The past two weeks I have taken two trips to what is slowly becoming my favorite part of Israel: the north, specifically the Kineret, and the Golan.
First, as part of the tiyul track, we went to the Golan for hiking, swimming, and wine tasting. The sights were beautiful and the water was refreshing. In between hikes, we slept on mattresses under the stars and cooked our own dinner. The second day we stopped at an outlook facing the Syrian border, where we spoke with two UN soldiers stationed there for surveillance. Every so often we heard the low rumble of Syrian rebel artillery fire.
On our way back from (almost) Syria, my friends and I convinced Year Course to drop us off on the side of the road at a random bus stop, from which we traveled to my family on Kibbutz Ginosar, right on the Kineret. On the kibbutz we saw the “Jesus boat,” a boat from Jesus’ era discovered on the shores of the kibbutz and now displayed in a museum there. We got to go to the storage rooms, where we spoke with an archeologist doing research on the endless boxes of pottery discovered in the area. In the water, we swam, managed to get a free boat ride, and tried (and failed) at surfing.
Most importantly, we had the best pita, hummus, and babaganoush of our lives, first at a family dinner and later at a random little restaurant near the Tiberias bus station. Being the only Americans in the place ensured that we made fools of ourselves, but it also meant we found someplace authentic and delicious.
Two weeks later, after almost missing the last bus north from Jerusalem on a Friday, I found myself on the shores of the Kinneret again, this time for camping and biking. While our tent was broken and we ran out of gas for the stove, we managed to cook ourselves dinner the first night. We again slept in sleeping bags under the stars, awakening in the middle of the night to the barking of jackals fighting on the beach.
The next day, we rented bikes from a kibbutz at the bottom tip of the Kineret and began our trek north, planning to bike clockwise around the entire lake. It took us 6 hours to bike the entire 60 kilometers (37 miles) back to the kibbutz. While the course was extremely challenging due to the length, amount of hills, and bruising on my butt, the views were beautiful. Often, the highway was right above the Kineret, so we could see the water and the mountains. We ate lunch on the Jordan River and made a few stops along the way, so I got a unique sense of the Kinneret area. We ended the day by swimming in the lake, a refreshing closure to a crazy day. Although we finished tired, sweaty, and sore, the sense of accomplishment at the end was amazing.
That night, we dragged our exhausted selves to the bus stop, where we got a bus to Kibbutz Ginosar (where my family lives). Upon arrival we immediately fell asleep in a grassy area beneath date trees; I will probably be picking dates off my clothing and backpack for weeks. The next morning we went for a quick swim before almost missing yet another bus, returning to a random junction on the side of the highway where the rest of our section picked us up on the way to a Tiyul for Zionism class.
We ended our adventure with the group, first at Gamla, a beautiful mountainous area of the Golan involved in battle with the Romans. Lastly, we stopped again at the outlook over the Israel-Syria border.
After finally arriving home after three days of camping and a full day of biking, a hot shower and a nap in my own bed were heavenly. That said, I am already daydreaming about my next trip up north…