[Tour of Israel Part 6] Up to the North

Sunday, June 11 / יום ראשון, 17 סיון

My day started at 06:45. Packing took almost no time, and I donned my North Shore Century T-shirt and some shorts. When both Seth and I were ready, we went downstairs, but did not take our bags with us — planning on returning to the room after eating. Breakfast was the same as in previous days, but I also had an omelet which was pretty tasty! I sat with Liz and Jay, and it somewhat became a coda on a previous conversation that I had with them.

Returning upstairs, I took a picture of the clock whose minute hand is broken, and also the Nebraska-State-Capitol-esque building. We then checked out of the room, and loaded up the bus. Unlike on Birthright, there was no Rotating Participant Loading or Unloading Crew. We had planned to leave by 08:45, and this was MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, having left at 08:40. As we got to Begin Boulevard, Gili put on a recording of the song ירושלים של זהב (Jerusalem of Gold), which naturally started my tear ducts.


The time is 08:04. The hour hand is in the right position, and the second hand works, but the minute hand is dangling down, broken!


Trio, we’re not in Lincoln anymore…

After leaving the city, we saw the security fence. Gili reiterated the use of it to keep potential terrorists out, and then described just versus unjust wars. The status of the West Bank as illegal Israeli settlements he railed against. Moreover, he professed that Israel was the side giving up land in order to make peace. I am not offering my political views in this blog — merely reporting what happened. Yes, just like on Birthright, maybe I’m this trip’s “Josephus.” And since I mention that, I still think that I’m his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson!

We got to נאות קדומים (Neot Kedumim), a Biblical nature preserve. Everyone continued into the preserve except for Uncle Howard — he sat out in an air-conditioned building with a bad case of gastroenteritis (or some similar 24-hour bug). The bus took us on to a trail, and under a thatched roof, our site guide יאיר (Yair) spoke.

The ancient Hebrews in Egypt and the desert were nomadic, as they had no stable source of water or food. Once they reached the Promised Land, there was no need to roam since grass and water were available (and where the ocean met the sky… nope. Sorry.) In fact, the Hebrew word שמים (sky/heaven) might be a portmanteau of שם (there) and מים (water). Their crops were not happy with rain between the harvests of פסח (Passover) and סוכות (Sukkot/Tabernacles), and this may be why we only say “משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם” (Thou causeth the wind to blow and the rain to fall) during NOT those times, so as to not pray for crop-ruining rain.

We continued to another shady area, which had a well — no, a cistern! The cistern collects and holds rain water, whereas a well  collects groundwater. It is hard to find the latter in Israel. The water and resources are basically the land saying, “Use, but don’t abuse, me!” If you hear running or dripping water, it is a sign of life in the area!


The cistern.

Water, however, had to be cleaned by boiling or adding wine. Of course, back in those days, there was no such thing as a drinking age! Many wars have been fought with the primary point of contention being water, interestingly. Water is a sign of life, but can also be a sign of conflict! Before we moved to another spot, we saw a caper tree, and יאיר stated that you can’t kill a caper, so that it represents the undying resolve of the Jewish people. I love all of the symbolism that has been found on this trip!

Our next part of the tour was into rugged terrain, with a few circles of rocks, and a bunch of sheep (or were they goats?). Shepherding is well established in Judaism — both Moses and David were shepherds. This experience may have been one of the reasons that they were chosen to lead the people of Israel! A good leader will stand behind the flock, rather than in the front. That way, the leader can see everything in front of the group. As it turns out, Psalm 23 may give hints on being a shepherd.

Our activity was then to team up as a shepherding crew. My group had to get all the sheep into a marked circle, which we did by leading from behind (and Seth cheated by doing the “go button” technique), and then surrounding the flock as they wouldn’t want to be prodded from the front. The other group had to get the flock to turn around a pole, but that task was not successfully accomplished (granted, it was much more difficult).


Circling up to surround the sheep (or goats?)

