Friday, September 18, 2009

To the Golan and Back


I've just come back from our first five-day tiyul. Some general comments before I give a day-by-day breakdown:
-People in Israel are really into sharing. We share silverware, dishes, water-bottles with anyone who doesn't have theirs handy. When we pass around the can of canned fruit, we pass it with a fork and everyone eats from the same fork{including madrichim, which would not happen at camp]. When we're doing fitness stuff people drink from the closest water bottle.
-With all that sharing, however, Israelis are not into the camp-style showering. By the end of the year, though, I'm sure that will improve.
-It's a much more affectionate society, visible in the presence of lots of terms of endearment in every sentence: "motek" (sweetie") "chamood" (cutie), "chayim sheli" (literally "my life"), n'shama (literally "soul"), etc. etc.
-Also a much more politically aware youth, but that seems natural given that we're in Israel. Aalso much more patriotic.
-A more independent youth, I'm not sure exactly how to describe in what way, but they know what needs to get done, they have discussions that I could never dream of having at home.

I never get enough sleep the day before a tiyul--you always have to wake up early to leave on time, but you also go to bed really late because you're working on finishing organizing etc. The ride to the north was mostly broken-sleep interrupted by some ipod sharing and a bathroom/snack break somewhere along the way.

We stopped for a short bit at Kibbutz D'ganya Aleph (the first kibbutz, established in 1909). There's D'ganya Aleph and D'ganya Bet, and we learned that the reason is that originally the thought was to name every kibbutz some permutation of "D'ganya" (ie: Aleph through Tav), but after two they decided that was silly.

At Tel Saki--a place with thousands of land mines surrounding it and a concrete bunker--we heard the story of a battle from the Yom Kippur War (1973) that took place there. It's actually quite an incredible story; 28 injured Israeli soldiers crammed into the bunker and they hear the Syrian soldiers approaching and one of the Israeli soldiers is crying out for water. They tell him over and over again that he needs to be quiet, but he doesn't understand, doesn't stop. Finally the commander has no choice but to order someone to kill him--but right before, one of the soldiers writes a tiny note that has the message, and the crying soldier immediately stops. One of the other soldiers is sent out to tell the Syrians that he's the only one alive in the bunker, and he is taken to the Syrian jail (saving the lives of everyone else in the bunker, and he is released a few months later).

The first two nights we slept in a college of sorts (I'm not exactly sure what it is, as Israel doesn't have "college" in the same sense that we have college. Maybe "academy" is a better word?) In any case, we slept in the main hall of Michlelet Ohalo, we head a logistics room and a classroom. Once everything was set up, we played a few games while waiting for dinner, and then attempted to watch "The Syrian Bride" but the subtitles only worked in English, so it was hard for many of the Israelis.

I woke up super-early because I was a "toranit" which means it was my day to prepare meals and clean, etc.

We went on a 5 hours walk/hike, and there was not one second when we didn't have a beautiful view in front of us. I always felt like I was taken from a scene in some movie with people running through a field, barefoot, hair loose. At one of the breaks there was a water pool where we stopped to swim for a while, and then I really felt like I was taken out of a book, one of those ones where the kids live near a pond and tie a rope to a tree and jump in during the summer.

In the afternoon we went to a Shiryon army base near where we were staying and saw a tank demonstration as well as learned about what Shiryon does and what they did in the YK War (1973). I missed out on the service project (basically cleaning warehouses, fixing stuff up at the base) because I was a toranit, so I went back to the academy to make dinner.

After dinner we saw a short video about the Golan and the environment with super-insane special effects (like water shpritzing out, wind blowing through, the room getting cold...) it was VERY cool, although definitely one-sided.

We started off the day at Gamla, an ancient ancient city in the Golan that gets its name (Gamla=Gamal=Camel) because it's on a mountain that looks like a camel. Gamla has a story similar to that of Masada, except that many people think that the Jews actually DIDN'T commit suicide; instead one of the theories is that it was "accidental death by falling" ie the Romans pushed them back and back and back as they chased the Jews and the Jews fell off the mountains. In any case, our Madrich Dan told us the story of Gamla as we walked around, we saw the old synagogue (picture) there and had to climb back up in the hot hot sun. (When I say "climb back up" I mean that we were literally climbing up rocks for over half an hour. My legs were burning, but in a good way).

