The night after our tense day in Katzrin, I slept like a rock. In the morning, several crew members asked me if I’d heard explosions. I hadn’t heard a thing. But later, Aran confirmed that Iran had fired 20 rockets into the Golan Heights during the night.

“The missiles were intercepted. No one was hurt,” Aran said Later, we learned that some of the crew had actually looked out their windows and seen the distant missiles exploding in mid-air as Israel intercepted them. And I’d slept through it all.

The next day, school was open again. “They are sending a message. It’s business as usual.” Aran said. So, we went about our business as usual. We drove to our next location – the ruined city of Gamla.

Gamla, stands on a tall hill that looks like a Camel’s hump. Jewish rebels built the city on a hill and defended it against the Romans. When Roman troops finally broke through the walls and swarmed the town, the Gamla residents choose death before capture, and jumped off the top of the mountain.

This location was a great example of the beauty of the Golan heights. It was green and lush, and covered with crumbling stone houses, almost like the countryside in Ireland. Among the houses was a ruined synagogue, one of many we filmed on our trip.

While at Gamla, we were reminded of the ongoing military situation by a distant hum of drones, and by a surprise when I turned on the microphones. At one point, my headphones filled with the sound of Morse Code, or some other transmission. I didn’t know what it meant, but I still wasn’t sure I should be listening. Then, abruptly, the noises stopped.

Gamla was a challenge to film because a road had been covered by a recent landslide, and we had to hike up, over, and down the adjacent hill in order to reach the famous mountain. Carl counted 1,300 steps. It was steep, and real work in the heat.

At the end of the day we were short on time. This park had a definite closing time, and we were late, so we tried to hurry back to the van The result was a group of red-faced and overheated people, gasping for air as we drove away. I wanted to chat with Carl about logistics as we drove, but instead I found I needed to lie down on the seat for a few moments until my vision cleared.

We had a few more hours of daylight left, so we visited Umm El Kanatir again, and filmed a few more scenes by some of the ruined houses there. Umm El Kanatir was exciting because we often heard jackals, screaming on the hillside, when sunset came.

This day, at Umm El Kanatir, we struggled to record clean audio because of military drones, and some sort of vehicle that was driving back and forth on a nearby ridge. We guessed it might be a military ground patrol.

As it got dark, the team headed back to the van, but I stayed behind to record the silence, since the military sounds had died down for a moment. I sat, perfectly still, as darkness fell around me. If I moved, I’d disrupt the audio and have to start over. The wild hills of the Golan Heights are beautiful at sunset, but after a minute or two, I started to think of the jackals, and wish I had sat with my back to a rock. The hair on my neck was prickling a little when I finished recording.

It was dark, we’d worked until the end, but we had finished our filming in the Golan Heights. And not a moment too soon. That same day, an advisory went out to US citizens requesting that they not travel in the Golan Heights area.

I couldn’t help but notice God’s timing once again. We would stay in the valley by the sea for the rest of our trip, but we had made it. Just in time.

Love always,

-Rachel

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