JNF Educators Study Tour 2020
Day 2 – Tsfat, Golan Heights and Hula Valley
Reflections from Carmel School WA, Kesser Torah NSW and Masada College NSW Educators.
Tanya Tairy – Carmel School WA
Kicking off the second day of the JNF educators tour in Tsfat with a spiritual experience is somewhat auspicious for the beginning of the new year 2020. Hearing from a Kabbalist artist who has found a wonderful way of expressing his religion and spirituality was truly inspiring.
Although the Jewish New Year has already been, one cannot pass up on an opportunity for a new beginning.
A religious and spiritual connection to Israel is one that I have entrenched in my body and soul and being here floods me with so much emotion and memories.
A connection to a place is formed by people and experiences and these transform us and then become memories. These memories can be relived and help you understand a place. I live with these memories on a daily basis. I am connected to this land with love, hope, blood and tears.
Travelling to Ramat Hagolan in a Jeep elicits many memories for me.This is the place where my brother and his wife built their home on moshav Canaf and had their two children.Driving jeeps is an activity that my brother loved to do the most. As a family they travelled through the Golan on every possible occasion and established a strong connection with nature and reinforced their love to the land of Israel.
Stopping at Tel Azaziat and hearing about the Six Day war and the heroism of the soldiers who fought to capture the Golan heights reminded me of my Jewish connection to Israel. This then reminded me of the blood and tears that we have experienced as a nation and me in person as a sister.
My darling hero brother was killed in the second Lebanon war in 2006 during his voluntary service in the army reserves of Israel. Before entering Lebanon he said : “Someone needs to do this job and I have volunteered as I love my country and I feel proud to defend it.”
Although this could be portrayed as a tragic connection – it is one that encapsulates one of the special covenant that Jewish people have always had with this land – may it be a spiritual, religious or secular one.
I always say that my blessing is that I had such a brother who was a hero, a person who believed and actualised his values and was a person who had a spiritual connection to the amazing land of Israel.
May 2020 bring us a special connection to Israel on any level that will allow you to understand and educate others.
Gail Bachmann – Kesser Torah NSW
Dear Diary:Good early morning everyone.
6:30am start with a wonderful breakfast. Started off with a walking tour in Tsfat old city and learnt about the war and the success of reclaiming the area from the Arabs. Tsfat is a very holy city for the Jewish people. Heard about the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the teacher who hid from the Romans, but was caught. Shops were closed as it was still early. Walked past Rabbi Yosef Caro’s Shul. He wrote the Shulchan Aruch. Visited the David Friedman art gallery. David has visited Australia and everybody loved his work. Very spiritual (kabbalistic) .
Then onto 16th century structure where Jews were living in tunnels. Went to Hakahal – communal living. Interesting facts about how they collected the water from the cistern. Saw the mikvah showing it was a Jewish home. The graves of righteous people bring special spiritual growth. Stopped at Abulaf synagogue. 1837 earthquake destroyed everything except the wall with the Torah scrolls. Very symbolic roof of Shul being mostly blue and white, blue being a symbol of the sky and heaven.
Went to Spirit of Tzfat and discovered the meaning behind some religious clothing. Everyone put on different costumes and had lots of laughs.
Passed Kiriyat Shmonah . Arabs attacked and 8 people died, therefore the name Shmonah meaning 8. Very close to Lebanon.
On way to Golan Heights by jeep. Very bumpy ride. We saw the areas where Syrians attacked Israeli settlements from. Golani brigade attacked at 10 at night and succeeded to conquer the area. After Yom Kippur war Israel lost some of Golan but managed to recapture it. Its now a very quiet area. Stopped for Israeli style lunch en route to Hula Valley. Went in golf carts. We heard and saw some cranes . They tend to stay for the winter. They need to be chased away from the fields as they cause lots of damage. No specific feeding time for cranes this year as there are challenges for the farmers and nature conservationists. Went across the water with a barge and listened to a talk about some of the birds.
We then went to the auditorium to watch a movie called “In Constant Motion” about sustainability in the Hula Valley.
It was a wonderful day filled with diverse activities .
Thereafter headed back to Tsfat for dinner and Israeli music.
Jo Huxtable – Masada College NSW – Tsfat
Today we saw amazing Kabbalah art work by David Friedman.
He uses primary colours such as blue which represents cold, emotions and water.
Red which represents fire, spiritual growth, candles and flames.
Yellow which represents light and air. Air we breathe connects our body and soul.
David spoke of the meaning of Kabbalah being about acceptance. Our God within is an eternal presence and the
tree of life embodies our nature and grows from seeds. It feeds our physical body and contemplation allows us to make better choices.
We are all created in God’s image. The body is a temple and everyone has a different temple which they can worship as they choose. To take care of your physical body and develop your emotions and mind then accept your soul.
Profound symbols symbolise multi dimensional spiritual and physical elements together.
One soul we all share.
The nature of life and the spirit. The breath in and out connects us to the infinite. Life is more than what we know.
Robyn Grana – Masada College NSW – Jeep Tour and Golan Heights
We left the walking tour of Tsfat to begin the wonderful Jeep tour to the Golan Heights.
After the quickest pit stop at Maccas restrooms and nearly missing the Jeep we made it just in time. Just as well as it was a rocky road we traveled on.
We passed grapefruit, orange and avocado orchards, beehives and cattle pastur es.
The stone road was built by the Syrian soldiers as prior to that,it was all mud and after rain was impassable.
We learnt that the border of Syria and Israel was originally on the top of the Golan Heights. However, when Israel started to drain the Hula Valley for agriculture and populate it, the Syrians started firing rockets from strategic forts at the farmers below in the kibbutz.
It was hard for the Israelis to retaliate so during the 6 day war in 1967 the Israeli people asked if something could be done about the deteriorating situation in the North. On the 5th day of the 6 day war, the troops were given a green light to attack the Syrian forces on the Golan. The troops encircled the Syrian army using 5 groups who formed a pincer attack from behind enemy lines and advanced during the night while other Israeli troops shot missiles from the Hula valley below to distract them. By the the end of the 6 days, Israel had taken the Golan Heights and security for the farmers in the Hula valley was ensured. The Druze who lived in the area when the border changed were given white passports which gave them all the rights of Israeli citizens without actual citizenship. This is now a very safe area as the Lebanese and Syrian boarders are patrolled 24 hours a day by Israeli troops and apart from a few skirmishes it has been stable.
To finish off, we were given tea and biscuits to keep us going until the next onslaught of lunch.
Sharon Bresler – Masada College NSW – Hula Valley
For me, besides being the first people in the world to drain a swamp and rid the area of mosquitoes, the most interesting aspect of today’s trip to the Hula Valley, was the conflict that has arisen between the farmers on the one side and the cranes and the conservationists on the other.
One thing that was not really considered before draining the swamp, was the environmental impact – on animals, like the water buffalo and the billion birds that fly through Israel each year.
In order to ensure that the birds remained in the region as they were a beautiful attraction, they were fed 5 tons of grain a year. Who would migrate south to Ethiopa with that windfall on your doorstep? However the birds multiplied exponentially and became very plentiful. So now feeding a growing population of tens of thousands of birds each year became unsustainable. So the birds, primarily cranes, are now a huge problem to the farmers as they eat the growing wheat plants.
The farmers want to protect their crops and the conservationists want to protect the cranes. And the debate still ensues..,.
I look forward to seeing what solution they all come up with; I have no doubt they will .