During one of the breaks, I picked up a conversation from last week with Amir about KAM (the non-Euclidean gemoetry math class I took junior year). The most incredible thing about it is that we were able to have an intelligent, intellectual, coherent conversation about a conceptually difficult subject in Hebrew!

When we finally reached the top, we went to an Eagle observatory where we sat in silence waiting for the rest of the group and our breath to catch up. Again, the view was beautiful, and we did see some eagles. Perhaps the most exciting thing though was that it was a lesson--a real lesson like you'd hear from a park ranger at any national park in the US--and I understood every word!

We then went to Emek Habacha, where Yos Eldar (who runs the Mechina program) spoke to us about his experience in the Yom Kippur War and being a soldier and friend of war-hero Avigdor Kahalani. Unfortunately, I was really tired and wasn't really concentrating while we were there.
For the third and fourth nights we stayed int he gym of a community center, and were allowed to use the gymnastics mats to sleep on (!) We had fitness with a "madasnikit" (madricha sport) from the army, who's actually going to be with us for the rest of the year. Dinner was actually one of the best meals I've had since being here.

Chulyat L'mida let a discussion (in two groups) about the Golan and the prospect of returning it (or not). It was really interesting to just listen from the perspective of an outsider/American to the opinions of everyone, because almost all of the Israelis agreed that returning the Golan was out of the question. Most of the time I just sat and listened, but Shaked really wanted to hear what the Americans thought so a few of us spoke at the end.

The first thing we did was go to Har BenTal (I was actually there last year with WOFI) and unforunately it was really cloudy/fuggy so we couldn't see anything till the very end. Looking out towards the east we could see the Kinneret, and it was beautiful. You couln't even tell it was water, it just looked like a sliver of radiating white light. It was somewhat chilly (by Israeli standards: they were wearing pants and sweatshirts and were cold, I was wearing pants a t-shirt and fine.)

We stopped for a short while to see where Nebi Chazuri (a Druze prophet, I believe) is buried. I guess it's Druze custom to not leave your home/homeland, so he's literally buried in the middle of his bedroom. The house and the view from there were beautiful as well, and I got to practice reading some Arabic.

Then we went to the top of Mt. Hermon! We took ski-carts up to the top, where it was legitimately cold (and windy!). We were with the group from the Kibbutz, and Uri Avni took us around to places that most people don't get to go. We were at the top and heard baout the battles there. He actually wasn't even supposed to fight there, because he was a parpatrooper, but he answered a call for help and ended up staying to work on the base there as part of his reserves duty. There used to only be one base on the top of the Hermon, and now there are 7. Again, beautiful view, although a little too windy for my liking. I finally put into action what I always mean to do: take notes (otherwise I don't pay attention, and if i don't pay attention I don't get it because of the Hebrew).

We met up with the group from the Kibbutz to hear from Uri Avni, but as Dan said "these chairs are asking for us to fall asleep" (I didn't fall asleep, but I didn't really pay attention, either...). Later that night Tzipkah Harel, a woman who was ionfluential in founding Kibbutz Rom Hagolan (as well as many other kibbutzim in the golan) spoke to us about her experiences and answered questions for us.

Woke up early and went to Tel Facher for a lesson led by Zevik. At one point he stopped the lesson and basically broke us up into platoons, with commanders and assistants and etc etc. That's how he led us through the underground tunnels until we reached the end, where we looked over land that used to belong to Lebanon (a visible difference. Israeli land is green, Lebanese is yellow/brown).

That lasted longer than anyone expected, and we finally made it to Mitzpeh Gadot for the "sikkum tiyul" (summary of the trip). Basically an extended verison of what we do every night: everyone goes around and says something about the trip--questions it raised for them, about the group, things that need improvement, things that were great, etc.

FINALLY, we got on the bus that would take us to our respective locations for Rosh Hashanah. After too many hours on a bus, I arrived last night around 9:30 at the Delgados in Metar. (bus of the Mechina from the north to Kastina--with many stops along the way to let people off/change to a smaller bus etc--then a bus to to Be'er Sheva, then a bus to Metar).

And now I'm here, typing this post.


1 comment:

  1. 1. Bental is definitely northeast of the Kinneret -- it's in the Golan. You made the same mistake I did in that first grade map where apparently I placed Lake Michigan as East, defining both the Maine-Florida and Rosh HaNikra-Rafah coasts as "east".

    2. Nu, Golan... Let the Syrians shoot from it again?

    3. That mountain looks was less ski-friendly in summer.

    Shanah Tovah - pick a rimon