The time is flying by and we are already at the end of Day 4!! We had another great day today. And lucky for us, despite the weather forecasts to the contrary, we only had a little bit of rain as we explored the north of Israel today on our travels to Tzefat and the Golan Heights.
We started out in Haifa at school, boarded the bus, and began to drive toward the north. We traveled first through the area of hills and valleys known as "The Lower Galilee." The Lower Galilee is known for its rich and beautiful farmland, where the fields in the winter are green and where, thankfully for Israel, there has been an abundance of rain this winter so far. After crossing through The Lower Galilee, we traveled through "The Upper Galilee" toward the city of Tzefat. The Upper Galilee looks different than the lower Galilee, with lots of black basalt rock from old volcanoes throughout the region and lots and lots of cows on the hillsides. We were in the area of the two highest mountain peaks in Israel: Mt. Hermon (highest) and Mt. Meron. We could see the snow on top and along the sides of Mt. Hermon -- a lot of snow!
Tzefat is one of the four "holy cities" for Jews and Judaism throughout the ages. The others are: Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberius. Tzefat is located way up on a mountain with a beautiful view of the surroundings areas just below. As Jews were expelled from Jerusalem, they tried to get as far from Jerusalem as possible so that they could preserve Jews and Judaism from destruction. Tzefat was one such place where they settled - way up in the hills and even in the caves that are found in the area. And partly due to its magnificent natural beauty, Tzefat developed a kind of Judaism that was different from the Judaism of Jerusalem. Many of those who came to Tzefat were "mystics," believers in the spiritual side of Judaism and inspired by the serenity of Tzefat and the artists' colony that was established and still thrives today. We had some time to walk around and get a sense of the atmosphere, have a snack, buy a little something, walk into some of the finest art galleries in Israel, visit the "Ari Synagogue," and take in the views and serenity of this city that has been considered "holy" for close to two thousand years.
Sofia wrote about our morning stop in Tzefat:
The first thing we did today was visit the Jewish city of Tzefat located in northern Israel. While visiting, we talked about the various branches of Judaism, including Reform Judaism, as well as the various subgroups of Orthodox Judaism, such as the Lithuanians and the Hasidics. This included discussions about the rise of Reform Judaism and how it coincided with the Industrial Revolution, making it a general period of innovation and new ideas in both secular and religious life. We also visited an old temple where Lecha Dodi was written in the 16th century. When at the synagogue in Tzefat, we talked about what unites all three branches of Judaism across the diaspora. Finally, we talked about Tikkun Olam and the importance of doing good deeds in Judaism. At the end, we were given free time to explore the neighborhood and shop, including stopping in an artisan candle store. Overall, it was a very interesting morning with some fascinating history and thought-provoking conversations.
After a break for lunch in the northern Israeli city of "Katzrin," (where the sun came out!!), we stopped to visit a unique olive oil press and visitor center. We saw how olive oil is made and learned about the variety of olive oils, cosmetics, and other household cleaning items that are manufactured and sold there. Following the olive press, we drove up to a vista point where we were able to look down and see Syria - only 1 kilometer away from where we were standing.
Becca wrote about what it felt to be on the Syrian border - a place that was very quiet today, but has been an area in which there has been a lot of war and bloodshed in the past:
The view at the Golan Heights was so cool because you could see for miles. Then, we went into a bunker and learned about the experiences of soldiers which was really interesting.
We returned to Haifa to have dinner with host families and then attend a soccer game together!
We will check in again tomorrow!
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson