Getting ready to set out on our adventure
Monday, June 16, 2008
oday made us realize that Israel has it all. Great history, culture and spirituality, sure — but also great food and adventure activities.
We woke up at 6:30 A.M. at our beautiful kibbutz, Kfar Blum in the Galilee, to start a jam-packed day. The kids already have become fast friends, so our family had five kids sleeping in our rooms. Breakfast beat the Hilton hands down: platters of fresh yogurts, fruits and vegetables; 10 kinds of cheeses (salty, with olives, with garlic, with dill); eggs any style; pancakes and more. But the real treat came from a corner bakery that produces fresh rolls and breads right out of the oven — whole grain, rye, croissants, cinnamon and egg — spreading a warm, yeasty smell throughout the dining room.
A surprise awaited us outside when we finished: off-road jeeps for a ride to the Golan Heights. We climbed the rolling hills and at the top gained a sweeping view of this important geographic area with Lebanon to the west and Syria over the mountains to the east. We learned about the story of the Six-Day War and how its rapid success left the Israelis less prepared for future incursions.
Our next stop was the Tel Dan Nature Preserve and the biblical settlement of Dan. Dan features a spring that feeds a rapid stream, which is a major source to the Jordan River. Our group hiked through this ancient reserve and soaked our tired feet in the ice cold, crystal clear water of its ponds. This area is 3,000 years old! It is also at Tel Dan where an important inscription stating “House of David” is found — the first nonbiblical reference to King David.
Back on the bus and time to eat. Instead of cheese puffs, we had peanut butter puffs and instead of salted pretzels, sesame-seed coated ones. All part of the experience!
One more stop before lunch: rafting on the Jordan River. To compensate for the lack of rapids, we had water fights with Israeli kids, fellow travelers and rabbis. What could be better?! We even played bumper rafts with a boatload of older Arab-Israeli women. Sports really bring people together — especially when you are soaking wet.
After a quick lunch and change to “modest” clothing back at the kibbutz, we headed to the town of Safed, one of the highest towns in the Galilee. During the 16th century this was the center of Kabbalah, the mystical interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures, and it still remains a very popular focus for study and tourism. We met a famous scholar with whom Rabbi Goldsmith studied, and we visited a local synagogue. We even learned that the song “L’cha Dodi” relates to the kabbalistic approach to Judaism.
Then to cap off the day, a real contrast — as far as you can get from mysticism and deep thought: an Israeli dude ranch for dinner! We had delicious grilled veggies, homemade bread, grilled meats and chocolate soufflé with ice cream…and much-needed wine after a long day (very long for the grown-ups) filled with Israeli religion, culture, history, adventure and food!
This will be a hard day to beat.
— Ann Marks
P.S. I think we need to add something. I thought the day was over, but because of the courtyard style of the kibbutz, all the kids came out to play in the grass in the middle before they went to bed. It was so funny. All the boys for the first time — from the 18-year-old to the 9-year-olds — played together with one little tennis ball. Our resident teenage girl also held court with all the younger girls, advising them on issues related to growing up. I think the whole youth contingent has bonded fully.
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