Northern Israel - Sunday, December 14, 2003

Haifa - We realized just how small Israel is when we drove from the Dead Sea to Haifa in a mere 2.5 hours! The funny thing was that it took us 45 minutes to get from Tel Aviv to Haifa and another 45 minutes to find our hotel through the windy, messy streets of Haifa... The next day we hung out with Seth Katz, a family friend of M's. She babysat him when he was a baby, and now he's in college. WOW, that made us feel very old!!

Haifa is Israel's 3rd largest city and is a very busy port. We spent some time hiking on the hills around Mt. Carmel and catching up with Seth. Lunch was from a nearby Druze Village named Isfiyah and was hands down the best food we had in Israel. It was great to spend time with Seth seeing the city..

Kibbutz Nes Amim - Cousins Patty and David hooked us up with their friend who manages the only Christian Kibbutz in Israel. So we got a screamin' deal on the bed and breakfast and were situated in a great spot to see the rest of northern Israel. We hired a tour guide to take us around the Golan Heights, as there is so much history and politics to learn about in this much disputed area. The Golan in Israel's northeast is borderd by Syria to the east and Lebanon to the north, only 25 miles from Damascus. The Golan was invaded at Israel's inception as a state in 1948 by Syria, again in 1967, as well as 1973. The problems in this area are so complicated. It's no wonder it's still not figured out yet!

We visited the Jordan River, Peter's Primacy, Capernaum Church, Kuneitra lookout point, and the Hula Wetlands Preserve, and many other stops. Our guide, Joram, was an interesting and well-informed guide who gave us a great tour and indepth insights to the politics of the area. The problems are complicated but are essentially centered around Israel's proximity to Damascus, access to water, and Syria's claim to part of the land lost in the '67 War. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming year. The area was hilly, home to thriving vineyards, and has been relatively for the past 30 years. The UN still has a border presence in this area. Our visit to the bunker overlooking Syria was a real shocker because of the tanks and soldiers everywhere. Minefields are everywhere around strategic positions, leftover from Syria's occupation. Don't worry parents, these areas are VERY clearly marked! Look at the distances between cities on the sign below....so close!

The Sea of Galilee is a sacred area for Christians because Jesus spent 3 years spreading his word in the area. We visited Capernaum Church from the 4th Century which is known as the site where Jesus fed 500 pilgrims with 2 fish and 5 bread loaves. The mosaics were beautiful.

Our day ended at the Hula Valley Nature Preserve where we were able to catch 30,000 cranes on a major stop during their journey south for the winter. At sunset, the cranes make their way from various fields in the preserve to a central pond. We felt like we were in a Hitchcock movie! It was too dark to get any really good pics, but we tried! The birds were so incredibly loud in their calls of directions to each other -where to land, turn right here, be careful over there, etc.. When our flash went off, no birds landed in the area for a good 10 minutes. Now that's communication!

Our next day was touristy as well, minus the fabulous guide. We headed to the northwest border with Lebanon to the caves of Rosh Hanikra and took a cable car ride down to the grotto for some exploring. Quick, fun, and beautiful. We drove on along the hilly border region to get a good look at Lebanon. Much of the area is off limits, but we did manage a drive through a couple of border villages complete with many bunkers of course.. We found a nice park to hike in to get our legs moving and found a really cool cave suspended in a cliffside.

On our way back to Nes Amim Kibbutz, we visited the ancient Hasmonean town of Akko conquered pretty much by everyone because of its importance as a strategic port. We walked around in the old, walled city and took a tour of the underground Crusader ruins.

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