The title says it all. Last weekend (May 4/5), the program took about 30 of us on a tour over two days in the North.
On Friday morning, we went to the city of Safed (or Zafed or Tzfat, depending on who you ask). Safed is often referred to as the home of Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah. Yes, like Madonna, but not, because this is a real way of life and approaching Judaism, not just a red string around a wrist. We went to a lookout point and talked about the history of the area in relation to Zionism, then headed to the gallery of a Kabbalist artist and then to several beautiful synagogues.
I absolutely loved Safed. The whole city has this incredible inner peace and just this constant energy of total faith. It is historic and beautiful and a very admirable way of life.
After Safed, we headed for a hike a short ways away, along a creek. It was a foliage-oriented hike, as oppose to the desert hike, which was all rocks. We saw fig, walnut, pomegranate and loquat trees as well as a variety of plants, including mustard, which I did actually chew on. Here’s us crossing the creek on a little wooden bridge.
After that, we headed to a campground where we set up what can only be referred to as a hobo camp. No tents, just 30 college students plus 2 tour guides, three program leaders, 1 paramedic and 1 guard all spread out with sleeping bags and random backpacks. But this was where I had the absolute most fun. First, we played touch football with 12 or so of us and then we played a girls-only game of soccer (stupid knee be darned).
It was just a group of girls yelling and being totally supportive of each other and just completely having fun. It has been a really really long time since I’ve just played. And it was awesome. Then there was a Shabbat ritual, then dinner, then putzing around while two of our leaders played guitar and then sleeping completely under the stars for the first time in my life. When we woke up in the morning, it looked like this:
See? Hobo camp. Funnily enough, Stephanie, that girl in the red on the left had taken a photo just a moment before…
That’s me on the right, digging in my bag to pull out my camera to take my own version of this picture. I found it a very amusing coincidence.
So then we headed to the next part of our hike, with the bus taking us out of the upper Galilee and into the Golan. We were right next to the Lebanon border and did a rather treacherous hike along a creek made from snowmelt from Mt. Hebron, the only place in Israel that actually gets snow. When I say treacherous, I mean it was lots of climbing and it was super super super fun. Here’s my group on part of it (it took about three hours):
Unfortunately, one girl in our group did slip and actually broke her ankle! She is so brave though and handling it like a champ. I admire her so much. Some of the guys in our group, including our 50+ year old guide Yisrael sprang into chivalry mode and took turns carrying her out of the creekbed (at least a 30 degree angle hill) on their backs. Also admirable.
After our injured comrade was safely on her way to the hospital, we “conquered” Nimrod’s Fortress
, a Moslem castle built in the early 1200’s. From here, we saw all sorts of fun architectural features and had a great view of the Golan and Lebanon (the border was sometimes less than a mile away).
After that, it was back on the bus for a short ride over to the Banyas (or Banias
), which was originally “Panyas” because they are actually Green and Roman ruins of temples of the god, Pan
. There are also a series of small waterfalls, gentle creeks, rapids and then a large waterfall.
So why was this my favorite trip in Israel? Because it was a perfect balance of ha chaverim shelee, ha eretz veh ha historia Israelite. That’s the terrible transliteration of “my friends, the land and Israeli history.” I loved being with great people in a beautiful setting learning about interesting people and places. It was the perfect thing to get me revved up and excited for the last month and reminded me how grateful I should be to be having this fantastic and incredibly unique study abroad experience.