We had an extremely busy day and we really thought we would have tired the kids out by now - but, no luck. It is 9:30 p.m. and the 3 younger ones are still awake - at least Noah had the good sense to go to sleep.
We actually set a wake-up call for 7:30 a.m., and still didn't manage to leave HaGoshrim until 9:30 a.m. Breakfast was at the kibbutz, and we skipped the shakshooka for a change. Sima still made cheese sandwiches for lunch, though. We first headed to Lake Agmon (Hula Lake) in the middle of the Hula Valley. The guide books tell you not to visit unless it is between November and March, when all of the migrating birds make the Lake their winter home. But, we had a great time riding bikes along the 10 Km path around the Lake. We all rode bikes - Ilana rode a "bike" that was pulled by Sima, and Ilana actually pedaled for 2 or 3 minutes. We didn't see any herons or raptors, but we saw and heard a lot of different birds. Most importantly, Naomi had the chance to ride a bike, and she just loves to ride bikes.
After the bike ride the kids (and Sima) had ice cream and Mike had his ubiquitous Diet Coke. (Sorry Dugie, it wasn't Cabernet.) We then headed to Naot Mordechai, a kibbutz in the valley. Why Naot Mordechai? But, of course to go to the Naot/Teva shoe outlet store. Not only did we set a record for spending the most money at the store, but Mike actually ran out of steam looking at shoes before Sima did. 15 pairs of shoes later (you can ask Sima how many pairs were for her) and we were able to leave. We then headed to Nahal Senir.
Nahal Senir was one of the coolest places we have ever been. Nahal Senir is also called Hasbani and is one of the 3 streams that forms the Jordan River. So, since we already hiked along the Banyas (Nahal Hermon) and the Dan, we now have hiked along all 3 streams that form the Yarden. The hike starts off normally enough, until we approached a large "wading pool", where we encountered 100 or so yeshiva boys on a tiyul. We left to get ahead of them, and as we began the hike we found ourselves waking in and beside the stream. Stupid us (?) stopped to take some family pictures in the stream (you be the judge after the pictures are posted) and the boys caught up to us. Really stupid us let the boys walk past. Watching these kids and their teachers navigate their way in water, on rocks and through mud worries us for the future of Israel. We are soft, fat, spoiled Americans - and, we had a much easier time with the hike than they did. (And, what do these rabbis think they are going to do with 1950's era single shot rifles that probably can't even fire anymore?) Even though we waited a good long time (their noise made the hike unenjoyable), we quickly caught up with them. We traversed a 6-9 inch wide ledge by the stream and "fought" our way through them to get in front of them. Mike, carrying Ilana, still was able to help some of the boys. Walking in the stream was amazing, and climbing over and around rocks and roots and branches was thrilling. We all loved the hike. The end, however, was not great. We had to walk down a path to the car. With the sun beating down on us, the views of the Galil and the valley were the only saving graces.
As if that were not enough, we came back to HaGoshrim and Mike took Noah, Naomi and Eitan on a "kayak" float trip. It was actually a big inflatable/boat raft with Noah in the front with an oar, Naomi and Eitan in the middle, and Mike in the back. We floated down the Hasbani (Nahal Senir) for about an hour and a half. It was peaceful, beautiful, fragant and warm. And then, we came across the older brothers of the kids we ran into at Senir. We don't know if they were actually their older brothers, but they too showed no skill at outdoors activities. It cracks us up that we are more accomplished at these types of activities than anyone in the world. We kept getting slammed, splashed, sprayed, yelled at in Hebrew - all for actually going down the center of the stream (when possible). We saw lots of families and groups of kids hanging out on the banks - picnicing, playing, swimming. At one point, a young girl (14 or 15) and boy (12 or 13) were in the middle of the stream yelling to us (in Hebrew). It sounded like they were in trouble so we "stopped" as best we could and they jumped in. They weren't in trouble - they were just "joy riding" by climbing in strangers' rafts and floating to their friends. After we said l'hitraot to those new friends, we came across a group of 20-something males drinking (or something else). One of the guys saw the boys UNC hats (Michael Jordan) and started singing the UNC fight song - neither of my boys knew what he was doing. So, Mike sang Hail to the Victors in return and had a brief, yelling conversation with some guy from North Carolina. After the float trip, the 4 joined Sima and Ilana at the kibbutz pool - a huge, beautiful pool. Naomi was so happy to swim.
After changing, the family humored Mike and let him drive up north (yes, there is still north to go) to Metulla - the farthest north "city" in Israel. 450 families living along the border with Lebanon. Sima and Mike both remembered visiting the Good Fence along the border with Lebanon - a gate that let Lebanese and Israeli Druze families travel to visit each other and for other reasons (like letting Lebanese into Israel for medical care). Well, the good fence is no longer good. As we approached we saw a large sign that said Atzor! (border approaching). No soldiers though. We know that if we went 25 or 50 more yards (meters) around the bend we would have seen a lot of soldiers. We took a quick picture of the boys by the sign and turned back to go to the Dado Elazar overlook, named after David (Dado) Elazar who was chief of staff of the IDF during the Yom Kippur war. Even though it was hazy, the overlook gave us tremendous views of Metulla, Har Hermon, the Golan, K'far Giladi, the Hula Valley, etc. It was strange looking into Lebanon and thinking about what was going on just 1 year ago this month.
After that, we went to dinner at a place called Aysh Baysh - all meat, all grilled. Noah ordered something called Cherev Entrecote (cherev is Hebrew for sword). We were not quite sure if that was a cut of beef, but when the waiter brought out a sword skewered with steak we got it. We skipped the chicken hearts.
Thinking back on the day, we are struck with how few non-Israelis we encountered all day. At dinner, the menu was all in Hebrew and we figured most of it out (with the help of a nice waiter who spoke some English). We are finding our way. Tomorrow will be busy, with going to Montfort (a crusader castle) and Rosh Hanikra (caves in the North-easternmost city in Israel), and then down to Ra'anana to the Hartsteins. Hopefully, we will post before Shabbat.
It will be very sad to say goodbye to the Golan and northern Galil. The breeze, the sky, the streams, the mountains, and even the rocks. Eitan proclaimed today, "I love Israel, except for all of the rocks!"