Birthright Days 1 & 2: Golan Heights

Terrible jetlag, worse than I expected for only a 7 hour time difference. After getting off the plane and hanging around the airport for several hours for ridiculous reasons, we boarded our tour bus for the next 10 days and headed north to Tiberias, which would serve as our home base for the first part of our trip. Despite being exhausted and going to bed before midnight (fairly early for me), I could only sleep for a couple hours.

After waking up at two or three in the morning, I tossed and turned for a while longer before giving up completely on sleep and going outside to watch my first Israeli sunrise from the porch of our hotel in Tiberias.

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I don’t think I ever got enough sleep for the next 10 days, but that’s Taglit. More on that in a future post.

The first stop on our itinerary was the Gadot Lookout, a beautiful scenic area that used to be a Syrian army base. All that land you can see from the lookout? It used to be Syria. There are still old bunkers there that you can explore. It’s easy to see how that area would be a great tactical position — it’s high on a hill and you can see everything out there for miles. Now it just makes a good viewpoint. There’s also a memorial there that you can visit.

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We went straight from there to our first hike — a water hike. Most of the time was spent wading and splashing through shallow, rocky streams, and there were definitely some close calls on the slippery stones. But it was very refreshing in the brutal July heat, which we definitely hadn’t gotten used to yet. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of the park where the trail was located, and the name listed on our itinerary doesn’t seem to be the same place.

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In the afternoon, we visited Mount Bental, a huge dormant volcano that is now a huge tourist attraction because it has great views from the top — you can see all of Golan Heights and even the Syrian border. Like the Gadot Lookout, it also used to be a military stronghold and there are additional bunkers to explore here. The path leading from the parking lot up to the viewpoint also serves as an exhibition space for the artist Joop de Jong, who makes awesome scrap metal sculptures:

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