We left Tel Aviv on day five after breakfast at the hotel and began our trek up towards the Sea of Galilee, also referred to as The Kinerret. On the way, we visited Neot Kedumim, an interactive nature reserve with natural flora and fauna from the Bible, including olive trees and fig trees. There we got the chance to plant our own tree in the land of Israel, allowing us to make a mark on the land that will hopefully last for many years.
The reserve was impressive because it showed just how difficult this land was for early Israelites who had to live off of it. “Coming to this hard land, you look around and it’s so barren, but they could get things to grow,” Sara Sternberger said. “It was survival. This was not an easy task to turn this into a great land.”
From there we drove past a long security barrier that separates Israel and Palestinian territories, with Doron providing some more helpful information about the ongoing conflict and the progress (or lack thereof) there has been recently. We arrived at Park Alona, and there we were able to walk through a 2000 year old water aqueduct that was used by the Romans to transport water to Caesarea. The aqueduct was a big hit with most of the group, who enjoyed having to trudge through sometimes knee-deep water while also working together to navigate the slippery rocks and drop-offs through communication in almost complete darkness. The aqueduct wasn’t just fun and historical, but it also felt like we came together as a group for the first time in it.
Having worked up an appetite, we ate lunch in a Druz village, and Doron shared a lot of details about the life and customs of the little-known group in Israel. We then went on to a site of ancient Jewish life in Zippori, where we saw fascinating mosaics that contained elements that we rarely associate with Judaism today, including zodiac signs and other possibly pagan symbols. In just one large work of art, we were able to see first-hand how Judaism was different back then, and how it had to always adapt.
“They could adapt to the beauty of the culture they were living in without replacing Judaism,” Sara said. “The whole concept of Reform Judaism is about that. How you make it relevant.”
After a long day, we finally arrived at a beautiful Kibbutz hotel that was located right on the Sea of Galilee, where we were treated to an enormous buffet dinner that showed the continued wonderful hospitality that we experienced throughout the trip.