Israel is not just deserts and old cities. It has a large agricultural region in the north that has an abundance of fresh water and serves as a major stopover for birds during migration. The Hula Valley has a marshland and reserve where the birds are protected and have a safe place to stop during their long journey between Africa, Europe and Asia.
When we toured the valley it was really hot, and honestly, I wasn’t that interested. We weren’t there during migration, so there weren’t a lot of birds and the bus life and listening to the cultural ignorance of some of the other members were really working on my nerves.
From the Hula Valley, we drove to Mount Bental. Mount Bental is located in Golan Heights and there is an old bunker left over from the old Syrian border. The old army bunkers are now open to the public, having been left over from the Yom Kippur War 1973. According to Wikipedia (because I cannot remember everything that Rafi told us during the visit):
The Yom Kippur War, also known as the Ramadan War, the October War, the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, or the Fourth Arab–Israeli War, was an armed conflict fought from October 6 to 25, 1973 between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria. The majority of combat between the two sides took place in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights—both of which were occupied by Israel in 1967—with some fighting in African Egypt and northern Israel. Egypt’s initial objective in the war was to seize a foothold on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal and subsequently leverage these gains to negotiate the return of the rest of the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Kippur_War#:~:text=The%20Yom%20Kippur%20War%2C%20also,led%20by%20Egypt%20and%20Syria.
This was one of the largest tank wars, and by some miracle, Israel won with only 160 tanks. Rafi was a tank man and had a lot of personal stories, and since my dad is a tank man, so he especially enjoyed this part of the trip. At the top of the mountain, you can see all the way to Syria and Lebanon, which really puts in perspective how close the borders are and how precarious this part of the world is.
On the walk from the car park to the bunker, the path was lined with some amazing artwork made out of recycled parts. There was a massive pirate ship that I would have loved to take home with me. PRC certainly would have enjoyed it.
The last stop of the day was at the Tel Shifon Winery. The winery is in a kibbutz and we were able to sample a selection of wine. The tour group sat at massive tables, but because my dad wandered off, there were no seats for us. We sat on some couches near the group, but Rafi sat with us, and because he knew the manager, we got full glasses of wine and chat with Rafi about Israel, his time in the army and his family. It was much better than having to make small talk with the people driving me crazy. Even Raif was amazed at some of the people and their questions. By the time we got to the winery, I think he was happy for the break. The winery had its own tank among the vines which was not something I have seen before.
We ended the day back in Tiberias where we enjoyed dinner at a Lebanese restaurant called Hermitage Tiberias. They had a really cool room that was a stone cutout and we tried a little bit of the local cuisine. Once again we watched the difficult woman in our tour group complain about the way the fish was cooked and the service and generally everything about the restaurant. We weren’t sitting with her, but it was pretty embarrassing how rude she was. The restaurant seemed to be family owned, the staff who served us were okay, and the food was delicious. I was proud of my parents for trying the food there as they are not always the most adventurous of eaters (or at least my mom isn’t).
I feel a bit bad that I didn’t write things down as they happened because we learned so much at each of the places. I was in such need of a vacation that I didn’t journal as I usually do, and now months later, I find myself struggling to remember some of what I learned. I think I know now why my mom saves all the maps and brochures from places. I probably need to start doing that.