By Emily Burack `17
Woke up at a 630 am and went to have breakfast in the communal living area of the kibbutz that we're staying at in the Golan Heights. I wondered if all the food that we ate was grown on the kibbutz. After breakfast, we got on the bus and went to a lookout point that used to be a Syrian military base. Our tour guide, Ariel, gave us a brief overview of Jewish history (he sang!) and had volunteers act out key scenes in Jewish history. We took some photos with the beautiful lookout and then went back on the bus and we learned the hebrew word of the day, sababa, which means awesome. Then we arrived at the hike and had another lesson about Syrian-Israel relations. To be honest, I expected the hike to be up a mountain and a beautiful view. Instead, we seemed to hike downwards into a valley. The hike has been my favorite part of Birthright thus far because we had the chance to get to know the people on our trip with us. Ariel had told us the hike was going to be two hours but it didnt feel like two hours – focusing on the hike and the conversations made the time go by very quickly. At the end of the hike, we saw this super neat waterfall
.After. Lunch was in this small town in the Golan – I had delicious falafel (doesn’t quite compare to the falafel at Dartmouth, I was so glad to finally eat authentic Israeli falafel), then we went to the Syrian border with Israel. Ariel told us stories about the '73 war and I was kinda surprised that there was a gift shop overlooking a country where a civil war is happening. As we were leaving, Ariel told us that the downed Syrian aircraft had been turned into sculptures. At first, I was kinda uncomfortable with this – why take acts of destruction and make them into things that we consume as art? But it was explained that this was indicative of Israel's desire for peace. As we drove back to the kibbutz, I reflected on everything we had seen. I had just taken a class on the Politics of Israel and Palestine, and it was really eye-opening to be in the places where the events we learned about occurred. We got back to the Kibbutz and celebrated Shabbat and had some ice breakers, then went to sleep after an exhausting day of activity. I don’t know what I quite expected out of Birthright (tour Israel? Meet Dartmouth Jews?) but so far, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Golan Heights and learning about what happened where we go.