Riding in the Golan Heights
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Israel: Shalom Y'all
Edward Stone did not set out to
become Yehuda Avni. It wasn't until a friend introduced him to the kibbutz
way of life that he even had much of a feeling for his Jewish background.
Today Avni is not only a Zionist, he operates the most successful dude ranch
in Israel. Avni tours the Golan Heights on horseback each morning, a 25-mile
ride from home, to look over the Sea of Galilee. He enjoys the harsh but
beautiful landscape that is Israel and speaks fair but not fluent Hebrew.
Born and raised on the west side of Chicago, Avni felt shame and
embarrassment whenever his Russian-born father or Polish-born mother spoke
in public. Because of his parents' immigrant history, however, he grew up
with a pioneer spirit.
Vered haGalil, the Rose of Galilee dude ranch, reflects the
reality of Israel today. Over the years, Avni and his Palestinian-born wife
have been assisted at the ranch by a slew of workers, from Yemenites to
Moroccans to a once-banished German prince. Avni sells horseback-riding
tours of Israel along the long border it shares with Jordan, Israel's former
enemy. During the six-day war, a period he admits was nothing short of
frightful, Avni, his family, and ranch staffers were armed, and they
remained so throughout the threatening year of 1967.
As much as he loved life on the
kibbutz, the American expatriate loved the hills of Galilee best. After he
spent six months looking for the right spot for his dude ranch, the
government allowed him to build under the condition that he could not reside
in the same place, a conundrum for a rancher. But there was a loophole--the
owner could live on the grounds if "the enterprise is important to the
state." In the early 1960s, tourism was important to Israel.
Today the Vered Hagalil Guest Farm
firstname.lastname@example.org operates and sells tours for as short
as an hour or as long as a week. The farm has 19 units in this spectacular
location. Seven are two-room cottages with a living room and kitchenette;
six are one-room cabins; four are studio cabins with kitchenettes and a
porch; and two are bunkhouse rooms that sleep four. An outdoor swimming pool
is another plus. Recently, accommodations have been enhanced with air
conditioning and direct-dial phones. Also new are an enlarged riding ring
for Western-style classes and a greater stress on service. Avni is planning
on adding three cottages and three studio cabins over the next two years.
Riding packages usually cover eight
days and include all meals, lodging, lessons and equipment for $150 a day.
Single-night stays include breakfast; extra charges are incurred for riding
times ($17 an hour; $45 for a half-day; $78 for an all-day ride with lunch).
The "Bonanza," a one-day overnight, costs $98, including riding lessons.
Cottage per-night costs range from $110 to $125 based on double occupancy;
studios cost from $100 to $116; cabins cost $84 to $100; and the bunkhouse
costs $47 to $53.