We think we've found our kids limit. The Teperbergs were busy with an all-day school trip today, so we said a quick hi to Vardit (and picked up forgotten items from last night) and headed out on our own. But, before that, we enjoyed our first "official Israeli breakfast" at the hotel/youth hostel in Hispin. Why "youth hostel"? Because it seems that we are the only family staying here this week - the rest of the guests are Israeli youth groups and Taglit/Birthright trips (and French and British teen groups). There was a lot of noise last night, but it seemed to quiet down around 12:30 p.m. Breakfast consisted of salads, peppers, bourekas, cereal, fried eggs, cheese. But, no cottage cheese as the hotel is showing solidarity with the cottage cheese rebellion. And, Sima snuck some bread and cheese for lunch sandwiches and Mike saw some "take away" bags by baguettes, so we don't think we actually needed to sneak them away.
We headed to our first hike - Nahal El Al. No, it is not just an airline. The El Al is the southernmost river in the Golan and runs from the northeast to the southwest and into the Kinneret. The hike started at second yishuv down the road - called Avnei Eitan (so, Eitan was happy). This hike was pretty official, with a parking lot (gravel) and bathrooms and even a snack bar (that was closed). The hike took us down a pretty steep incline to the river bed and then through dense and beautiful vegetation (lots of flowers of all colors, so some thorns - it was almost like being in a jungle) and then around to a beautiful waterfall. We only saw one group on the way down - a group of guys in their late teens/early 20's. They decided to head off the marked path and we asked where they were going. They said they were going to find another waterfall, but suggested we stay on the marked path. Good suggestion. We got to the pool/waterfall by climbing down a steep incline and only made it with the assistance of metal handholds knocked into the rock wall. The water was sure cold, and Mike was the first to dunk himself, but all the kids soon followed. Only one of us needed to make a deposit way off the beaten bath, and Sima had to help, and it seems that others needed to do the same thing at some other time. Glad we brought handy wipes with us. As we were getting ready to leave (and Noah finding a secluded spot to change his clothes) a man in black pants and white shirt walked on us and asked us in Hebrew when we were leaving. We told him 5 or 10 minutes, but he kept pestering us. Sima knew that he was the scout for a larger group and very soon we were inundated with 40 or 50 screaming kids who all began stripping even before we were out - we just didn't need to see 10 year olds swimming in their tighty whiteys. The climb back up was much easier than the climb down. We came across the same group of 20-somethings they asked us the way to the waterfall. We asked them what they found on their detour, they said "it was a secret" - code for they were lost, glad we didn't follow them. The kids were already tired and kvetching and it wasn't even lunch time. We went back to the rooms to change out of our wet swimming clothes and into normal hiking/walking clothes. The kids revolted and demanded that we not go to another hike. So, we headed to Aniam - up the road - that has an artists colony. We each had an ice coffee and bought them all fruit shakes (prishake) to go with our purloined sandwiches. We browsed in the shops and then headed to Katzrin. Katrzin is the only city on the Golan and we went to a strip mall to watch a movie at Kesem Golan. The movie was in 4D (fans blew on us and we were shpritzed with water a few times) and showed great views of the Golan. It was essentially a great commercial for the Golan. Only problem - we were already here! Then we went upstairs to a really interesting 3D topographical map and there was a multi-media presentation that talked about the geological and political (and military) history of the Golan. One of us was sure freaked out to find out that there was a war right where we were standing only 38 years ago. The only assurances that worked were that this is where the Possicks are moving (we think), would they come anywhere that is unsafe? Of course, Katzrin didn't exist during the war anyway, it was founded in 1977. After the official show was over, we spent a long time looking at the map and finding all the spots we had visited on this trip (including finding what the boys are adamant was the Teperberg house) and last trip. The relief sure puts everything into perspective - why the Golan is strategically important, not only because of the high ground but also because of the control of the water feeding the Kinneret and the Jordan River. After the movie, and a short stop at a memorial that included 5 old tanks, we headed to Gamla. The park was closing in 90 minutes, so we were not allowed to hike to the city of Gamla that was destroyed by the Romans in the first century. Instead, we hiked the other way to get to an overlook for a wonderful view of the Gamla Falls - the tallest falls in all of Israel. Noah ran ahead to get in shape for lacrosse and Mike and Eitan walked fast. The girls fell behind and didn't quite make it the whole way. The boys decided to catch up with girls and were jogging, which was fine until Noah turned back to make sure that Mike had not had a heart attack and tripped and fell over a rock. Glad we had more handy wipes. We then walked a paved path to see the vultures and an overlook of ancient Gamla. The views were great, but watching the soaring vultures was truly amazing. We took some pictures and even some video - hope they come out. Then, the kids were hungry and crabby (did we say that they were in full revolt yet?). So, back to Katzrin to the food court - pizza for the girls and Burger Ranch (yuck) for the boys. (Folding the case to hold the Burger Ranch meal for 2 took the clerks 5 minutes.) We brought the kids back to the room and they ate, watched a movie and we (the adults) went back to Aniam for a nice dinner at Suzanna's. The highlight was that Sima got a Poykepot! Yup - cholent on a Tuesday night. We bought the boys and Ilana steak burgers to go as a peace offering (and Naomi a salad). Didn't work, so we are outside in the wind, with Sima drinking a beer and Mike drinking a 375 ml bottle of Gamla wine. And, watching (and listening to) more teenagers. How many times do we need to say that we don't have an aish (a light) for these idiots who shouldn't be smoking.