Upon returning to the bus, we saw the ruins of an ancient village, and also an almond tree. The word for almond in Hebrew is שקד (shakeid), and for diligent is שוקד (shokeid): they are pronounced very similarly, and since Hebrew is a language of roots, there is a close connection between the two. I’m glad I sometimes use almondmilk and eat almonds in salads on occasion! The almond trees were mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, and almonds can have 3 layers. We also compared them to mulberries, but the connection there was unclear to me (or my mind drifted off for a little bit. Ha!)

We drove to a hillside view, with many holes dug. It was time to plant trees, with a great view! Before we did, we read ברכות וקבנות (blessings and meditations) on tree-planting in both English and Hebrew. The leaders had to have gusto and/or a good grasp on reading Hebrew, and the respective readers were therefore Sydney, me, and Dahlia (or was it Lily?).

Both Aunt Lori and I planted oak trees near each other: שני אלונים בסלע. שני אלונים ידעתי… (Two oaks on the cliff. Two oaks I knew… see the YouTube link for the song below) and so maybe at some point, Professor Weiss will visit Professor Oak! (Yes, terrible nerdy joke.) Before we got back on the bus, יאיר pointed out a קיקיון (kikayon / ricinus plant), which gave fodder for jokes about worms and sultry east winds (c.f. Book of Jonah). Looking at it, it didn’t look like it would be that good of a shade tree!


Noah planting an oak tree. (Photo credit: Lori Feldman)

Driving back to the visitor center, I used the restroom and then entered the dining area. We had lunch, and there was bread, chicken, [illegible], salad, and more. I was suffering from anorexia which was almost certainly induced by my empathy for Uncle Howard. I do not recall many of the lunch conversations, but we again had a bentsching session רוח (spirit) afterward!

We drove further north after everyone finished lunch and got on the bus. Gili reminded us of the fact that KKL has planted more than 250 million trees since their foundation! Not all of these are still living of course — some have died from age, and some have died from arson. The drive north was mostly along Highway 6, which is Israel’s only tollway. Along the way, we passed more brown signs with squiggles, including Alexander (though my attempt to snap the sign failed). Once Gili put away the mic, it was quite a quiet drive… except that my bladder was getting ready to explode!

Yep, just like on the Wednesday of my תגלית trip, we had to pull over on a longer bus drive, but this time it was at a gas station instead of the roadside. And I suffered no ill effects, but emptied my bladder (and got a cramp. Yes, sometimes I don’t spare details when I probably should). After the rest area, I had more road watching, and was now at peace of body not having to worry about peeing my pants! We took Highways 65 and 574 in order to get to our next stop: קיבוץ עין שמר (Kibbutz Ein Shemer). There was a wrong turn, however!

At עין שמר, the first stop was the loo (not surprising). Crossing the road, we got to החממה (ha-cha’mama / the greenhouse). Naturally, it was steamy in there, but I was okay. This greenhouse is a scientific playground —  kids and teens learn science here, and it’s especially geared toward those “at-risk” individuals. The first demo was a pond full of algae and a rain system. Raining down onto the pond of algae created a cooling effect — organic air-conditioning, if you will!


It rains coolly! (Photo credit: Nancy Coren)

An experiment involving hydroponics and veggies without soil was also demonstrated: water rolled down an inclined plane where the tomatoes grow. I also saw some barrels with Lemna\textemdash she pointed something out beneficial about it, but my attention was focused on the plants at the time, so I didn’t catch it. As we went closer to a door, we saw more algae filling a pond, as well as some bottles and phials filled with algae. Evidently over 50\% of the oxygen that we breathe is provided by algae. Nice!


Shades of ten years ago. Too bad I didn’t bring a quadrat! 

We entered the nice air-conditioned lab, and saw computers and 3D printers. We learnt of biomimicry and biofouling, though I took no notes on the specifics. We also discussed piping and what we can learn. The last point: קיבוצים (kibbutzim: plural of kibbutz) are like beehives: they live in a collective vein.

