Mine Herr Hermon
We sit in Jerusalem. The beginning of March, rain outside the window, the wind blows off the bold passers-by. My interlocutor says: “I’m tired of everything, I’ll go skiing tomorrow.” “Where to?” – I ask. “Yes here, on Hermon, a couple of hours by car.”
Really close. Like everyone in Israel. Because there is not enough space, and it is necessary that there is enough for everything. In this country, as in the eyepiece of a microscope, everything that is needed for life fits. There is a desert. Forests, although few, are. Excavations, antiquities, three seas. Even four, counting the Sea of Galilee. And there is a ski resort – next to this lake-sea.
God forbid you rank Mount Hermon among the ski resorts of world significance! I am afraid that no one in the world even suspects that there is a mountain in Israel, on which snow remains until July, and until April they ride real skis. At least on the Internet in this regard – not a single mention. If Hermon is mentioned anywhere, it’s in the Bible: only 13 times. But the local significance of the ski Hermon is invaluable: what else can Jews do after a hard week, how not to ski, how did they do it in their unhistorical homelands?
Do not think that winter sports are cheaper on Hermon than on recognized resorts – if you have a week or two holidays, it’s more profitable to hit the Alps. But a resident of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv is able to save up money and go on a weekend to their mountains. Despite the fact that it is expensive: only the entrance to the resort costs 30 shekels (a little more than $ 7). Not to mention equipment rental (105 shekels, or $ 25 per day), a daily ski pass (145 shekels – $ 36) and hotel prices (at a decent European level). The same amount is spent by a resident of Zurich or Munich, hurrying on Saturday with skis to nearby hills.
The difference is that for Swiss and Germans this is a habit. And for the Israelis – an inexhaustible reason for pride, overwhelming them when they slide off their own track, which is shorter than not just any alpine, but even gentle Slovak. Because this mountain is their property, moreover, recent.
However short the history of modern Israel is, the recent history of Israeli Hermon is even shorter: 22 years. With the division of the Ottoman Empire under the French mandate, Hermon was also divided – between Syria and Lebanon. Having begun the Six Day War on June 10, 1967, on its last day Syria lost a piece of the mountain massif – its southeastern part, along with the Golan, went to the Israelis, who immediately began to improve it. Even the Doomsday War in 1973 did not stop this, during which Syria tried to return Hermon – and returned, but only for two weeks. Hermon’s main peak – 2.814 meters above sea level – and now the Arabs. Israel owns one that is lower – 2.224 meters.
At its foot twenty years ago, Neve Ativ was founded – a normal ski village with chalet hotels, to which two chair lifts and several slopes were quickly attached. In a lovely pond formed in the crater of an extinct volcano, carps were bred – residents of the nearby Druze village of Mossad are engaged in fishing. And the lake itself is of such an ideal elliptical shape that it seems man-made.
The Hannanians considered the mountain to be God’s abode, for which they called it “Haram” – to take a vow. In the Talmud, you can unearth the Aramaic version of the name – Tur-Talga, among the Arabs – Jabel al-Taj or, today, Jabel al-Sheikh. Closest to the current name of the mountains is their Russian, or rather, Old Slavonic name – Hermon: the Bible describes in detail the history of the battles for Baal Hermon of Joshua, and in the Gospel – the place of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
Even at the foot of Hermon stands Kalad Nimrod – a Muslim fortress for which the crusaders first fought, and then, in the 13th century, the Arabs – the path to it is visible from the village of Ein Kenya. And they dig around everywhere: for twenty years excavations have been going on in Hermon, and a lot of details of ancient life have been discovered. They found, for example, the Sidon shekel – which means one thing: the Jews have been here for a long time.
They lived on the mountain until the XVI century. What did you do? You will laugh: they sold ice. Sawed pieces and carried to Jerusalem and Damascus – until the beginning of the XX century it was a very profitable business. Now earn on skiers. And they live on the mountain – in the Neva Ativa, and not in the picturesque Druze villages below – the same people who fought for this mountain.
One of them is now the owner of the hotel and the ski base proper, drives around in a small car resembling a map, and rams the tracks with his own hands. He also has ski and boot rental, a restaurant with a buffet, Jewish in style, plentiful and tasty. The chalet’s hall is decorated with broken skis and snowboards, behind the house is a garden in which plums and peaches ripen by summer. Not far from the resort, a military facility is a tracking station, the “northern eyes of Israel.” Vacationers relate to this with understanding – like the owner, the retired general. What to do? I remind you that in Israel there is very little space, and there are not so many people – and all perform several functions. The resort is simultaneously a security facility and a unique reserve. The former general got used to the role of the owner of the hotel.