Our group spent the weekend in northern Israel, starting with an off-road Jeep ride to the boarder of Syria and ended up with a Galilee Wine Tasting, just before heading to Jerusalem.
Tony Lima: “I’ll never forget starting our day off with a security briefing near the Syrian border and then taking a jeep ride closer to the border noticing the menacing landmine signs. We could also see the smoke piles in the distance in Syria, a sobering reminder that there’s a terrible civil war so close to us. To be so close to danger while in the ‘safety’ of being with our peers and under the guidance and protection of our Israeli guides was surreal.”
Tony and husband Yonel near the boarder. The group recieved a security briefing from Israeli Intelligence expert and Eisenhower Center Fellow Avi Melamed to better understand Israel’s security challenges from unstable adversaries and next-door neighbors, Lebanon and Syria.
Then the group learned about the Druze, an Arab minority religion in Israel and Syria. They ate a traditional Druze meal (delicious!) and met with a Druze family to learn about their unique culture and experience as Druze Israelis.
In the periphery of Israel, where LGBTQ community is scarce, a group of young and dynamic artists and activists are reclaiming small towns for LGBTQ Israelis by throwing pop-up parties, art galleries, exhibitions, concerts, and more. The group met the leaders of Tarbut Movement for a fun evening of festivities.
Nadiya at Kibbutz Hagoshrim, the group’s accommodation during their days at the north.
Sunday started with a visit to the Ethiopian Absorption Center. Located throughout the country, absorption centers are temporary living quarters, which provide a soft landing and supportive framework for new Israeli immigrants from Ethiopia. Then they visited Tsfat, Israel’s center of Jewish mysticism and kabbalah.
Tony and Yonel got an original art piece of “Ahava” (‘love’) from a local artist.
Before heading to Jerusalem, the group had a Galilee wine Tasting; they learned about the transformation of the Galilee and experienced Israel’s growing wine industry. Israel may be known for its arid deserts, but the country’s Northern region of the Galilee was once a swampland. Over decades of laboring, draining, and planting, the Galilee was transformed into an agricultural oasis – with forward thinking botanic, irrigation and water technologies.
Off to Jerusalem!