Visiting a Kibbutz, Viewing a Water Fall and Kayaking the Jordan River

This morning we woke up early, checked out if the hostel, and headed out for a scenic drive from Beit Shean to kibbutz Misgav Am.

This kibbutz sits on a mountain top nearly 10 yards (sometimes less) from Israel’s Lebanese border. There we learned about past conflicts that Israel and especially the kibbutz had with their Hezbollah Lebanese neighbors.

In America whenever we hear news of a terrorist attack in Israel, it’s hard to connect and reach out—we don’t experience this situation often. This kibbutz enlightened me in the sense of how important it is for Israel to protect itself and Jews all over the world to defend it.

After we left the kibbutz we headed to the nearby nachal snir and hiked up to a beautiful waterfall. The river that the waterfall crashes into is full of clear water, smooth rocks, fish, and a few crabs. It was amazing to see the differences between Israel’s southern and northern environments.

After lunch we then kayaked in the Jordan river. The water wasn’t as clear as the waterfall we recently saw, but it was beautiful nonetheless. I also never realized how tiring it is to paddle for over 45 minutes! I miss you all.

Here are some photos from the scenic drive.

Shabbat in the Beit Shean Hostel

This past Shabbat in our Beit Shean hostel was amazing.

After a beautiful Kabbalah Shabbat full of carlebach tunes, all of the guests in the hostel sat down together for the Friday night meal. When we finished the delicious dinner the whole dining room sounded with Shabbat shirim.

To entertain ourselves for the rest of the night, we played a game of cards. Israeli kids joined us and we became fast friends.

During Shabbat afternoon we played basketball with these Israeli teens and swam in the hostel’s pool. When Shabbat ended we had a long havdala full of song with the rest of the guests. We soon had to say goodbye to our foreign friends since they had school the next day.

Although we were more than ready for bed, our night had not reached an end!

Rabbi Sabo was able to book the famous lightshow in Beit Shean which showcases the city’s history from King Shaul until the Romans. We saw the cursed and barren Mount Gilboa that Shaul died on, and walked in the ancient and original Roman main shopping street—complete with broken and carved columns.

Tired, we returned to our hostel to sleep before another busy day. On Sunday we woke up to our nearly empty hostel. We drove from Beit Shean to the city of Akko, which geographically is driving across Israel from East to West.

In Akko we met with Akiba’s sister school, the Eshkol school. We learned about the week’s Parsha, and then played a competitive game of basketball with them. Luckily, I was forced to practice my Hebrew since most of the students didn’t speak English. After meeting with the kids we headed out to the old city of Akko for a tour/scavenger hunt. There we enjoyed beautiful views of the Mediterranean, and walked through the market.

Already tired, we drove to the neighboring city, Nahariyah and ate lunch. Next, we headed to Rosh Hanikra which is almost touching Israel’s border with Lebanon. Tunnels in giant rocks were excavated in Rosh Hanikra with great viewpoints of the beautiful blue ocean.

As we walked slowly through the slippery tunnels, we could hear the water thundering as it pounded against the rocky walls.

With time to spare before dinner we decided to head down to beach below us. Since this trip to the beach wasn’t on our itinerary, we hadn’t packed swim clothes. We just jumped into the waves, swam around, and walked through the sand in our everyday clothes.

Here are some photos from the weekend:

Exploring Masada, Floating the Dead Sea

This morning we woke up earlier than usual so we could drive to Masada.

After a two hour drive from Jerusalem, we finally arrived at the huge mountain and took the cable car up. Stepping out of the tram we were greeted by thousands of rocks and strong gusts of wind.

We explored the mountain and found huge cisterns with smooth cool walls, palace chambers with broken down orange-brown rock, mikvahs, and an ancient shul. At the shul we davened shacharit, and learned that the synagogue was built in a sephardic way—seats all facing each other, columns in the middle of the building and a bimah between the columns.

After we left Masada, we went to go float in the Dead Sea. As I said before, it was a very windy, and this weather condition didn’t make the already uncomfortable sea any better. As we floated in the water that felt like cold oil, the wind caused the waves to carry us and splash in our faces. Despite all this, the sea was still a lot of fun. I have never seen a sea like it with its rocky shore.

After rinsing off, we drove to our new hostel in Bet She’an.

Up at 4am on Shavout

I would never wake up at 4am in the morning, but on Shavuot it’s a different story. After going to bed after a late Shavuot dinner, we woke up at 3:30am and walked to the kotel. On our way there hundreds of Jews wearing anything from jeans to Chassidic garb joined us. By the time we arrived at the wall thousands of Jews were already there singing, dancing, and davening. Pushing our way through the crowd we couldn’t get any closer to the kotel than twenty feet. We began davening shacharit and then mussaf until the sun rose. When the sun finally reached the top of the kotel and the sky changed from black to blue, everyone began the amidah. Standing there with thousands of other Jews all davening the same prayer was an experience I will never forget. Now that Shavuout is over we’re heading to Ben Yehuda street.

Touring the City of David

We began our day at the City of David. There we saw ancient homes, one of which was the home of King David’s high ranking servants. Later we walked through the tunnels and discovered how water was collected during King David and Shlomo’s reign. After traveling through the dry tunnels and headed toward the water tunnels. The water tunnel was dug by two different groups who met in the middle. It’s amazing that they were able to meet considering they had no GPS! After leaving the City or David, we walked around the Rova, or Jewish Quarter and enjoyed falafel. Israeli flags were strung across columns, and Jews of all sects were walking through them to get to the kotel. After touring the Rova, we walked back to our hotel to relax before we go check out Machane Yehuda before Shavuot tonight. In the next email, I attached a few pictures of the Kotel last night, Ir David, and the Rova from today.

Flying Over Tel Aviv

After 15 hours in the air, I can definitely say the highlight of the ride was flying over Tel Aviv. The sun had already set, and the city’s lights were shining bright against the evening sky. After landing at Ben Gurion, we claimed our luggage in the nearly empty airport, and we drove to Yerushalayim. At around 10:30 we arrived at the Kotel and davened along with the large crowd of Jews already there. At the wall, personal notes were crammed into every crevice. So many people had tried to place there notes in the wall that they overflowed and littered the floor. At around eleven o’clock, Rabbi Sabo took us for a delicious dinner-lamb and turkey shawarma. I can’t wait for tomorrow which includes the water tunnels, a water hike and preparations for Shavuot.