Blog Post by Abba S
Learning about the Druze today was amazing. Growing up with Judaism around I feel like I got a small window into other religions, but never the scope of what I’ve learned on this trip today. This man told us about a man who died and was reincarnated into a little boy who came back to his family and knew every little detail, although he had never met them before. We learned that women are the spine of the family and how women aren’t allowed to serve in the IDF as a Druze. The food also was MUY BUENO.
We then went to see the Syrian/Israel border, which yet again gave me another perspective into a confusing situation. Shabi explained that to Israel, that’s the border and to Syria, it’s an armistice point, and all of the Golan Heights are rightfully Syria’s. I don’t feel educated enough to formulate an opinion on the situation, but I enjoyed learning about the Syrian Civil War and the different attitudes.
This trip has been great for me to expand my knowledge about various world situations that I never felt connected to previously. I am lucky to have primary sources to learn from in this country, and I’m looking forward to more opportunities to grow.
Blog Post by Lily N
Update: Did you know that you can sweat from your shins? Because today many of us found out that that is possible. Our hike today in the Golan Heights was very hot and sweaty, but still a lot of fun! After hiking, we went to the Druze village and had a yummy lunch and learned about the religion. Then we went to the Syrian border and learned about the 6 day war, how the border between Israel and Syria was formed, and much more.
Visit to Mt Bental
Blog post by Maxine K.
Happy 4th from Israel!!! Today we had one of the best 4th of July’s ever! It’s funny because this country doesn’t celebrate the 4th of July… #awkward. People were giving some looks as we walked down the streets of Tiberias, especially the two boys who brought American flags as capes (we have pictures for proof) ((*cough cough* Zach and Seth *cough cough*)). We went on a beautiful bike ride through a bird reserve in which we almost fell off the bikes because they were old but we had a very fun time enjoying the nature. Next, we went river rafting down the Jordan River! It was more river floating, tbh, but it was so fun! We had splash wars with Brazilians and other Jews we met along the river, and had lots of fun with our friends. We then ate really yummy pita pizza out of a truck. We ended the day with an AMAZING party boat in the Sea of Galilee. We danced to Party in the USA and Fireworks by Katy Perry to celebrate America’s birthday (also hbd to Michael and Hannah). After the party boat, we were all exhausted from screaming and jumping and dancing, but we managed to find the energy to get falafel and iced coffee. Can’t wait to see what the 5th will be like!! Kisses from the holy land.
Hike down Mt. Arbel
Blog Post by Rafe E
Today we went into the city of Tsfat (Safed) to experience the heart of Kabbalistic Judaism. Tsfat has long been the center of mystical Judaism and Jewish arts in Israel, including painting and glassblowing. Put simply, it’s the San Francisco of Israel—a center for ingenuity and unique ways of life with a beautiful layout and cityscape on steep slopes. A man who fell in love in Tsfat and had to leave his city and his love once said that he would always remember Tsfat for its blue—the skies, the windows, and her eyes. The place really was picturesque, and many of the windows followed the blue-stained style the city is known for. It also boasts the “world’s narrowest alleyway,” which is where the Messiah will supposedly first emerge. Our first stop was at the gallery of a glass blower who made Aliyah from Colorado after connecting to her Jewish identity many years ago through the same trip I’m on now. She made a glass pomegranate in front of us, showcasing her methods of creating lines, curves, and smooth surfaces over a torch.
Next we climbed a small hill that overlooks the old city of Tsfat and descended into a graffiti-covered cavern once used as a water storage tank. Our group’s musically talented security guard, Hananel, played guitar and sang a beautiful song about the city in Hebrew that reverberated off the walls and filled the dim room with hope and spirit.
We walked through parts of the old city, with free time for lunch and jewelry shopping. We also went into a synagogue founded by a Kabbalist—again with beautiful architecture and vibrant colors like the rest of the city. To finish the day, we heard directly from a Kabbalist who also made Aliyah from America and answered some of our questions about this unique sect of Judaism.
Israel may not have been celebrating for the Fourth, but IST did many celebratory activities for Independence Day while still experiencing Israel. We started with a bike tour through a humid nature reserve that hundreds of species of birds migrate through every year to travel between Africa and Eurasia.
After biking, we drove down to the Jordan River and rafted down its twists and narrows. Our 20+ rafts ambushed any poor kayaker or fisher who happened to be in our way as we bumped into rocks, trees, and each other for over an hour. Our next stop was at a Kibbutz that was located on the border with Lebanon, and we heard from a man with extreme views to say the least. Everyone on the kibbutz carried a gun, most of them had used it, and more IDF soldiers were stationed on the Kibbutz than civilians. This way of living certainly isn’t for everyone. The fence seen below is the border (within 50 yards of where we sat and listened to the speaker), and the landscape is Lebanon.
To wrap up the day, we went to Tiberias for a Fourth of July celebratory boat cruise on the Kineret (Sea of Galilee). We had dinner on the town, shopped for knockoff Ray Ban sunglasses and Rolex watches, and finally headed back to our hotel for a relaxed evening.
IST started the day with a brief hike in the Golan Heights. We went through a scenic river valley where we had to stay only on the marked trail, as the IDF was still searching for and disabling land mines from when Syria occupied the area. It was another scorcher, so we cut the originally planned hike short and got back onto the buses before the time that the Israeli safety and Security agency decided that tour groups needed to be off the trails and headed to a Druze village for lunch and to learn about their beliefs and way of life. As strong nationalists no matter what country they live in, Druze are the only population in Israel besides the Jews that has required enlistment in the IDF. Although they are usually very patriotic, the particular village we visited was less so since it was so close to the Syrian border and the people didn’t want to have to pay for their public support for Israel if the territory changed hands.
We finished the day by traveling up Mt. Ben Tal, which offers a panoramic view of the Israeli-Syrian border. Although the border isn’t particularly friendly, Syrian forces currently have larger problems to deal with in their ongoing bloody civil war. Although Israel accepts no refugees from the conflict, there are temporary hospitals on the border to treat anyone who comes wounded.
Coexistence seminar with Israeli Arab Teens
Shabbat in Akko