The paced eased a little yesterday as we stayed up north in the Galilee and took in another rich and diverse set of experiences. We began up on the Golan Heights at one of the northernmost points of Israel, looking down directly on Syria. Damascus was a mere 30 miles from where we stood. UN peace keeping observers are stationed up there to keep an international eye on the border. From this viewpoint, our guide Noam shared the amazing story of Israeli spy, Eli Cohen, who went deep undercover in Syria from 1963-5 and provided Israel with invaluable intelligence until he was caught, tried and hanged in Syria. While up there the 11am morning siren rang out for Yom HaZikaron. From this position the experience was quite different to the night before. We could hear the sirens from other areas behind us but nothing in front of us as, looking at Syria, we had a viceral and stark reminder of what Israeli soldiers have fought and died for.
From there, we spent the afternoon visiting two moshavim. A Moshav is a small community that shares some characteristics with a kibbutz but from the outside was based on individual ownership of homes and separate incomes and livelihoods. This is what differentiates it from a kibbutz. At the first moshav, we visited a leather-making factory, where leather is shaped into bracelets, belts, bags and more. We all had a go at creating a plaited leather bracelet that we got to keep. Another delicious lunch was served, courtesy of Nir and his catering crew. From there we went on to a religious moshav that runs a dairy farm. We learned about their history, got to bring water for the newly born calves to drink (much cuteness ensued), and watched an incredible robotic machine milk cows. This machine feeds, bathes, and monitors the cows while milking them in a way that is comfortablel and precise. The extremely bright cows line up to enter the milking machine when they want to be milked - approx. 4 or 5 times a day. They have learned that they will be fed and cooled in the hot months. The young cows soon learn to follow once they see all the other cows going in and coming out.
On our way back to the wonderful accommodations at Vered HaGalil, we stopped for one more special act - we planted an olive tree in memory of Sandra Haley's mother who died earlier this year. It was a touching act that moved us all, and was indicative of the love and compassion that our tour guides have shown to us as they learn about us during this trip.
We had some rest time before dinner that some used to walk on the wonderful site we were staying at, with views over the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and some used to get a massage! The night ended with a delicious celebratory meal for Yom Ha'atzmaut at the steak house on site at our hotel.