Jordan Einhorn `17
Greetings from Israel! Yesterday we had another full day in the Golan Heights. We woke up bright and early at seven am and started the day with a buffet breakfast. Our options were the same as they had been the past few days including a range of cereals, different types of vegetables, eggs, and toast. We are all getting used to the food and drink here, which is all very different than at home (instant coffee anyone?).
We left the kibbutz with much anticipation since it was the day we were going to be joined by eight Israeli soldiers! The soldiers are all from different parts of Israel, and perform different jobs in the army. They provide a huge variety of experiences and opinions to our trip, which is incredibly interesting. All the soldiers are so friendly and I think I speak for everyone when I say that we are very excited to get to know them during their five day journey with us. After a short drive from the kibbutz we picked the soldiers up on the side of the road and cheered for them as they got on the bus.
Our next stop was a short hike that led to a waterfall. When we got off the bus we did some ice breakers with the soldiers, including a game where a small group of us were responsible for introducing each soldier with a little skit. After laughing at everyone we started our hike. This was definitely the easiest and shortest hike we have done. However, it still was beautiful and of course included some of Ariel's stories. After walking in what felt like a rainforest we ended up at the waterfall. It was a gorgeous sight and a great photo-op.
We all climbed back onto the bus and stopped at a mall for a very short lunch break. Our options were a fast food burger place, a pizza place, a cafe or a falafel and shwarma place. Those of us that braved the incredibly long falafel line got the choice between falafel in pita, baguette, or with a salad, as well as a range of toppings from hummus to vegetables. This is a meal we are all getting used to very quickly! We were definitely aghast to hear that some Israelis consider falafel junk food- it seems pretty healthy to us.
After filling up we got back on the bus and drove to one of the highlights of the trip thus far- a place to drive jeeps in the Golan Heights. I say jeeps, but they were really more of a combination between jeeps and golf carts. The vehicles were open air and could hold either three or five people. Most of us were able to drive (yes family, this unlicensed driver drove in Israel) the vehicles in a sort of off-road situation. We were on a path, but it was pretty bumpy and muddy. Some of us drove more conservatively than others, but everyone had a great time. We got to see more amazing views and were even given some mid-drive cold refreshments, which were delicious.
If you can't tell by now, this day was definitely a marathon, and we still have one more stop before we returned to the kibbutz. Our final activity was a stop by the border between Israel and Lebanon. We could basically go up to the fence that was on the actual border. After taking in more incredible views (we were on top of a mountain) we went into a room that had panoramic views of both Lebanon and Israel. We took a seat and prepared ourselves to hear from a speaker who we had been warned did not care about being politically correct and held pretty extreme views. Aryeh Ben Yaakov, the speaker, definitely lived up to expectations. Originally he is from Ohio and then he moved to Israel in the 60s and served in numerous wars. Among many other topics, he spoke about the history of the states in the Middle East, living on a kibbutz on the border, his view of the Lebanese people, and his opinion regarding US intervention. In general, he has a strong belief in self-defense and is certainly not politically correct. His views were definitely right-wing, about as far to the right as anyone you might meet. I think we all really appreciated the opportunity to hear from someone with such strong opinions and it inspired some really interesting debate.
After the talk we were all definitely exhausted and I think most people enjoyed a quick nap on the way to the kibbutz. We had dinner at the kibbutz, which was the same food we had been served the other nights. The array of salads including tomato-cucumber, beets, and peppers are all dishes with which we are quite familiar at this point. After dinner we had a chance to discuss Aryeh's talk. Before opening up the floor to questions Aryeh had said that he was not interested in hearing our opinions or debating with us because we had not lived through what he had. A topic that dominated our discussion was what we felt about that statement, and a general debate regarding whose opinions matter in these situations. Many members of the trip discussed how we had only heard from right-wing speakers and how it felt like most information was framed in that same mindset. It was interesting to hear people debate the validity of that opinion, and what they felt was the effect, or lack there of, of framing. Speaking of framing, we also talked about the role of the media in the conflict and biases that western media may hold. The discussion definitely benefited from the Israeli soldiers' opinions. Personally, I thought it was incredibly interesting to hear about the fear they feel due to threats from their neighboring states and their opinions on the Israeli army's actions in Gaza.
If you made it this far I applaud you and hope that you were able to get a sense of how full our days have been. Everyone seems to be enjoying the trip and looking forward to what the rest holds for us!
See you in a week!