Days 1 and 2: The Beginning to an Incredible Journey
Not even Icelandic volcanic ash could keep us from getting to Israel! After about an hour delay, we took off for our ten hour plane ride. Four movies later, we were in Israel. We went through customs, got our luggage and were greeted by our Israeli soldiers. They sang Salam and then we learned and performed a traditional welcome cheer. We then got on our Coach bus and were off to our first destination. Our first taste of Israel was when we arrived at the Aqueducts in Caesarea at the Mediterranean Sea. On the beach, we sang the Shehechianu and said Kiddush, which are customs of Birthright. There we wrote wishes of things we want to experience during our trip and put them in a bottle to keep with us and hopefully accomplish. Finally, we got to a Kibbutz which is where we’ll stay for three nights. The Kibbutz has lots of friendly animals, especially dogs. We ate dinner and then had an icebreaker to get to know everyone better. After that, we went to bed to be fully rested for hiking the Golan Heights the next morning.
We woke up with the sun to have breakfast and be on our way to the Golan Heights by 8:30. Once arriving, we were taught our Hebrew words of the day: Shalom (Hi, Goodbye, or Peace), Ma Nishma? (How are you?), and Sababa (Great in Hebrew slang). Our hike was along a stream, and as we hiked down the path there were incredible views of the mountains and beautiful trees and flowers. The trek wasn’t easy and the rocks were kind of slippery which gave us an adrenaline rush, but we eventually made it to the bottom of the waterfall. It was one of the most incredible sights we have ever seen. Some of the boys went in the water (which was freezing) and stood behind the waterfall! Apparently we even impressed the Israelis on the way back up with our hiking skills, even though we were dying inside. After the hike, we went to the top of Mt. Bental where we saw old bunkers and learned about the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. Here, we also saw the boundaries between Israel and Syria. The view from the top of the volcano went for miles. After this, we got a delicious lunch of falafel and schwarma, which was a first for many people on bus 148. Then, we saw the Golan Heights memorial site and heard personal stories about the conquest. After, we visited a graveyard where famous Israelis, songwriters, and poets were buried. The graveyard overlooked the Kinneret, or the Sea of Galilee. Unlike many graveyards at home, there were many school groups there, which was eye opening. It was interesting to see how Israelis learn about their own culture starting at such a young age, and the pride they have for their country. After this long day, we headed back to the Kibbutz for a long shower and dinner. We also had some more group activities and finally know everyone’s name! Israel so far is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen and we can’t wait to make a deeper connection with the country as the trip continues.