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…

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

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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:

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

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

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

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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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!):

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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

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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:

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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:

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

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

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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.

Day trip to Tel Aviv

A couple weeks ago, I took a day trip to Tel Aviv with Pardes. The day focused on understanding the nuances and challenges of creating a secular Jewish city. Tel Aviv was instrumental in the formation of secular Jewish identity – and secular Jewish national identity.

The day started with a visit to the Shalom Meir Tower – Israel’s first skyscraper – where we¬†viewed a replica of ¬†Tel Aviv as well as looked at a small photo exhibit documenting Tel Aviv’s early years. When this tower was build in 1965, it was the tallest building in the Middle East!

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After the tower, we went to Trumpledor Cemetary and visited the graves of some of Israel’s most important historical figures.

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Some of the more significant figures included Hayim Nahman Bialik, a pioneer of Hebrew poetry who is now recognized as Israel’s national poet…

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…and Ahad Ha’am – arguably the most influential cultural Zionist. Even if you don’t know anything about Ahad Ha’am or cultural Zionism, you may know his most famous quote, “more than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people.” (particularly interesting and thought-provoking when you consider that Ha’am was not, in fact, a Shabbat observant Jew himself)

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After the cemetery we had some free time at Shuk haCarmel (Carmel Market) to walk around and get lunch.

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Noah and I grabbed lunch in the nearby Yemenite Quarter at a hummus eatery. The only thing on the menu: hummus with pita. There was a choice if you wanted hard-boiled egg on top (we said yes)! The Yemenite Quarter is full of authentic and filling hummus shops Рsome hole-in-the-wall style and others more of an established restaurant.

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After lunch, the group reconvened to head to Habima Theater for a private tour of the building (previous visit to Habima Square documented here). On the tour, we talked about the theater’s pre-statehood beginnings, pre-statehood. The theater officially started in Poland, but began touring in Israel on funds from the Soviet Union. Habima was the world’s first Hebrew-language theater, and many of their first tours in Israel consisted of performing on make-shift stages at kibbutzim. Now, the theater puts on all sorts of plays (still all in Hebrew). Here is the theater set up for a performance later in the day:

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While at the theater, we also got some backstage looks at the costume department and storage room:

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The tour made me really want to see a play at Habima…if only I could understand Hebrew well enough to know what was going on!!

The final stop of the trip was a much anticipated visit to Google Israel Headquarters:

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This place was seriously swanky.

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Naturally, everyone was wowed by the unlimited free drinks, espresso, and snacks in the lobby. After snack/drink time was over, we¬†met with¬†a couple of Google employees where they talked to us about the company, what it’s like working for Google in Israel, some of Google’s latest initiatives, and answered our questions. I asked if the emphasis on high tech in Israel leads to a more equal representation of women to men in tech fields than in the US. The response: yes, definitely.

Goodbye Google, maybe we’ll meet again…

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