Our Golan

Josh and I have tried to commit to doing something fun and different with the kids each Friday during the summer. This week, our friends invited us to spend Shabbat with them at Kibbutz Tirat Zvi. Our kids LOVE going there – what could be bad about kibbutz life for kids? They have free reign of the grounds, get to eat in the cafeteria, go to the little farm, and run around with their friends. It’s quite fun. So, we decided to make a weekend of it and we left on Thursday at 5pm.

After a good night sleep, we were ready to go on Friday. We spent the day exploring the Golan and had the most amazing time. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t been to the Golan since we moved five years ago. Each summer since we’ve been here, we’ve either been traveling to the States to see family, or I’ve been pregnant and near the end of my term! So…it was wonderful to finally get there.

It may be a good thing that we haven’t been there as a family until now – because I might have forced us to move. I’m simply in love with the Golan. It has an incredibly refreshing feel to it – with wide open spaces, beautiful landscapes and a feeling of isolation and serenity. Everywhere that you look, there is a water hike to enjoy, a ruin or historic area to learn about, and a winery to visit. It’s a magical area.

We started at Mt. Bental where there is an old Syrian bunker and fortification that they used against us in 67 and that we subsequently captured. You can explore the trenches, walking through them and seeing the underground bunkers where the soldiers slept and planned their attacks. Perfect for a group of little boys to run through and explore.

Next, we went to Bustan HaGolan, a beautiful, picturesque place to pick fruit. They’ve set up a wonderful collection of activities there. We went on a tractor ride, where they pointed out how incredibly close the Syrian border was from our tractor and told us some of the history of the area and the struggles.

We picked blackberries to the point that we all looked like we were born with black hands and mouths!

Then, the kids made blackberry pies with their own finds, relaxing in hammocks while the pies baked. It was a lovely location and we all had an amazing time there.

Next, it was off to Aniam, a community that has built a small artist colony. They have a pedestrian street filled with eclectic buildings. Each building has different artistic wares – from silver jewelry and wooden toys to ceramic vases and dresses. There are two delicious restaurants and a fantastic array of items to browse through and to buy. We had a great lunch there and then enjoyed looking at all of the art (while we yelled “Don’t touch! Don’t break that” at the kids).

Next, it was off to climb on tanks in a small memorial. The kids enjoyed jumping and climbing on the tanks (one last chance to tire them out before the drive back to kibbutz!) We took a peek at a few communities on our drive back, including Hispin and Nov, amongst others.

From the Golan, we returned to the Speters on Kibbutz Tirat Zvi and had a great Shabbat with them. The kibbutz just celebrated 72 years! From the kibbutz, you can look out at the Jordanian mountains. While it is picturesque now, I can’t imagine what it must have felt like before the founding of the State, and in all of the early wars, looking out at your enemy right across the way and knowing that you were defending the State on that side.

Similarly, spending time in the Golan emphasizes for me, yet again, how incredibly special all of our land is, and how constant the need to defend it and to ensure its survival is. When you travel through most other countries, you aren’t constantly reminded that someone else wants this land – and that they mean to take it in a serious way. Here, traveling through the Golan I kept marveling at the beauty of the land, at the strategic location, and at the great lengths that we have taken to beautify and maximize our space.

May we continue to enjoy these incredible locations – and to make the most of them – for centuries to come. They are our home and I feel privileged to have had the chance to enjoy so many great activities in the Golan this past weekend. And to show the kids one more piece of the puzzle that makes up their country – a piece that is theirs to enjoy and to admire.

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