November 29, 2013
This morning we set our path north in the direction of the Lebanon-Syria border. A thirty-minute drive soon turned into forty five minutes, and then an hour as we travelled parallel to the Syrian border. We passed The Kinneret and drove along fields of crop in the unseasonably hot November sun. Finally, we arrived at a small building in the Valley of Tears to watch a short film about Avidgor Kahalani and the 6 Day War that was fought on that very ground 45 years before.
After watching this we hopped back on the bus and after a quarter of an hour we got off at the De Karina chocolate factory. A tour, truffle (and face) decorating workshop and tasting session awaited us at the famous chocolatier. We emerged from the factory with new knowledge of the origin of chocolate and fascinating things about cacao beans and the production of dark, milk and white chocolate. At the conclusion of the factory tour, a few people, myself included, bought some gifts for their family and friends back home. A few minutes after I paid, however, I realised that my purchase wouldn’t last the journey back to Sydney so unfortunately I was forced to eat the chocolate that was meant for my family. Damn.
An appropriately scheduled hike in the Golan Heights awaited us after visiting De Karina. Water bottles were filled up and hats were donned in preparation for the walk through the rugged mountainside. Those strenuous 90 minutes felt much less as the group joked around and laughed whilst climbing steep inclines and the less attentive of us kept falling thigh-deep into streams of rushing water. This great experience was capped off by davening Minchah in one of IST’s most picturesque outdoor “shules” to date. The beautiful orange sun was dipping over the uneven horizon as we drove off towards an outdoor training (ODT) facility to develop teamwork and communication skills. This may sound like a serious session but it was an extremely enjoyable hour of completing a myriad of physically and mentally challenging tasks where- we starting figuring out towards the end - leadership and effective communication were key. We were all understandably worn-out as we arrived back to the hotel, where a good night’s sleep doesn’t sound like too bad of an idea.