Posts Tagged With: hike

Hiking in the North AKA My Absolute Favorite Weekend in Israel

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.
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And then I went hiking in the desert.

And what an adventure I had. From the wee hours of Friday morning until yesterday night, I was out of town with 75 of my closest International School cohorts tromping around the Negev Desert, in Ramon Crater and the mountains outside the resort town of Eilat. That is a whole lot of adventure to cram into one blog post, so I’ll summarize as best I can.

On Friday…

We drove to the Negev (about four or five hours) and stopped along the way at ruins that used to be a city along the spice trade route that ran through the area. There were about 40-50 mile per hour winds but we learned some stuff, so that was good. Once we got to Ramon Craters, we started walking, first down down down a steep wall, then all through the crater, stopping for lunch on some rather cool rock formations. Then we had to walk up up up out of the Crater to the bus, which was a beautiful sight, especially since the hike was about two miles longer than it was supposed to be since the busses couldn’t make it as far down the roads as they were supposed to. But it was an adventure. This is a picture of some of us eating lunch. You can tell I scrambled up a bit higher to sit and eat mine.

On Friday night…

We slept in a Bedouin tent and almost all of us pitched in to make a great dinner. It was rather chilly in the Negev (around 40 degrees probably) and it even rained (rain in the desert? Yes, it’s been a very odd weather year in Israel), but we had a good time all snuggled in with our sleeping bags. This picture is a view of about half the tent.

On Saturday…

After everyone’s favorite breakfast of pita and imitation Nutella, we set out again, this time, climbing up a mountain to get a view of the desert. This was some of my favorite time the whole weekend because we were literally climbing up rock faces and scooting along paths sometimes barely a foot wide on the edges of mountains. It was very adventurous. The pics here are myself overlooking the desert, part of the path we took and part of the afternoon’s trek, which included a narrow gorge.

On Saturday night…

We went to Eilat! Eilat is a resort town on the Red Sea where we stayed in a super nice hostel and I went to a lovely dinner with three friends to celebrate St. Patty’s Day.

On Sunday…

We climbed a mountain on the outskirts of Eilat, where we could see Israel, Jordan (which is literally a quarter mile away), Egypt, and the haze that was shielding our view of Saudi Arabia. So four countries in one. In the first picture, I have one hand on top of Israel and the other on Jordan. I’m facing Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Then we took rather treacherous paths down the mountain (photo below) to the beautiful beach (also below), where we spent two beautiful hours in the sun before heading back to the bus which brought us back to “lifa in Haifa” as they say.

Overall, it was a really great trip. It was my biggest adventure yet on this big adventure and I am so glad I went and the ol’ knee held out. If we’re Fbook friends, check out way more pictures there. The funniest thing about all the pictures is that I’m sure it just looks like a bunch of rocks, but if you were there and listening to our tour guides who were rather passionate about the geology, they’re all actually very different. Not that I’ll remember that a few days from now….

Thanks for reading!

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To Ramon Crater for the Weekend

Around here, class seems to be like that thing we have to take care of in between adventures to various other parts of the country and this weekend is no different. I am posting this at 4 a.m. Israel time, where I am wide awake (ish) and about to board a bus to head south to the Ramon Crater for a two-day hike! Tomorrow night, after spending tonight in Bedouin tents, our group will head to Eilat where we will spend the night there and then have the option of doing another hike on Sunday or sitting on the beach instead (Eilat is a resort town on the Red Sea.) My knee and sickness level will determine my course of action but right now I’m feeling alright so hopefully all will be well.

It’s my first real hike and I’m as excited as a person can be about anything at 4 a.m. It should be a good time.

On a side note, shout out to all my Elon friends headed out on spring break adventures today. Hope you all have a safe, relaxing, fun time. I know how badly spring break can be needed.

So long civilization! See you in a few days.

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