Tag Archives: Golan Heights

The Golan Heights

…feeling it very sorrowful and strange that this first night of my bright fortunes should be the loneliest I had ever known. Great Expectations

Two days ago, some friends and I had planned to go to the Golan Heights. It was my last weekend before my mom arrives (tomorrow!!!) so this was really cutting it close to the wire, as far as I was concerned. The Golan is someplace I’ve been wanting to go for months and months and when my two friends offered to take me, one of them knowing his way well around the north, I was thrilled. The plan was to leave around 7am, since it takes about 3-4 hours to drive up there.

Well, at 7:30 we’re calling my friend whose phones are all turned off… At 8 the three of us who were awake and just waiting decide to grab coffee together while we wait. While we’re walking to meet up, our sleepy friend wakes up and calls us to say he’s on his way. Around 9am, the two show up, but decide they need some coffee. At 10am we’re finally on our way!

The Golan Heights is internationally recognized as Israeli-occupied Syrian territory. It borders Syria and Lebanon. We drove first to the Lebanese border:

Lebanon on the other side of the fence.

It’s almost indescribable how beautiful this part of the country is. It’s so different from anything else I’ve seen here, such beautiful rolling hills (mountains?!), green, lush, breathtaking.

Then you come across this and you’re reminded where you are:

Closed Military Area

We stopped for a photo shoot on this overlook area, which was so much fun, I think we were a little giddy from being in the car for such a long time and then finally arriving! Plus, the fresh air and the view just made me feel alive again.

Lebanon in the background

After a billion photos taken, we drove to Kfar Blum to go kayaking! It was ridiculously fun, all 5 of us piled into one ‘family-sized’ kayak, the boys taking control of the oars, which meant a lot of water fights and an intense rowing experience. What normally takes 2 hours, according to the guides at the beginning, I think took us less than an hour! We also ziplined into the river (SO much fun!). Of course, I got stuck halfway down because the other rope was tangled or something, haha. But then it worked smoothly. There was also a ropes course, which looked really lame from the ground, but was actually intense and a lot of fun!

After we changed from our soaked clothes, we got back in the car and drove south to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. It was a beautiful drive, once again.

It was hard to capture from a moving car!

And then we could see the Sea of Galilee. Beauuuuutiful.

From the road, the first glimpses

Beautiful

Then we arrived in Tiberias to eat dinner and walk around a bit.

A park in Tiberias

Taken from our dinner spot. The Sea of Galilee.

We had a scrumptious dinner of grilled local fish and some salads. We walked around a bit, sat on the beach for a bit, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

After nightfall, we decided we wanted some knaffeh – the cheese dessert thing that Nablus is famous for – but since we were so far north anyway, Nazareth is also famous for its version of knaffeh. So we thought, why not stop there on the way back? So at 10:45 pm we arrive in Nazareth and stop at what had been recommended as the best place in Nazareth for knaffeh. It was delicious and a perfect nightcap for a great, ridiculous, seemingly impossible day.

We had another two hours to drive home, but when I finally got home at 1am, I was still so content from such a great day. There are still plenty of places in the Golan Heights that we didn’t get to see, so I’ll save that for next time!

Advertisements

Musings

Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself. Robinson Crusoe

Well, I have a little over a month left here, only 4 weekends until my mom gets here and we depart for Istanbul and then home. It’s a time to reflect, definitely, and think of what I’m going to say to people that I’m leaving here and people that I’ll be seeing back in the States; to think about what I’ve done here in my 9 months and what I still want to do in my last one. It’s ironic that as I have all this time on my hands, all of my friends here are busy with work, so I’m gearing up to do some trips on my own and with whoever I can wrangle into missing work!

Two trips that I have somewhat planned for two weekends are (1) the Golan Heights, and (2) the Negev desert.

