Israel

  1. Hi Justin. Following with great interest your sojourn in Israel – a country I’ve yet to visit. Interesting to view Metula from the Israeli side. About two kms over the hill is the village of Mlikh in Lebanon where I spent a whole day a few years ago with Abouna Nadim abou Zeid and his family.Their house is sandwiched between St Elias (Elijah) Maronite church and the Mosque so one hears church bells and the muezzin calling throughout the day. The day we were there Abouna Nadim’s father, Malik, had shot a wild boar so we had a glorious Lebanese feast with music from a local band headed by an uncle who used to play in West Africa. During Lebanon’s civil war the abou Zeid family fled to Beirut while Malik, the last to leave, walked out over the mountains.
    Where are you off to next? Take care. Jan

    • Thank you, Jan. I love your story about the Lebanese counterpart to Metula… The setting and the family you stayed with sound great. Unlike many in the region, you and I are fortunate enough to be able to visit, experience and enjoy both sides.

  2. Pingback: The Shebaa Farms Complex | The Velvet Rocket

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