To begin our day, the group woke up fairly early to enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Kibbutz. We got on the bus shortly after and made our way to the Mifgash in Kiryat Shmonah to pick up our soldiers! There was a buzz of excitement all morning as we prepared to meet our international friends. Seven soldiers joined us- two women and five men. The soldiers are between the ages 19 and 22 and currently serve in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). Each soldier sat with a UVa student, and the mingling began as we drove to the Golan Heights for our Jeep tours. The Jeep tour was quite bumpy, but we all made it to the top of a mountain that provided a clear view of the Golan Heights south of the Syrian border.
Next, we headed to the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, which is located on the largest tributary of the Jordan River. We enjoyed a nature walk and saw the Abraham Gate, the second oldest gateway structure in the world. It was very old, but in very good shape. After the walk, we headed over to an Israeli shopping mall for lunch. In case you were unaware, my luggage (Ali's) is still in Rome. According to my clothing, the saying goes, "When in Rome, stay in Rome." So I enjoyed shopping for Israeli essentials while the rest of the group enjoyed some fine dining in the mall.
After some speedy shopping and a hearty lunch, we went to the top of Mt. Bental. The mountain overlooks the Syrain town of Kuneitra. On the top of the mountain there is an old bunker that was once used by the Israeli army. Oren, our tour educator, told us the history of the bunker, and we got to explore it ourselves. On top of Mt. Bental, we discussed the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and learned the importance of the Golan Heights during this battle.
Finally, we went back to the Kibbutz to have dinner and have a group conversation about how we relate to Israel. It was very insightful and eye-opening to discuss various topics with the Israeli soldiers. Their relationship with Israel is very different than ours, but our Jewish culture helps us relate to one another. As the trip continues, we will continue to learn more about Israeli culture and various perspectives from our friends in the IDF who joined us today.
2014 Birthright Participant