Pardes tiyul to the Golan and Upper Galilee

Several weeks ago (yes, I’m way behind on this post!), Noah and I went with Pardes on a 3-day tiyul to northern Israel. We were in the Golan and Upper Galilee region, and the surroundings were a huge difference from the last Pardes tiyul we went on to the southern Negev!

The trip started with a visit to the Jordan River where Yehoshua entered the land of Israel with the Israelite people (shortly after Moses’ death, at which time Yehoshua became the new Jewish leader). The glory of the Jordan River has definitely faded since those years…

IMG_6998

You see the other side of the river? That’s Jordan! Yep, we were real close. ūüôā

IMG_7003

Despite the river itself having become relatively small, it’s still a very interesting historical and spiritual location. It’s also somewhat of a pilgrimage site for Christians because it is the site of Jesus’ bastism. We saw a lot of Christian tourists going for a dip of their own:

IMG_7002

After the river visit, we went on a long hike at Nahal El-Al.

IMG_7009 IMG_7010

Along the hike, there were two waterfall locations where some people went for a swim!

IMG_7012

The hike took about 4 hours, and we had a great time!

IMG_7028 IMG_7014

After the hike, the group made a final stop at Mitzpeh Gadot, the location of an abandoned Syrian bunker that was captured by the Israeli army during the Six Day War.

IMG_7029 IMG_7030

The site had a lot of interesting trenches to look at, and it was also a good place to better understand the shifting of boundaries and power in this region . Also at the site is a memorial monument to the fallen soldiers of the Israeli Golani Brigade:

IMG_7032

After Mitzpeh Gadot, the group went back to our lodging (Kfar Szold Guest House) for dinner and some rest before another full day.

In the morning, we set out for our second big day hike – a hike on Mt. Meron.

IMG_7038 IMG_7042

This hike Рlike the first Рwas green, gorgeous, and was an opportunity to see some of the flowers in bloom during the spring:

IMG_7050

During this hike, we passed by some ruins, including what’s left of one of the oldest known synagogues (the ruins date back to the first century when the second Temple was still in Jerusalem!):

IMG_7047

After the hike, we visited Amuka, a small town near Tzfat where Rabbi Yonatan ben Uzziel is buried. R. Yonatan ben Uzziel was a student of Rabbi Hillel’s and is mentioned in the Talmud, so his significance stands on its own. Yet, an interesting custom has developed that singles visit the site of his grave to receive a shidduch (match). The legend goes that praying for a match at the site will lead to a partner within a year! There weren’t that many people around when we visited the site…I guess not too many people¬†thought to find their matches with him that day. ūüôā

IMG_7056 IMG_7057

When the group left the grave, we drove east towards the Syrian border. In the photo below (out of the bus window), you can see there are still lots of areas closed off with minefield warnings:

IMG_7070

We were heading to Tel Saki Р a small hill that served as an Israeli fortification on the border with Syria during the Yom Kippur War. At Tel Saki, we walking through some of the military trenches and looked across the expanse into Syria:

IMG_7079 IMG_7083

From our vantage point, we couldn’t see too much action into Syria…

IMG_7082

But there were still some pretty cool tanks to play on!

IMG_7093

Overall, this was a great tiyul! I loved hiking with Noah and my Pardes teachers and¬†classmates through northern Israel and learning more about that region’s history, successes, and challenges. The tiyulim with Pardes have definitely been a highlight of my year here (see my post on the Negev¬†tiyul and the day trip to Tel Aviv) and have made a huge difference in terms of helping me to see more of the country and to learn more about Israel outside of Jerusalem.

Exploring in the north and Hamat Gader

As mentioned in my previous post, the Shavit Family Guest House is both a lodge and a restaurant, and we were fortunate to be able to enjoy some of their delicious food during our stay there. The first night, we ate dinner at the family restaurant, ordering the signature dish of lamb casserole Рcooked all day and stewed with potatoes and various vegetables. We also had breakfast at the restaurant both days and it was delicious! Like any good Israeli breakfast, there was an abundance of dips, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and beverages.

