After filling our bellies with an array of breakfast goodies, we donned our rain gear and departed Galei Kinneret (Hotel) to Safed, known as one of the four holiest cities due to its ties to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).
As the bus climbed in elevation, the rockscape changed from the camel-colored sand-stone we witnessed as we winded our way through the old passageways of Jaffa, to volcanic rock – as dark as the night’s sky.
Upon arriving in Safed, we visited an artist’s gallery before entering the meandering alleyways filled with art vendors. We traversed back and forth over the slippery cobblestone pathways and up a staircase to the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue.
The synagogue was tiny but big in style with its intricately decorated ark and beautiful stained-glass windows. In the back corner sat Elijah’s chair. I took advantage of it and sat on it, hoping the prophecy of finding a mate within two years is true. YOLO.
From the synagogue, my mom, sister and I stopped into some shops as we headed back toward the bus. One of the shops was a gallery of fine art that contained no modern walls, but walls and archways made of stone.
Safed, like Jerusalem, is a place where I feel connected to Israel and my ancestors of long ago. To walk the same streets, touch the same walls is a unique feeling I will always treasure.
From Safed, we continued to the Golan Heights where Opher pointed out the signs warning of land mines along the side of the road. A reminder that Israel is always at turmoil.
A few of us opted out of the jeep tour and headed to the kibbutz that housed the De Karina Chocolate factory. [While the rest of the group road off in approximately 4-5 jeeps to see the Syrian border and learn of the kibbutz’s history with living so close to the border]* we drank ‘chocolate hafuch’ (hot chocolate with whipped milk) as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive.
[On the jeep tour, the group saw just how large the kibbutz property was. We learned that they raised both dairy cows, complete with an extremely high-tech operation for milking them, and beef cattle. They grew pink lady apples in their apple orchards. They had vineyards where they grew grapes to sell to the local wineries. The kibbutz land had once been part of the land that belonged to Syria. We stopped at a former Russian outpost to have a briefing by Amir and were fascinated to hear him refer to Syria as ‘the country that used to be Syria.’ This phrase was used again later that afternoon when we had our security briefing. It’s as if after the fall of Aleppo, no one here thinks that Syria exists any more.]
When the group returned from the jeep tour, Col Kobi Marom spoke to us regarding Israel’s current political situation and to give us a security briefing. It was interesting to learn that we were situated about two miles from the terrorist organization Al Queda.
Sometimes life is too serious and frightening, so it was nice to be a little creative, get dirty and make chocolate treats.
After stopping for a quick bite to eat, we headed to the Golan Heights Winery where Reuben gave us a guided tour. It was also interesting to know that no one knew for sure what grapes were original to the region.
We concluded our day in Israel with a delicious multi-course dinner at Robergs Restaurant. We returned to the hotel full and happy.
*Anything witten inside [ ] is written by Rabbi Sharon Sobel.