The Wonders of Israel!
Today was our first full day in Israel! We started our day bright and early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at our hostel (where I was pleasantly surprised to find that what I thought was yogurt was actually pudding!). Straight after breakfast, we got on the bus and drove through the arid landscape, which I continue to compare to that of southern California with the palm trees, dusty soil, and prickly shrubs spotted throughout the hills.
Our first stop was a hike in Golan Heights. The heat was already beating down on us at ten o'clock in the morning, but a gentle breeze kept us cool sporadically during our walk. The group enjoyed a short swim in a natural spring, where everyone could wade in the water and cool off. During the hike our "water committee" continued to remind us to drink enough water, and we all made it back safely and well hydrated.
Then it was time for lunch! We stopped at a shopping center where we could each decide where we wanted to eat. Many partook in the "famous" falafel and schwarma, while others cooled off with salads and milkshakes at a local cafe. This lunch break was welcomed after our long hike, but we soon were back on the bus heading to our next destination.
We then went to the top of Golan Heights, where we learned some history about Israel. Our dedicated trip leader Shira told us about the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, as well as other conflicts that have occurred between Israel and other countries, like neighboring Syria (we could see the Syrian border and even heard the sound of a bombing in the distance). Straight after we saw this overlook, we drove to a memorial for the veterans of the Yom Kippur War and the first war with Lebanon (1982). Here we learned about the spy Eli Cohen and how he helped Israeli forces during war times.
Under the shade of a eucalyptus tree, we took the time to meditate. In between deep breaths we were told to think about the present, be appreciative of this trip, and to realize the wonder of being here in the state of Israel. I hope all of us will carry these thoughts with us throughout the rest of the trip.