Our time at עין שמר now completed, we then boarded the bus to go toward נוף גינוסר (Nof Ginosar). After we got on the highway, stories of the mountains to the west (Mt. Carmel) began. One of these stories was the Elijah-versus-Canaanite showdown where each side had to have their god accept a sacrifice (see I Kings 18:1-39, which happens to be הפטרת כי תשא [the haftarah for the portion Ki Tissa]). This story was told while we waited in a פקק.

I also got to chat with Gilad about his recent experiences, with a focus on inclusion and advocacy. I have realized much more about diversity in biology and other differences in the last few years, but learning is an ongoing experience! He also talked about the gender-neutral term “date-mate” (as opposed to “boy/girl-friend), which I think works well. He recommended the YouTube channels Pleated Jeans and ZeFrank — I will have to check them out sometime!

The reason for the פקק was a car fire, which sparked memories for both Gilad and me — the former when his engine exploded yet he still got a reasonable scrap value, and the latter when I returned to Kenosha from פידלר הלל בשמחת תורה (Fiedler Hillel on the holiday Simchat Torah) last year. The other horror story: the puff of smoke from Tim’s car on the return from Pokémon Nationals 2012. The conversation shifted to bumper stickers and much more, and it was a lot of fun!


Removal of the burnt car. There was no public safety risk–I think it was an accident, not foul play.

We passed the turn of מגדלה (Magdala),  which is where the name Mary Magdalene originated. There is also an old synagogue here, so it naturally has importance to multiple groups. We passed some other unremarkable communities, as well as the ארבל (Arbel) cliff, which had some significance. But, how many more times can I say that facts and events blended together on this trip? Despite not being that long of a day, it felt like a really long day.

Not long thereafter, we reached קיבוץ גינוסר (Kibbutz Ginosar). They have a hotel instead of a guest village (comparing to the other קיבוצים that I stayed at on Birthright). There are disconnected segments of said hotel. Exiting the main building almost made me SPLAT against the glass that looked like a second door (see photos below–including the later intentional THUD)! We (i.e. Seth and I) had Room 91, and this hotel isn’t quite as nice as the Dan Panorama. But a nice thing: there’s a porch here!


To enter this vestibule, walk around the glass.


THUD! (Photo credit: Lori Feldman)


Trip-mates chilling on the porch.

We hung out in the yard for a little bit, and saw the youth playing on equipment hear the water. As it turns out, the equipment is gym equipment! It does look like playground equipment, though. Anyway, we headed across the yard to the dining hall at 18:45.

I had chicken schnitzel, potato, salad, and a bit of bread. Once again, I suffered from empathy-based anorexia. Nevertheless, I ate and suffered no problems. Nothing particularly stood out for dinner, either in food or conversations, and I wish I would have posted more conversational details than I did in my note pad. That will be for next time!

Seth and I then walked to the shores of the כנרת (Kinneret / Sea of Galilee) along a dock, and noticed how low the sea (lake) was, because of the tall signs. At the pier’s end, we could see a panorama of the Sea of Galilee, including Tiberias on the west (our right). As we walked back, we discussed infections, including my fear of the stomach problems that have been going around. We followed a bridge that had a Hebrew-and-Arabic sign, which translated to “No use of grills in this area.” Said area was quite uninteresting. As we returned across that bridge, the dining hall had a look that reminded me strongly of the Norris Center at Northwestern from the outside.


The outside of the Ginosar Hotel dining and reception area. Am I crazy in thinking it looks like Norris, to my NU friends?

We returned to the hotel and I took a shower. It felt good, and then I put on mams and went to the hallway to socialize. The triplets had captured a cockroach from their room and unleashed it into another room across the way, so hopefully nothing goes awry! It was only 22:00, but we figured to fall asleep, in order to recover for tomorrow. Thankfully, I slept soundly the whole night.



(Dirty?) Thirty: 7 days

Nebraska Regional: 41 days

Semester Kickoff: 72 days

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3 thoughts on “[Tour of Israel Part 6] Up to the North

  1. Arbel is notable for the discovery of an ancient synagogue there. It was also the home of one the first Talmudic sages, Nitay the Arbelite, who was a link in the chain of Jewish tradition 2,000 years ago

    Liked by 1 person

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