Israel Journey: Hiking by the Jordan River

Rabbi Dean Kertesz & Robin Gluck
It feels like we've done so much and we've been in Israel for only two days!
Today, we spent our whole day with the mechinistim, the students who are participating in the pre-army preparatory program, or mechina. The day dawned cold and rainy, and we were prepared for a day spent indoors, but the clouds cleared away during our drive from Kibbutz Afik (where we are staying) on the southern end of the Golan Heights to Kibbutz Kfar Rupin, near Beit Sha'an.
We began our time together with a hike along the bluffs on the Israeli side of the Jordan River. Our students and mechina students hiked together. At periodic points along the way a mechina student would explain the history of the region, at another the wildlife, and at another the flora and geography, so that we left with a deeper understanding of the region and each other. The sky was blue with beautiful big clouds and the temperature climbed into the low 70's. 
After our hike we went to a natural pool and had a lunch of hummus, pita, and borekas, all fresh and delicious. We then went back to kibbutz Kfar Rupin for discussions about Jewish identity and the similarities and differences between Israeli and American teens. 
We finished our day with a barbeque dinner and a concert by the Israeli musician Roi Levy of Shoteh Ha Nevua.

Robin Gluck's blog excerpt:
We enjoyed blue skies throughout our final day in the North of Israel. Today was dedicated to learning about some (there are many) of the minority groups that live in Israel. We started with a short walk through the Arab town of Shfar'am lead by Nedira (a beautiful name that means rare) a local Arab Christian woman who volunteers as a guide to promote and educate visitors about Shfar'am. After she shared her story and guided us through a local church, she took us to a mosque where we heard from a member of the Muslim community. He explained the central tenants of the Muslim faith and answered questions about the religion and his life. The last stop with Nedira was an ancient synagogue. Though the synagogue is no longer in use, it is carefully maintained by a Muslim family that lives next door. All three of these houses of worship are within a block of each other.  

After lunch we drove to Daliat el Carmel to learn about the Druze religion and enjoy a delicious authentic Druze dinner. The students asked many great questions about the religious practices, the discrimination these people have faced, and their feelings about living in Israel.  The day was eye-opening for our students. The stories they heard about peaceful coexistence challenged some of the stereotypes about these minority groups, especially the Muslims.  
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