Yoav Lemmer/AFP/Getty Images
An Israeli firefighter plane works on fires caused by Katyusha-style rockets fired by Hezbollah. The guerrillas fired some 4,000 rockets across the border into Israel last year.
An Israeli firefighter plane works on fires caused by Katyusha-style rockets fired by Hezbollah. The guerrillas fired some 4,000 rockets across the border into Israel last year. Yoav Lemmer/AFP/Getty Images
Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images
A rocket fired by Hezbollah guerrillas from southern Lebanon hit a school in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. Much of the damage from last year's war has been repaired.
A rocket fired by Hezbollah guerrillas from southern Lebanon hit a school in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. Much of the damage from last year's war has been repaired. Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images
Ali Dia/AFP/Getty Images
Belgian U.N. peacekeeping soldiers salute Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut during his visit to their camp in the southern Lebanon, where U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanese troops are deployed.
Belgian U.N. peacekeeping soldiers salute Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut during his visit to their camp in the southern Lebanon, where U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanese troops are deployed. Ali Dia/AFP/Getty Images
About a hundred Israelis sit around a campfire in a forest clearing less than two miles from the border with Lebanon. From there, the lights of several Lebanese villages are clearly visible.
Just one year ago, during the six-week war with Hezbollah, this part of northern Israel was ground zero. Lebanese guerrillas fired about 4,000 rockets across the border, but few physical reminders remain. Almost all of the damage has been repaired, and tourists like Andy Friedman have returned in droves.
Friedman lives in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and has come with his wife and three sons for a weeklong vacation.
"Because it's beautiful, because it's green, because it's cool, because there are places to swim. It's a great time to be away with [my] family," Friedman says.
He adds that his choice of venue was, like almost everything in Israel, at least partly political.
"For us, there was a double push, if you will. One is to show Hezbollah, people that would have us not be here, that we are here, and we're not going anywhere. And number two is to give some support to the residents that are feeling strongly that the country has not totally recovered from the war," Friedman says.
'You Have to Look Forward'
One of the most popular pursuits among vacationers from the area is kayaking down the Hatzbani River, which flows across the Lebanese border. Whole families crowd into boats, laughing and yelling as they crash into riverbanks and other kayaks.
The sounds are music to Eitan Rahimi's ears. Rahimi is the general manager of the 120-room hotel at Kibbutz Hagoshrim. When the war broke out last year, all of the guests left. He kept the hotel open, and it became a media center for journalists covering the war.
Now, he says, the hotel is fully booked with Israeli families for the rest of the summer and into the fall, during the Jewish holidays. He says the memories of the war have quickly faded.
"The memory of people is short. We get used to back-to-normal life [as] quick as we can. You cannot all the time remember what happened, and you have to look forward," Rahimi says.
Not everyone, though, can do that. The nearby town of Kiryat Shmona was pounded with more than a thousand rockets during the war. Many of the residents, like 52-year-old Morris Manan, left town and took refuge with relatives in the center of the country.
On the last day of the war, Manan says, a Katyusha scored a direct hit on his house.
"Both the house and the air-conditioning business I had in the front yard were heavily damaged. My car was also burnt. I've rebuilt the house, but I haven't restarted the business. I just don't have the energy," Manan says.
Government compensation did not cover his rebuilding costs, and he says he had to dig into his savings. A part of the wall inside the front door remains unrepaired.
The Looming Threat of War
The war last year began when Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, prompting massive Israeli air and ground attacks. There has been no sign of life from either of those soldiers. Israeli media have reported that at least one of them is believed to have died from his injuries soon after his capture. Getting the soldiers back was one stated aim of the war, and the other was to destroy Hezbollah.
But a year later, a senior Israeli military official says Hezbollah has rebuilt its medium- and long-range rocket capability. The official says that while the Lebanese army and U.N. peacekeepers are now deployed in South Lebanon, Hezbollah has simply moved its operations a few miles north.
Yossi Nahari has lived in Kiryat Shmona for more than 40 years. Sitting in his deserted falafel shop, Nahari says that it's only a matter of time before another war breaks out.
"From all of the signs and everything we feel here, there could be a war any minute," he says. "The situation with the Syrians, Iran, with Hezbollah ... if there isn't a war, that will be a miracle."