The north of Israel is indescribably beautiful right now. After the winter rains the landscape is carpeted in rich greens, the wadis are running with water and the wildflowers are in bloom.
We arrived safely last night (Monday) after a smooth flight. The students were wonderful, cooperative and uncomplaining, even though after our fourteen hour flight we boarded our bus for a two-and-a-half hour drive to Kibbutz Gonen, which lies at the base of the Golan Heights and will be our home for the first few days of trip.
Despite a late wake-up and breakfast at 8:00 AM most students were up by 6:00 because of jet lag and we were off to our first busy day. We began at Mitzpeh Gadot, a memorial to the Israeli soldiers who fell in 1967 capturing the Golan Heights and in 1973 defending it from the Syrians. It also has a breathtaking view of the finger of the Galilee, the Hula Valley, and the Mountains of Naphtali in the west that mark the border with Lebanon.
We started our day here with different tefillah options: traditional prayer, meditation, yoga, creative writing (inspired by a poem by the Israeli poet, Rahel), and discussion. Tefillah was followed by an opening ceremony and then we were off to the Naphtali Mountains for our first hike in Nahal Kedesh. The north of Israel is indescribably beautiful right now. After the winter rains the landscape is carpeted in rich greens, the wadis are running with water and the wildflowers are in bloom. We ended our hike with a great picnic lunch looking out over the Hula Valley.
After lunch we met with Eitan, who is in charge of Kibbutz Malkiah which sits right on Israel’s border with Lebanon. He gave us a tour of the border. Then our students met with a group of soldiers who are serving on the border. They spent about a half hour together, in small groups, talking and getting to know each other. The age difference between these Israeli soldiers and our students is only about two to three years. They had the opportunity to talk, ask questions and learn about their very different lives, despite the small difference in age.
We ended our day at Kibbutz Kfar Ha’Nassi with participants in a mechinah program, which is like a gap year. Some high school graduates go to a mechinah to study for a year, before beginning their army service. At this mechinah students study democratic values and social action. Today they mechinah kids and our students got to know each other over dinner, icebreakers, and social activities. Tomorrow we will get together again for a hike and some learning together. And we have only been in Israel for 25 hours!
Thanks to Rabbi Kertesz and Mike Fitch for the photos.
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The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.