6 am wake up for a busy day traveling from 300 feet below sea level to over 3000 feet above, with lots of stops in-between.
The Kibbutz hotel we’re staying at is quite a kick. It’s very nice and hotel-y, but it’s a glatt kosher facility (vs. other kibbutzim that are completely secular). Our bathroom holds a metal bowl and cup for ritual morning hand washing. And the strictly kosher kitchen/dining area lists the rabbis individually supervising every phase of the food preparation; three for poultry, meat and dairy products, two for leafy vegetables who separately inspect the washing. Bread and rolls are under two rabbis and kosher flour sifter for in-house baked products. A supervisor of legumes, nuts and whole condiments. Even the abattoirs are listed and certified. The food? Who would know? It’s like my great-grandmother’s.
We head down hill to the Sea of Galilee.
But, ten minutes into the journey, the captain becomes a DJ! He cranks up the music, starts singing live Israeli music, including Hava Nagila…and then into Christian and gospel music — and Elvis! It does break the mood, but we did have fun.
We continued our ascent toward Golan with a stop in Safed, the highest town in Israel. Many Sephardic jews met there after being driven out of Spain, and it became a mecca for interpreters of the Kabbalah. It is still an important part of Jewish religious studies. It is also a mecca for Jewish artists as we discovered. Lots of gallery stops.
Crossing the HaHula valley (originally swamp land that the settlers drained at great peril and loss of life to create a fertile farming area) — and up into the Golan Heights, passing extensive mine fields along the way. We also cross the river Jordan that is surprisingly not so mighty, but more like a small creek.
We stop at a point only a few hundred meters from the Syrian border. Look closely and you’ll see the guard tower and compound of the UN security forces tending the buffer zone. Only months ago our guide was looking over this calm-looking spot to see and hear smoke and explosions.
It’s late afternoon, just before cocktail time, when we stop at the Golan Heights Winery. Our orthodox tour guide is a stitch and the wines are really good. I’m pretty sure their brand, Yarden is available in the States. After a tasting we buy a bottle of their award-winning merlot.
After dinner we have a talk by a member of this [religious] Kibbutz. Extremely interesting philosophy and way of life that we can discuss when we see each other sometime later. Right now, to bed before our long journey to Jerusalem, via many stops, tomorrow.