Day 11 - Lehava - Leehea Haiken
After a beautiful day yesterday bike riding up north, we made a transition from exploring Israel’s physical beauty to connecting with its spiritual realm.
We began our day with a 6:45am wake up, when we were hit with panoramic views of the Kinneret, as the water lay without a ripple, being a perfect mirror for the mountains that sat on its horizon. Then, we were treated with a delicious Israeli style buffet breakfast in the hotel, followed by the option of praying Shacharit or Creative Tefilla Learning overlooking the Kinneret. After a peaceful and meaningful morning, the boys and girls split up onto two buses, each making their way to a program in the beautiful city of Tzfat - one of the 4 holy cities of Israel.
Upon our arrival, we were immediately drawn to the city’s beautiful and colourful architecture. It’s picturesque sandstone buildings, blue doors and bright flowers carpeted the old city. The blue colour or ‘Techelet’ is meant to evoke a sense of infinite beauty, mirroring the expansive sea and sky. The girls had their own program, as we were welcomed by a local who took us to a popular Mikvah in Tzfat. While not only focusing the program on the procedure of a woman’s immersion into the Mikvah, she also spoke to us about freedom of choice in a relationship, the order of mind, love and body, as well as the fundamental building blocks of a healthy and stable relationship. Taking a lot out of this program, the girls toured around the city, visiting an old synagogue and dancing in the city square with a family celebrating a Barmitzvah. This was followed by free time along the main food strip, where the boys and girls were given the opportunity to buy food and jewellery. Tzfat was definitely a highlight so far, where we took in it’s beautiful scenery whilst simultaneously learning a lot about Jewish spirituality and the importance of defining one’s self.
Whilst the girls were on their tour, the boys had a powerful experience in what is known as the ‘music cave’ - a deep dark cave under an old castle that has a powerful echo and acoustics.
We then made our way to a chocolate boutique located within the Golan Heights, where we were treated to a chocolate workshop. As we observed the chocolatiers demonstrating the process of making their famous chocolates, we were already salivating and anticipating to get our hands all over the chocolate. Satisfying our temptation, we were led to the tasting room, where we tasted a selection of handcrafted chocolates. Finally, we were seated in the chocolate workshop, ready to make our very own chocolates! This was such a fun experience, creating our own chocolate flavours as a group, tasting as we go! It was a danger for those wearing white shirts as we really immersed ourselves in the full chocolate experience.
After the chocolate factory, we drove to our second last destination, located higher up within the Golan Heights, which overlooked the old and new cities of Quinetra, and Syria. We had the privilege of listening to our amazing tour guide Brian, who shared his deep knowledge about our location, it’s landscape and surroundings. Brian also told us the story of his son and his involvement in the IDF during the Yom Kippur War.
We then made our way to the final destination of the day. As we arrived at Katzrin, we were welcomed by a woman and child, dressed in traditional, ancient clothing. We were taken back 1600 years, to the Roman-occupied Talmudic city. The site of Katzrin is a visual representation of the way in which the Jews lived in the Talmudic city. At each stop of the site, we explored a different way in which the Jews made a living. We observed the process in which olive oil was hand made at the time, and learned about its health benefits too. Olive oil production was the Jews’ main economic resource and they greatly depended on it. Then, we were led to a room of lively and upbeat music and drumming. Here we all played music with drums and homemade maracas along with the musician. Music has always been an integral part of the Jewish tradition, being a common denominator that brought people together. Just like in ancient times, playing happy music and singing songs united us together as one. Finally, at our last stop of the site, we entered an exact replica of a house in which the Jews of the Talmudic City lived. The house was made by hand, constructed with blocks of sandstone and carpeted with sheep skin to provide comfort. At the time, Jews had to utilise all of their different resources in order to provide for their families and make a living. This tour was extremely interesting, as it gave us an insight as to how living conditions and comfort has transitioned throughout history, making us realise how fortunate we are to live stable lives.
Finally, our action-packed day ended with a therapeutic night activity of a Chanukiot decorating workshop/competition. We enjoyed decorating our own Chanukiot, being an introduction to the festival of Chanukah, as we enter the month of Kislev.
Today was an amazing day, filled with amazing views, people and food. We were educated by many speakers and guides about Jewish traditions, Israel’s borders and war history, and the ways in which Jews lived in the Talmudic village. All of us took a lot from today, capturing an essence of the spiritual and historical aspects of Judaism, in addition to Israel’s borders and wartime history. We were very lucky and privileged to see what we saw, and hear from who we heard from, allowing us to form a deeper understanding of who we are as Jewish people with a home in Israel.