“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” – David Ben-Gurion
This morning we reunited with the students from Psagot High School located in our sister city of Karmiel for a hike through Tel Dan Nature Reserve in the Galilee. What at first seemed like a casual stroll through a wooded area much like the Laurel Highlands quickly turned (in true Israel fashion) into an archeological wonderland.
It was here, at Tel Dan, where a 9th century B.C.E. stele was discovered that provides the first historical evidence of King David from the Tanakh. Also here is the world’s oldest known gated archway from the Bronze Age and King Jeroboam’s temple, which the Bible indicates was established to house the golden calf and challenge the temple in Jerusalem for supremacy. All that and a beautiful nature reserve with new friends!
From Tel Dan we headed with the Israeli students to the De Karina boutique chocolate factory in the Golan Heights to reenact the famous “I Love Lucy” chocolate wrapping scene, CDS style. The factory was established by Karina Chaplinski, a third-generation chocolatier whose family made aliyah from Argentina in 2003; we even spotted her walking through the boutique (pictured below in the black head wrap). We had a guided tour of the factory to see the manufacturing process in action, tasted some chocolate delicacies, and then tried our hands at chocolate-making. !טָעִים מְאוֹד
From the delicious chocolate fun, we took a more serious turn to the Syrian border, standing about 35 miles from Damascus atop a dormant volcano called Mount Bental. From our tour guide Samuel, we learned about the history of the Golan Heights, the Druse population, security concerns due to the civil war raging in Syria, Israel’s role in the conflict, and the presence of extremist forces on the other side of the armistice line.
With dozens of other tourists in a surreal moment, we looked out across into Syria, seeing smoke in the sky and hearing an occasional distant explosion as the country continues to unravel. Some of us even took “selfies” with U.N. observers from New Zealand at the overlook, who watch developments in the war from Mount Bental.
As the 19th-century German-Jewish poet Berthold Auerbach said, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Or in the words of Lady GaGa, “Gonna be okay, just dance!” And so atop Mount Bental, with music playing from someone’s iPhone and portable speaker, that’s exactly what we did.
From the Golan Heights, it was back to Tverya for games and a barbecue before saying goodbye and exchanging contact information with our friends from Karmiel, followed by a game of Capture the Flag on the dusty beach at sunset.
Tomorrow it’s on to Tel Aviv and the last leg of our adventure …