This morning we met our new Israeli friends from Karmiel at the Tel Dan Nature Reserve for a guided walk along the Dan Stream, the largest source of water feeding the Jordan River created by snowmelt from Mount Hermon.
Strolling through the shady woods in Tel Dan with its flowing brooks, slippery wet rocks, and lush green thickets was almost like taking a walk in the woods of western Pennsylvania after a heavy summer rain–until we reached the remains of a temple from the biblical kingdom of Israel built under King Jeroboam I. That doesn’t happen back home.
The city of Dan is one of the most important antiquities sites in Israel. Excavations have revealed evidence of the existence of the “House of David” and an altar to the Golden Calf. Eitan shared how the word “ישראל” is also an acronym for the matriarchs and patriarchs, reminding us how beautiful it is that we are able to come together once again united as Jews from distant parts of the world here at Tel Dan. After our nature walk, we cooled off in the shallow wading pool at the end of the trail by putting our feet (and some heads!) in the water.
Our bus then climbed from the Hula Valley to the Golan Heights, where we enjoyed a pizza picnic with the Israeli students before heading to the De Karina boutique chocolate factory. There, we reenacted the famous “I Love Lucy” chocolate wrapping scene, CDS-style. The De Karina factory was established by Karina Chaplinski, a third-generation chocolatier whose family made aliyah from Argentina in 2003. We had a guided tour of the factory to see the manufacturing process in action (including a demo of how they make flaky mekupelet bars), tasted some new chocolate delicacies, and then tried our hands at filling truffles and decorating chocolate wafers. Some of us even had room for chocolate milkshakes afterward! !טָעִים מְאוֹד
With full tummies, we made our last stop together with the students from Karmiel at Mount Bental, where we experienced breathtaking panoramic views of the Golan Heights and Syria’s Quneitra Valley. 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 defeated the Syrians despite having a much smaller force.
We learned about the history of this key strategic location and also had the opportunity to speak to U.N. observers who happened to be passing through; until recently, they were stationed here while monitoring the ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria.
A famous sign (newly refurbished) at the top of Mount Bental marks the distance and direction to far-flung cities, from Moscow to Buenos Aires, Tiberias to Washington, D.C. As we bid farewell to our friends from Karmiel, we began to look ahead to the direction of the next leg of our CDS Israel adventure, preparing to head into the desert and to climb Masada. We will report again as WiFi access allows!