Golan, Golan Heights, holiday, Passover, Pesach, trip, vacation

Rolling Hills, Cows and Cookouts

Our trip to the Golan was what Pesach vacation dreams are made of. It was an unbelievable experience and we feel so privileged and blessed to have been able to enjoy ourselves for almost a week – and to do so with our good friends and their awesome kids. 

We stayed on Moshav Yonatan in a gorgeous and fabulously decorated home of acquaintances. They clearly have an artistic touch, as some of these pictures show. 
Doesn’t this make you want to redo your stairs?

And Free Our Minds we did! The greenery in the Golan is hard to describe, as is the expansive space…the vast landscape that is filled with nothing but blue skies, green fields and an occasional cow or two. Our friends have a son who graduated from Sussya (where Matan goes) and he was our map reader and general tour director for the entire trip with some help from Matan and Yehuda. Every day was filled with adventure, exploration, a bit of water play and some matza and eggs thrown in. We awoke early each day to beat the crowds, packed our bags and headed out. Here are some brief highlights (I could bore you for ages, but we’ll try just minutes).

On the first day, we went to a hike that was five minutes from Yonatan called Gamla. We ended up on a path that lasted for about two hours and took in some amazing scenery.

Except…..that after about ten minutes of walking, Amichai managed to fall and open up his newly stitched knee. You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought, as I watched the entire vacation go up in bloody knees and hopping children. But, after this cute picture, Amichai and I hobbled back to the starting point while the rest of the group continued on. When they finished, Ruth and Josh went into town and got some good medical materials and managed to patch Amichai up. We went to a maayan (*a natural flowing spring/watering hole) where the kids swam and enjoyed. We made a barbeque and relaxed in the house…and went to sleep to be ready for Day Two.

Day Two started with a CRAZY adventure as we dropped three cars at the ending point for our hike in Nahal Mezar so that we wouldn’t have to backtrack. While we were dropping the cars, all of the kids and Ruth were at the starting point waiting for us. I was very worried that the kids were going to be going crazy and bored by the time that we got there, and I had to crack up when we pulled into the starting point to find………………that they were all making daisy crowns.

Silly me.

They were watching nearby cows and making crowns and were completely satisfied waiting for us. Reminder not to worry so much.

After the hike, we went to another maayan that literally appeared to be at the end of the world. 

It was down a bumpy, crazy road and then up a steep hill. I’m always amazed when we arrive at a location that I feel is just so out of the way that no one could possibly know about it – to find it packed and ready for a party. We enjoyed ourselves there, ran into Neve Daniel families and some other Sussya kids (of course) and then headed home for another night of games and food.

Day Three started off like any other day. We went to Braichat Hamshushim and Zevitan. We climbed down for about half an hour to an amazing maayan where we played and enjoyed for a bit. But I had the feeling that we were heading for a really long hike, and I was nervous as we got ready to go. My worst fear (well, one of them – I appear to have many) is that we’ll end up on a long, drawn-out hike where we can’t really turn back.

Fortunately, Yakir started to have a tantrum just as we were going to head out, and Josh said that maybe I should stay back with him. SOLD. I went with my instinct and watched as everyone else hiked off. Zeli got wind of the fact that I was staying behind and chose to stay with me. Suddenly, I realized however, that I had two little kids to entertain for about seven hours (they had hiked off with the only house key!) and that I knew nothing about the Golan. Nothing. I’m really not good with directions so…I took a deep breath and we played in the water for another hour, hiked back up to the starting point and had a nice lunch, and then set out in the car for an adventure. My phone charger in the car proceeded to die as I was trying to get Waze to work and I realized that I would be phoneless, and directionless, for the rest of the day.

Sounds like something out of a modern day reality TV show, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, we had a lovely day. We had popsicles, ate lunch, went to a small tank exhibit where they could climb, got ice coffees (do you see the food theme here?), and went to my favorite artist colony called Aniam.

The dudes in Aniam

Yes, I had to make the kids walk around at the ceramics store and the clothing stores with their hands behind their backs, but we all had fun along the way. When the rest of the group returned to the house, they were extremely grateful that we hadn’t been on the hike. Turns out they hiked for 6 very grueling hours (over 8 kilometers of up and down two mountains and valleys). Yikes!

On Day Four we went to Majdras and Braichot Erusin. We were accompanied by old Neve Daniel friends, Samara and Moshe Berger and we even enjoyed a barbecue at their home in Hispin (and a tour of their home as it’s being built).

We walked to yet another maayan that day which was at least half an hour off the road and we encountered a number of wild cows on our way. The highlight of the walk (and perhaps the entire week if you ask my kids) was when my Wild-Kratts obsessed four year old confronted a cow with his stick, looked him in the eye and yelled “Come on Wild Bison!” I screamed, as he made eye contact with the cow and got ready to fight, and yelled for Josh to pull him away FAST. The giggles of the rest of my boys could be heard for hours as they recreated the seen and mimicked Yakir’s taunt of the wild cow.
One of many, many cows.

Hanging with the big guys.

We also made sure to make time for relaxation, hanging out and snuggling back in the house.

Avital entertaining the boys.

Always time for fountain fun!

Cooking friends!

Popsicle time!

Planning the next day’s adventures….where will we end up?

Loving Bamba!

Ruth, Chaim and their kids packed up on Thursday morning and headed back to Neve Daniel for the last days of Pesach. We had decided to stay and to enjoy more time in the Golan. The weather changed dramatically that morning and we were FREEEEEZING. We had proper clothes with us, but we were just freezing. We went on a brief walk to see a water fall and then to a really cool outdoor volcano exhibit called the Avital Volcanic Park. The Golan was created partly by volcanic activity and the tour and exhibit took us through the history in an interesting and interactive way.

To get warm, we went to lunch in Aniam. A big treat, since we had been treating the kids to…hard boiled eggs, matza and cream cheese in our cooler all week. The kids had a blast eating deliciously made Pesach food..and even getting silly with the warm towels offered at the end of lunch. We walked around Aniam and watched the artisans at work.

And then we returned to Yonatan for two wonderful (although a bit rainy and cold!) days of chag (holiday). We played oodles of fun games owned by our hosts and had a wonderful time capturing our kids in one location. We often find on holidays and weekends that the kids are so busy and have so many friends and activities that it’s hard to get them in one place. We loved being away for the holiday and feeling like we were all together with nowhere to run. 

And if you’ve never seen Rory’s Story Cubes, you should check them out. I’m ordering mine tonight.

Back to real life again, but hopefully we all have fond memories of rolling hills, endless expanses and energetic hikes in the back pocket of our memories…until next year!

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