One of many amazing things about my program is that we go on trips around Israel together. Group trips are a fun way to discover Israel because you are with all of your friends, the activities organized are often ones you wouldn't arrange on your own, and you get to have a madrich/madricha (guide) to tell you all kinds of fun facts! Monday and Tuesday my program took a trip the Golan Heights. For those of you unfamiliar, the Golan Heights a northern area of Israel along the Syrian and Lebanese borders. There is a lot of farmland and smaller towns and villages. It might be what you'd call "the country".
They took us on beautiful hikes through agricultural terraces. From these terraces you can see the hills and orchards of orange, lemon, olive, and almond trees. We also had a little lunch break in Tzfat (צפת), which is a city in the upper Galilee region. In Tzfat you weave your way up and down the slopey, almost alley-like streets, lined with restaurants and shops.
We also went wine tasting at a kosher winery called Dalton Winery. I've heard legends about the wine coming out of the Golan, so it was great to finally get to taste some of it! I ended up going home with a very lovely Moscato (for those of you who know me, you know this is my favorite!).
After a night in a hostel on a Kibbutz in Kiryat Shmoneh we headed to explore some more amazing Israeli nature in the Huleh Valley. We went to a bird sanctuary. Did you know that 500 million migrating birds come through the Huleh Valley every year? Yea, that is amazing. A funny man told us how they "ring" the birds, and my new friend Sari held this Kingfischer while it was...playing dead...or something. A moment after this photo was taken they flipped the bird back onto it's front and it fluttered away immediately!
The last thing we did was visit a Circassian village. There we learned about the Cherkess, a people originating from the Caucus Mountains, and whose language and culture predate ancient Greece! One thing they emphasized a lot was the equality of men and women. They showed us examples of their traditional dancing, which is the way men attract women in order to date them. Usually the women dance around in circles, never being led, while the men will try to impress them with their own dancing around them. If a woman smiles then it means she is inviting the man to meet with her later. It was really amazing stuff.
This trip reminded me of so many reasons why I love Israel. It is full of so many exciting and wonderful things, all in approx. 8,000 square miles! In that small area are geographical wonders, ancient ruins, numerous ethnicities and cultures, and so much more! I doubt I'll be getting bored anytime soon.