This week we had our first Bina tiyul (Hebrew for trip). All of Bina’s ITFs went along with the participants on Bina’s Tikkun Olam program for a trip to the Galeel mountains and to Haifa. We started bright and early Wednesday morning with a bus ride to Nachal Kziv, a trail near the very north of Israel. The hike had breathtaking views of the rest of the mountains and we hiked through one of the streams as well. There was a lot of climbing up and down the hills on the side of the mountain until we came to this small pond with a clearing to stop for lunch. A lot of people took the opportunity to change into bathing suits and take a dip in the freezing cold pond. After most people were done eating, our tour guide told us about this small man made tunnel that was dug through the mountain and took anyone that wanted to go inside the tunnel to see it. There were about 20 off us that went along, and the tunnel was so small that we could only go inside in groups of 5. I went with the first group, but only went about 5 steps in until I felt too claustrophobic and decided to turn around and come back out. Others that went all the way said it got so small by the end that they crawled with a majority of their bodies in the water until they reached a small pool at the end, where they turned around and came back out. Being in the first group, a few of us then decided to head back to the lunch spot on our own. Of course, with no guide to lead us, we got lost, somewhere off the trail! We finally heard voices and continued through the brush and thorns until we somehow emerged on the opposite side of the pond that everyone was on. The group was then able to just follow the pond around to meet back up with everyone.
After lunch we continued the hill until we came to the bottom part of an old castle. Our guide started to tell us some of the history of the castle before we made the trek up an extremely steep hill for a little over a kilometer to the main part of the castle. Unfortunately, about halfway up the hill, my lupus took over, and my left hip completely locked. I ended up stopping to lean against the side of the rock because my left leg was no longer moving, until the medic and one of the madrichim (program leaders) came to see what was going on. The madrich helped me hobble up the rest of the of the hill. He also called the tour guide to let him know what was happening. The tour guide met us at the top of the hill to tell us that there was still a significant enough walk from the castle back to the bus, but there were two guys who had their jeep close and were willing to drive the madrich and myself back to our bus meeting spot. I am forever thankful for these guys, but I can honestly say that was the most painful car ride I have ever taken. Back at the bus stop, I sat on a picnic table and was able to stretch out my hip until it finally popped, relieving most of the pain. That night, I was definitely thankful I had packed some pain mess.
The next day we drove to Haifa to tour the city. Haifa is a beautiful city built into the side of Mount Carmel. We started our day near the top of the mountain at the Baha’i Gardens. We had time to explore on our own photos. Then we got back on to the bus to drive to the bottom of the mountain, where “Downtown” Haifa is located. We met another guide who told us a little about the history of Haifa and how the lower part of Haifa has recently had a lot of crime as many of the buildings have been abandoned as people move up the mountain. He also talked to us about a lot of young adults who are starting to move back into the lower parts of Haifa to rebuild the area, which reminded me a lot of what is going on currently back home in Detroit.We ended our Bina Tiyul with a walking tour to Haifa’s shuk where we had time to walk around and shop. As everyone then proceeded to get back on the bus to return to their respective homes, I caught my own bus up to the top of Mount Carmel to visit family who live in Haifa.
Upon arriving to see my family, we sat down to lunch and to catch up about life. Shlomo and Mira are both in their mid-80s and are related through my mom’s side. I googled our familial relationship, and Shlomo is apparently my 2nd cousin twice removed (aka, Shlomo’s mom and my great grandma were first cousins). That evening Shlomo’s and Mira took me back out to the Baha’i Gardens to see the overlook of Haifa and the Haifa Bay lit up at night. It was truly an incredible view! The next day, they asked if I would rather go to the Haifa beach or to see Haifa University, and I chose to go to the University, since I had already seen the beach in a prior visit. Haifa University is a 30 story building that is built on the highest point of the Carmel mountain. At the University we went to the Hecht Museum of Archeology. The museum was like stepping back in time to see all of the artifacts that have been found in or around Israel. After, Shlomo wanted me to be able to see Haifa from the top of the University tower, so we took an elevator to the 29th floor. As we got off the elevator, there were signs saying the area was prohibited due to the 30th floor being under construction. Shlomo, being freaking awesome, saw one of the workers and started talking with him in Hebrew. Then, Shilomo told me he had gotten permission to go up to the 30th floor to look at the views! It was hilarious to be allowed into a construction zone where they were still laying floor tiles. The view from the top of this tower was absolutely stunning. Shlomo was even able to point out Migdal Haemek, which is about 30 km (almost 20 miles) away! After spending the few days with my amply, Shlomo and Mira then generously offered to drive me back to Migdal HaEmek so I would be on time for my Shabbat plans later that night. This tiyul was absolutely event-filled, and a phenomenal trip!