I really want to see the Golan, I’ve heard it’s the most beautiful place, and there are tons of nature reserves and places to hike and sit and enjoy the scenery. I’m hoping to go next weekend, rent a car, get some friends, and enjoy the spring weather here! It’s quite far north – right along the borders with Syria and Lebanon, so we’ll rent a car and drive, it’s about 3 hours from Jerusalem and then most of the parks and sights are within 30 minutes of each other. So, hopefully this will work out! Fingers crossed.

It’s also the two days before Easter, which I hope to go to Jerusalem for, join the masses of crowds to walk the real Stations of the Cross, where Jesus walked before being crucified at the location where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now is. I can only imagine how ridiculously crowded it will be, though a friend told me, surprisingly, it’s usually not that crowded. We’ll see! I suppose with this Sunday being Palm Sunday I’ll also head to Jerusalem. Maybe I’ll ask around to get a feel for how Easter will be there.

I also really want to go to the Negev desert, there are supposedly some beautiful hiking trails and sights and flora and fauna (and no, I will probably not remember any of the names or be able to recognize any sort of plant that I see, but I can still appreciate its beauty, thank you very much!). That might have to be a trip on my own, because I haven’t heard too much interest from other friends on going, so we’ll see. But I find it hard to resist going to see something like this:

Makhtesh Ramon crater, photo from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makhtesh_Ramon)

So we’ll see how that works out. I have some free time on my hands, in any case!

And of course some day trips back to Nablus and Jenin and I absolutely have to go to Jericho, since I’ve unfortunately never been in my 9 months here, which is practically a sin.

This Saturday, I’m heading to Bethlehem for the TEDxRamallah conference. If you’re familiar with TED talks, it’s this for Palestine – bringing together inspiring individuals on stage from within Palestine and beyond from at least 10 different disciplines to enlighten us with inspirational stories of Palestine. It should be a fascinating day, so I’m uber-excited. Check out the link above, like most TED talks, I think the speakers and performers will be posted online, plus the website has this interesting section called “Palestine Stories,” which is pretty self-explanatory. Enjoy!

7 weeks in…

It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self – never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.” Middlemarch

It’s so crazy to think that we’re halfway through the semester of classes already! Most of the kids in my classes will go back to the States in about 7 weeks. It makes me think of all the things I still want to do and all that I’ve already done in my first 7 weeks here.

A condensed list of what I’ve done/learned:

– How to buy bananas and tomatoes from the market
– How to withdraw money from the Arab Bank
– How to walk down the street without freaking out at every group of young guys
– How to go through a checkpoint
– How to cook (basic) meals without an oven
– How to go to the dentist (you might mock, but this was difficult!)
– How to live without my family and friends nearby (still difficult!)
– Met some fascinating people, Palestinian and foreign alike
– Visited: Jerusalem, Hebron, Haifa, Akka, Nazareth, Jenin, Qalqilya, Masada
– Felt more like Ramallah is home

A short list of what I still want to do/learn:

– How to buy more than bananas and tomatoes at the market (in progress)
– Try to speak more Arabic
– Oh, right, my research
– Make Arabic coffee at home
– Cook more (hopefully with the more ingredients that I learn to buy!)
– Learn the names of all the different flavors of argila so I can try them!
– Meet more fascinating people (or just regular people too, that’s ok)
– Taybeh OKTOBERFEST (October 2-3!!!!!!!!)
– Visit: the Dead Sea, the Golan Heights, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jericho, the Negev, Petra (Jordan), the Sinai (Egypt)

I really like more and more of this country the more time I spend here. Ramallah can sometimes be a bit much, a little bubble of fun and carefree attitudes. It can sometimes feel a little too much like DC. This is no third-world country, I live quite a life of luxury here with a beautiful apartment and these wonderful cafes to escape to. And it’s good to enjoy it and have fun! I probably learn more Arabic when I’m out at a cafe with new friends and I listen to conversations (creepy eavesdropper!), or I learn new words on the streets, than I do in my classrooms. So while I might feel guilty for going out this past weekend (ok… twice), especially when I have two tests in exactly a week, I tell myself that, technically, I was also “studying” Arabic. Enjoying myself and studying don’t have to be mutually exclusive!