Sunday, July 3, 2011

Trip to the Galilee and the Golan

I got back verrry late last night from my trip to the Galilee and the Golan with my friend A., her daughter, and her daughter's friend. It was a lot of fun. We stayed at the Beit Sefer Sadeh Har Hermon (Mt. Hermon Field School), next to Kibbutz Snir, from which we had a view of the upper Galilee, the Golan, and Lebanon - which is very close that far north. On Friday we planned a trip to a waterfall on the Golan (the Sa'ar waterfall), not far from the Nimrod Castle (a Crusader castle from the middle ages) - the photos in the guide book promised a lovely waterfall, but all we found were lots of climbing up and down, and a dry river bed. We definitely came in the wrong season if we wanted to see the waterfall!

Dry wadi of the Sa'ar waterfall.
We still wanted to find water, preferably to swim in. We continued up Rte. 99, which is the road that goes up from the Galilee into the Golan (a beautiful, winding, somewhat dangerous road). On our way we encountered a small kiosk by the side of the road, selling "Druze pita" - a big round pita, with lebene and zaatar in it - delicious. The kiosk was situated right in front of a field of cherry trees - now is when the cherries are ripe. The owner of the kiosk invited us to pick some cherries - and so A's daughter and her friend followed him into the orchard and they came back with delicious, just picked cherries.

A cherry orchard in the Golan.
We then continued on our way, drove through Masade (one of the Druze towns on the Golan), and finally came to a beautiful, small, almost circular lake called Birket Ram. We scrambled down the hill and into the cool blue water. In past visits to the Golan with friends, we've tried to get to into the lake but had never figured out how to do it. Apparently the lake is a "crater lake" (according to Wikipedia), whose only sources are rain water and underground springs. It is not stream fed, nor do streams flow out of (which would be impossible anyway, since it is lower than the surrounding hills). It is surrounded by bountiful orchards and fields cultivated by Druze farmers.

Birket Ram
 The next view is of some of the orchards surrounding the lake.

Notice the little saplings that have just been planted, close to the water.
After enjoying the nice cool water for a while, we climbed back up the hill and got back in the car. We drove through Majdal Shams, a Druze town quite near Syria (on Nakba Day and Naksa Day it was where people tried to get in from Syria). Our goal was to drive up as far as we could on Mt. Hermon, but we were stopped quite close to the town at a military base. There's a ski resort on the Israeli side of Mt. Hermon, so it is possible to get there, but the sign said that the road was not open after 3:30 p.m. The Golan is full of Israeli military bases and listening stations, and there are roads that civilians aren't permitted to drive on, all in addition to the still-active minefields (which are clearly marked).

We turned around, through Majdal Shams again, and then back down to the Field School. On our way we passed by the same kiosk again and bought some more delicious food - in all, we bought lebene in olive oil, cherry jam (with whole cherries, pits and all), apricot jam (with whole dried apricots), eggplant jam (tiny little eggplants cooked in sugar), and a comb of honey. All delicious.

We passed by Nimrod's Castle again - this is a view from the road. I've visited there in the past, but this time we didn't go into it.


Nimrod's castle and a long ridge leading up to it.


Flowers on the side of the road, Nimrod's Castle in the background.


We made our way back to the Field School after that, and sat down to eat more pita with delicious cheese (lebene) and jams on it. After that my friend A. and I painted a bit in watercolors (she is definitely more skilled than I am!) and I took photos of the scene. Very quite and pastoral. As the sun was setting, we heard the eerie howls of some animal - hyenas? jackals? I don't know what is common in Israel.

The view from our porch - fish ponds with the mountains behind them. I think the fish ponds belonged to the nearby Kibbutz Snir.


And then to bed!

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