Take a Hike!

by Yael Gastwirst, Director of Specialty Programs and Israel Experience, Young Judaea in Israel

This weekend Tiyul (Hiking) Track, the newest specialty program on Young Judaea Year Course, will set out on their inaugural trip to נחל השופט (Nahal Hashofet, or “The Judge’s Stream”), a waterfall-laiden trail between the Jezreel Valley and Mount Carmel. In addition to hiking the beautiful reserve, our 18 participants will also spend time doing fun outdoor training activities and of course bonding as a group. We were ecstatic to have the opportunity to open this new track after seeing the interest it generated. Learning Israel by seeing the country is at the core of our educational philosophy and we are always eager to offer our students new chances to see more.
“Getting to know the country by foot” (להכיר את הארץ דרך הרגליים) has been part of the Zionist ethos for more than 100 years. Youth movements, schools, families, and even the military make it a point to go hiking all across Israel, not just for fun, but also to become familiar with Eretz Yisrael as a part of our historical Jewish identity. Knowing the names, locations, and features of some of Israel’s hundreds of trails is like a rite a passage for many Israelis. Some even hike all the way from Metula to Eilat on the Israel trail. On Year Course, and in other Young Judaea Israel Programs, we go on dozens of siyurim (field trips) to religious, historical, political, and natural sites throughout the country as one of our central educational tools. We believe that living in Israel and learning about Israel without seeing Israel is a missed opportunity, and so we make every effort to incorporate siyurim and tiyulim into our formal and informal curricula. Who would want to talk about Mezada in a classroom but never see it? Adding another program to our repertoire that maximally uses the beautiful country around us is a natural fit and a point of pride for the Year Course staff.
Of course, every year we take all of our participants on numerous mandatory and elective hikes from the Negev to the Golan and the vast majority chooses to go on their own camping trips throughout the year. However, having a special track dedicated to outdoor exploration and education through a Zionist lens affords us new opportunities to expose our students to new places, new experiences, and new skills. As the leader of Year Course Specialty Programs I envisioned Tiyul Track as a means to impart greater appreciation in our Chanichim for nature and wildlife in general and for Israel’s unique landscape, geology, geography, flora and fauna in particular. I hope that the track’s participants will leave with a lasting love for the paths and trails of Israel, and that they pass some of this feeling along to their fellow Year Coursers as well as their friends and family back home.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom from Nahal Hashofet!