Bright and early at 6am, we embarked on our next journey. Our three buses were headed in completely different directions. My bus was headed towards the Golan Heights, where we would be embarking on a "leisurely" hike in order to experience the land in all of its natural beauty.
After approximately a one-hour drive, we arrived at our starting point of the Gilabun hiking trail. The scenery consisted of gorgeous grassy hills, and all things that the Golan Heights is renowned for. We crossed over a river and our tour guide Jonty Blackman told us about all the native Israeli flora and fauna. There were many beautiful lookout points from which we could see the Golan Heights in its entirety, focusing on its beautiful waterfall. One of our students spotted a brown fox in its natural habitat, which was very exciting as living in the eastern suburbs of Australia, spotting a wild fox is practically unheard of. After a very steep climb up some treacherous mountains, we finally reached the top of the Heights with shaking legs and wobbly knees – here we were so lovingly greeted by our angelic buses and some wild cows where of course every student turned into very irritating paparazzi because obviously no one had ever seen a cow before. Because, really, if there are no Whatsapp photos and Instagram uploads, how could any of our South African mothers believe we actually did a hike?
After we had pushed our bodies to the limit, and had complained about doing just a little bit of exercise, we went to the De Karina Chocolate Factory to put back on all the weight we had just lost, and a bit more. As soon as we walked through the door, chocolates of different shapes, sizes and flavours filled our vision, and our faces lit up with joy. Most of us decided to order whipped-cream chocolate milkshakes, which of course were absolutely delicious, and extremely necessary. We then sat around for an early lunch consisting of pizza, pasta, salad, and all things tasty. Then it was time to create our own chocolate designs! We all sat around tables laughing and getting our hands very messy as we decorated our chocolates with all different types of toppings. This was followed by a short film about how the family owned business started and gave us some insight on the creation of chocolate. We then were lucky enough to have a tour of their kitchen, and our mouths watered at the incredible smells and one of the highly skilled chefs showed us some techniques he uses to create the intricate chocolate formations. Even though we were very full from lunch we obviously still had space for chocolate tasting! With our stomachs aching from chocolate overdose, we left the factory to head to our next destination.
We arrived at our next stop, Mount Bental where we had a panoramic view of Mount Hermon and Syria. The actual peak of the mountain is a bunker that was used by the soldiers during the 1967 and 1973 war. We gazed at the old Syrian city of Quneitra. Our whole group intently listened to Jonty as he spoke about the history of the Golan heights and the Six Day War, and it was incredible to stand in the place where so much history had taken place.
Next we were privileged to have a private screening of the movie 77 OZ in Kibbutz Elrom that was made there, along with many other Israeli movies and International subtitles. The movie was about the 1977 war between Israel and Syria, we all bought more Israeli snacks and went to watch the short film. The film was incredibly informative, and tied the day together.
Our last stop of the day was the Valley of Tears - "Emek Habacha" and we took many photos on the old rusty army tanks with the sunset rolling in. It was very beautiful.
After our delicious dinner, we were blessed enough to have Ayelet Goldin sister of Hadar Goldin, who was a soldier who perished last year in Operation Protective Edge. She was here to speak to us about the production of Israeli movies. She spoke to us about the difference between the Hollywood movies we are accustomed to watching, and Israeli movies, and how the Israeli directors strive to depict the reality of Israeli society, as opposed to Hollywood. We watched snippets from different films and were able to see the clear differences between the two styles, and it gave us a keen insight into the deeper aspects of Israeli culture.
Overall, today was another day jam-packed with activities, adventures, learning and fun, and was as fulfilling and enjoyable as all the others. We will definitely get a good night’s sleep tonight!