Golan Heights Hike

After not much sleep at all, we were up at 7 to shower, get ready, and get breakfast around 730, bus by 8am. I had a small breakfast of juice and cereal, as the emphasis here seems to be on eggs. We left on the bus, bound for a hike in the Golan Heights. During the 45 minute drive we learned the geography and history of the Golan Heights. I knew only of the area as a place that was constantly under debate as to whether or not Israel should return it to Syria for “peace”. Israel had captured the area when Syria had attacked in the first place…so it seemed like they should get to keep it, no? The area is just as it sounds – an elevated area that over looks the lowlands, so to speak. At the base of these hills is the Sea of Galilee (Kineret). The Golan Heights are important not only for their strategic location but also because of the land’s ability to sustain many crops including bananas, orchards of all types, and vineyards. The area also provides much water to the country as a whole – a valuable thing indeed. These are the things that I did not know about the Golan Heights; to me it sounds like an almost war-torn area that is very unstable. In fact it is really anything but. The border with Syria has been quiet for some time.

Cows in the Golan Heights

We arrived at the beginning of our hike on a piece of land overlooking a huge valley. We would be going down into the valley and back up the other side. The terrain was quite rocky and a little slippery because of the rain over the past week. The temperature started out comfortable but by the end of the hike I was comfortable in only a tank top. I feel very lucky to not have come here in the summer time! Some notable things were a dog that joined us for the entire hike (kelev!), beautiful white and purple flowers, and 2 beautiful waterfalls with clean water. It took us about 3 hours to get from one side of the valley to the other side – we hiked all the way down and then back up the other side. The sky was perfect the whole time and the land was clean and green. The water was crystal clear and reflected the sky beautifully. Orly taught us to look for these little black specs in the water – if they were there, it meant the water was clean. Of course, there were many black specs.

The the end of our hike we jumped back on the bus and headed to Kibbutz Alrom. On the way there, driving through the Golan Heights, we saw vineyards….so so much is being grown up there and it is all beautiful. We also saw the other side of Israel, which is its need to constantly defend itself. Some fields along the Syrian border are mined in case Syria invades, although the border has been quiet for many years. We also saw piles of rocks, boulders really, along the road. We were told that there were explosives under them, and in case Syria ever invaded Israel would blow up these piles of rocks and the rocks would destroy the roads into Israel. Seeing this need that Israel has to defend itself at any time, next to the all the crops that were growing was just plain sad. I could only imagine how much more food could have been grown here if Israel didn’t need to put landmines over the fields to protect itself.

At the kibbutz we ate a bagged lunch outside of a chicken sandwich, fruit, and a parsimon – what a cool fruit. We then moved into the small theatre in the kibbutz to see a movie on the Yom Kippur war. It was narrated by someone who had actually driven a tank for the IDF and contained live footage. The bravery of these men and women was incredible – they were outnumbered by some ridiculous number (we learned it, but I didn’t write it down), yet still managed to win. There was even footage between 2 Israeli tanks, one saying “I have no ammunition left” and the other responding that “Syria doesn’t know that, advance anyways”.

We left the kibbutz and headed up to Mount Bental to look at the border with Syria and see the scene that we had just seen in the film. The view was amazing and it was also the location of one of those cool signs that lists various cities and how far away they are – of course I took a pic.

Mount Bental Directional Sign

We went inside the mountain, which had been used as a fortress, and probably still could be. We saw a Druze man selling fruits and honey and some other foods by the entrance, which was cool. The Druze are a minority in Israel and practice their own, ancient religion. We left there and now it was time for our surprise activity. I was less than excited about this activity because I was so tired. We headed back to the kibbutz and our surprise was visiting the chocolate factory there, de Karina. The factory was established by a woman from Argentina who had made Aliyah and moved to the kibbutz. It was delicious but I didn’t buy anything. We got back on the bus and drove for an hour back to the Ohalo “hotel”. We all felt disgusting and only had 1.5 hours to get ready for our 6:45 meeting. We showered quickly because tonight we would be going out in Tiberius. Our meeting tonight was to introduce us to the 8 soldiers who would be joining us for 5 days on our trip. We all got slips of paper with a few sentences about each soldier and had to act out each in a group. I was with Asher, Ean, and Alison, which was pretty good except that Alison didn’t want to talk at all. We acted out 23 year old Asaf, an air traffic controller in the IDF. After the skits we took a bus into Tiberius for dinner. Rachel and I sat with Rabbi Tzvi and his wife, Ricky, and had salad, hummus, eggplant, pasta and pizza. We then walked to Big Ben bar for drinks and dancing. We had the whole bar to ourselves because apparently then men up here were quite “dirty”. At the bar we had drinks and danced until we were somewhat over that….then there was lots of chatting and drama. I chatted with lots of people and made some good friends. We also talked to Orly a lot about Israeli culture and aliyah. We left at 11:30 and had a crazy ride home on the bus. People continued to drink at the hotel bar but my roommates and I decided that we had to go to bed. I finally made it to bed by 12:45 after taking all of these notes!!

Out in Tiberius, Israel

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