Into The Golan

This morning after tefillah and breakfast, we reunited with our Israeli friends from Karmiel and headed to Tel Dan Nature Reserve for a guided walk along the Dan Stream, the largest source of water feeding the Jordan River (here’s a quick ride along with our rafting trip yesterday!) created by snowmelt from Mount Hermon.

Walking through the shady woods in Tel Dan with its flowing brooks and “northern forest” was almost like taking a walk through Frick Park after a heavy summer rain–until we reached the remains of a 5,000-year-old city conquered by the Tribe of Dan. That doesn’t happen back in Pittsburgh.

The city of Dan is mentioned in Bible stories, and it is one of the most important antiquities sites in Israel. Excavations have revealed, among other things, the only evidence outside of the Bible of the existence of the “House of David” and an altar to the Golden Calf. The location was strategically important to Israel following the War of Independence, and to learn this history, we stood on atop trenches from a military post active until 1967.

 We even found paradise …

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And maybe not the Golden Calf, but plenty of cows nonetheless …

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Our bus then climbed from the Hula Valley to the Golan Heights, where we enjoyed a pizza and pasta picnic in a park with the Karmiel students before visiting De Karina Chocolatier. There, we saw a demonstration of how flaky mekupelet chocolate bars are made and tasted samples of some of the newest sweet creations from De Karina. And then it was “I Love Lucy,” CDS-style, as the Class of 2017 made their own boxes of truffles and decorated chocolate wafers with, yes, more chocolate, at this boutique factory established by Argentinian immigrant Karina Chaplinski in 2006.

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With full bellies, we made our last stop together with the students from Psagot School at Mount Bental, where we enjoyed breathtaking panoramic views of the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon, and even Syria. Formed in a volcanic eruption, Mount Bental was the site of one of the largest tank battles held during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when the Israelis miraculously defeated the Syrians despite having a much smaller force.

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Yoni talked about the historic significance of Mount Bental and shed light on the complexities of the Syrian Civil War; looking toward Syria, we could see the surreal, thick smoke from fighting in the Quneitra Valley between the Assad regime and Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate with positions near Israel’s border. U.N. troops sit atop Mount Bental, having disengaged from the Syrian side of the border.

The Class of 2017 returned to the hotel to debrief about the day’s events while noshing on more De Karina chocolate. Mrs. Mazer first received some great advice on how to improve the Karmiel pen-pal program, such as using less formal ways to stay in touch like What’s App or Facetime rather than e-mail. Niv then noted their Israeli friends seemed more laid back than teenagers in the U.S., while Judah added that he was surprised how much they knew about American culture. Sophia observed that she only knows one person in the military at home, but all of the Karmiel teens have close connections to someone in the IDF. Those headed to EKC this summer are excited to reunite there with a couple of their new Israeli friends.

It’s hard to believe, but our time in the north has come to an end …

Tomorrow … B’Yerushalayim for the celebration of Shavuot …
wishing you a Chag Sameach! 

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