IMG_7555 IMG_7557 IMG_7558

After breakfast, we made a stop at Capernaum (where Noah and I have now been three times!) and looked at the ruins of¬†a synagogue from approximately the 4th century (don’t mind the fact that the men in the photo below are actually looking at another camera…):

IMG_7513

After Capernaum, we began to drive north further into the Golan region, stopping at a lookout point along the road for some incredible views of and around Lake Kinneret. The area is called Offir lookout, and it is off of Rt 789:

IMG_7514 IMG_7516

The lookout was a great find – we weren’t planning to go there and only happened to notice it off the road. In fact, we had to drive along a long, muddy trail to get there, and we almost turned back, thinking the path didn’t lead to anything. I’m glad we forged ahead!

IMG_7520 IMG_7522

Given the slightly cold and rainy weather during the trip thus far (as you may have noticed from the photos), the group decided that this would be a great day for a refreshing activity. So, we headed to Hamat Gader, a hot springs spa located right by the Jordanian border and only a few miles from the point where Jordan, Israel, and Syria meet. Despite its slightly suspect location (and the fact that this is an Israeli spa, read: you need VERY different expectations than what you would expect from an American spa), visiting Hamat Gader was a lot of fun. When we arrived, we ate a quick lunch of salatim at a casual family eatery within the park and then headed to the main attraction: the hot springs!

IMG_7526 IMG_7527

The hot springs basically look like a big public pool, but it is filled with thermal hot springs. Also, the natural sulfur in the water is said to have a healing and renewing effect. I am not so much of a water person, so I was content to sit by the side and watch the fun:

IMG_7529

After the hot springs, the rest of the day included more driving, gazing at lookout points, and a dinner on Mt. Gilboa before heading back to the Shavit Guest House for one more night (and breakfast!). Naturally, there was more rain – this time with a bit of hail!

IMG_7560

And I thought there wasn’t supposed to be rain after Pesach?!?!

The following day was again busy with exploration, visiting the Yigal Alon Museum at Kibbutz Ginnosar, more ruins, and a very rainy trip to Tzfat (sound familiar?!).

The day ended with a drive back home to Jerusalem, where Noah’s parents would spend¬†the rest of their visit. We went for dinner at one of Noah’s and my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Kalo. Noah and I shared a camembert cheese sandwich and salmon/cream pasta, both of which were delicious:

IMG_7564 IMG_7565

Noah’s parents stayed only a few blocks from us at the Little House in Baka¬†– a small and casual hotel that has been very popular with the visiting¬†parents¬†of students in my program this year. Be careful, though, not to confuse it with the building next door:¬†NOT¬†little house in Baka:

IMG_7566

I guess those people have had one too many tourists try to come into their living room…. ūüôā

Although Noah’s parents spent another 5 or so days in Israel after coming with us to Jerusalem, I could only spend one more day with the group because classes at Pardes were resuming. During my last day with the family, we went to the Israel Museum. Although Noah and I had been to the Israel museum before, it is a HUGE place and there were a lot of exhibits we didn’t get a close look at the first time. In particular, I wanted to look at the archaeology exhibit and the sculpture garden. I really enjoyed walking through the sculpture garden and, in particular, seeing a¬†piece called Space that Sees by James Turrell. The piece is a large box of sorts that you enter through a walkway…

IMG_7574

Inside, it is a large square where you can sit and look up at the sky through the open ceiling:

IMG_7567 IMG_7569

Very neat! I imagine it could be quite beautiful to see in the nighttime:

IMG_7570 IMG_7573

Other posts about visiting with Noah’s parents:

Zichron Yaakov ‚Äď visiting Ramat Hanadiv gardens and Caesarea
Ein Hod Artist’s Village and Acre (Akko) – Crusader’s Fortress and market