Where in Israel can you go bowling, ice skating, swimming, play squash, basketball and ping pong or just enjoy a hot spa (not to mention the shooting range and 7D movie theater)? The Canada Centre in Metula!
Founded in 1896 on lands purchased by the Baron Rothschild (no relation to the author, although he wishes it were not so!) from absentee Arab landowners, Metula is the northernmost town in the Galilee, bordering on Lebanon.
Just before World War I, the British and the French, in a secret deal called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, decided how they would divide up the territories of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East that were sure to fall into their hands. This agreement drew the borders as such that Metula remained on the side of Palestine (Palestine was the name of the area of present-day Israel and Jordan – renamed by the Romans from the origin
Judea – before the modern State of Israel was declared in 1948), while most of the agricultural lands of Metula were on the Lebanese side. This was a travesty of justice considering that the lands were purchased by the Rothschilds (but we won’t go into that now!)
Today, Metula is a beautiful, lush town with a population of about 1500. It is a popular summer destination spot. In 2006, Israel was pulled into a war by the terrorist group Hezbollah, which is based in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah, in a border breach, attempted to kidnap Israeli soldiers, killing three soldiers and kidnapping two more. Unknown to Israel at the time was that the two kidnapped soldiers were also killed in the ambush. The bodies of the two soldiers were ultimately returned to Israel in 2008 as part of a prisoner exchange. During the war, Metula was hit with nearly 200 rockets and missiles and was virtually a ghost town as its population left to seek shelter.
In the late 1980s the mayor of Metula, Yossi Goldberg, visited Europe, where he was very impressed with the centers that hosted multiple sporting and cultural activities under one roof. The seeds were sown for his dream to transform Metula into a world-class sports and recreation destination. Goldberg managed to interest both the Jewish community of Canada and the Jewish Agency for Israel in this project, and in 1990 the doors to the newly built Canada Centre were opened. In 1995 Metula inaugurated the second Olympic-sized ice rink and hosted the first “Skate Israel” world competition. Since then, there have been eight international competitions.
The famous prophecy of the “Dry Bones” found in Ezekiel 37 predicts that these bones will one day be refreshed and restored. The prophecy refers to the miraculous revival of the Land of Israel after so many centuries of being parched, barren and neglected. The modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy as we see the land coming to life and once again bearing fruit and vegetation.
Projects such as the Canada Centre add vitality and life and are no doubt a part of this Biblical prophecy. So the next time you’re there, strap on your skates and know that the Jewish people are no longer on thin ice – we have come home and are building our own little (big?) miracle!
By Moshe Rothchild
Licensed Tour Guide