Day 12 began with what some might consider a "sleep in," however when the alarm went at 7:45am it felt far from that. Breakfast, prayers (including Torah reading) and getting ready needed to be snappy as by 9 o'clock we (bus 1) were off to 'De Karina' chocolate factory, (after one slight delay however, a Mr Pajor decided his girlfriend was more important than security and was left stranded on the wrong bus), we arrived in Ain Zivan.
De Karina chocolate factory was a brilliant way to began our day or as our guide Jonty said, "a sweet start to the day," a brief video history of the origins of this boutique family company was followed by a tour of the factory, where we witnessed some exquisite food art by the professional chocolatería chefs. Of course the highlight of this unique experience however was the tasting, making and purchasing some of De Karina's national leading delicacy. The tasting including a selection of the finest milk, white and dark chocolates, followed by the creative "make workshop" where we enjoyed creating some artworks with liquid chocolate, and finally concluding the morning with the tough decisions of purchasing from the wide selection of insane flavours, variations and designs, it was like a "kid in a lolly shop".
By Midday we had eaten enough sugar to feed the Israeli population, however the onslaught of food continued with a beautiful Italian inspired make shift lunch. Once again with enough pizza, pasta and salad to feed the Golan we enjoyed a quick lunch outside the factory along with our counterparts in bus 2.
Fullest I've been in weeks, bus 1 continued on while bus 2 enjoyed the pleasure of De Karina. Our next adventure of today was a drive through the 'valley of tears'. During the journey Jonty engaged us with his knowledge and interest in the geography of the Golan Heights, relating it to some remarkable books and quotes he has read. From a point on this mountain we were exposed to many of our first sightings of Syria, a mere couple of hundred meters from our viewing point. We discovered secret bunkers, explored unused tanks and sucked in the fresh, cold air of nearby snowy mountain, Mount Hermon. However, of course there is more to this site then the insane views and interesting war remnants. Our bus guide Jonty certainly did not disappoint when he gave an interesting, inspiring and unbelievable story of the area in front of us. We learnt in detail about the lead up to the 6 day war, what happened during that time in 1967, what followed, and how arguably arrogance and bad leadership caused the bombardment and near destruction of Israel during the Yom Kippur war 6 years later. A truly fascinating part of Israeli history especially when told by Jonty. We continued the topic of Syria and the Golan with a stop at the mountain peak of Mount Bental, A warm coffee, a few souvenirs and a couple photos of the widespread view concluded the more educational sector of our day.
We all thought the day was over, yet IST would never deprive us of a minute of touring. Next stop, Katarin, a small ancient and modern village in-the-middle-of-no-where, in the top right corner of Israel. We began with a short walk through remnants of the old town, learning about the specialty of the old city, production of olive oil. We were introduced to ancient olive oiling techniques, and given a chance to use them ourselves, we visited an old house, where Talmudic moral stories were shared, and finally given a chance to daven by the remnants of the old synagogue.
Our next stop on the journey was very unexpected, a short 5 min bus ride landed us in the modern suburb of Katarin where we assembled in the warm welcoming home of a Canadian-Israeli family. The family provided us with some beautiful traditional snacks, including olives, zatar, labnah and fresh rolls. The family of 6, with a majority of young children, told stories of their moving from Montreal, Canada to a tiny suburb in the far Israeli north. The husband of the family, Moshe, a passionate 53 year old Jew, Zionist and musician showcased some of his music and inspired us with his Aliya story.
After a long out day we hurriedly ran in to the supermarket to buy some snacks for Shabbat and returned to our temporary home in Hispin. A wonderful dinner was waiting for us upon arrival and the day concluded with chatting, card games and free time.
Just another day on IST.