Journal Entry # 54 - Road Entry#44 (Cairo to Luxor, Egypt - 8:35am (Local) - January 25, 2011)

Walking the road and covering Kilometers... Train warrior

It is now Wednesday, January 12, 2011 in Israel – Day 3. I wake up after 8 hours of good sleep, but I have a tickle in my throat. I drink some hot tea in the room and then some more at breakfast to prevent a full-blown soar throat. I have a modest breakfast salad and keep quiet as to not strain my throat. I was very somber all day, thinking how getting sick would ruin my experience with the group and individually. I did not run this morning.

The group first got in the bus for a drive north to the Green Hulan Agolan park reserve – north of Lake Kinneret. We were scheduled to have a guided tour by a local park ranger about the swampy park reserve. On the drive to this park reserve, we drove through the city of Tiberas – the spiritual city of water for the Jews. Tiberas is a quaint city on the west side of the lake with dynamic panorama views of the lake and the Golan Heights. Even though we spent no time in Tiberas, I enjoy its atmosphere and geographic positioning as a city. At the time, I said to myself that Tiberas would be the city I’d live in if I moved to Israel.

The group took a quick bathroom break at the entry of the nature reserve before driving through the park by bus. Our park ranger guide got on the bus with us and spoke about the park through the microphone. We learned about the hupo bird – the national bird of Israel – which was voted upon by the people of Israel recently. The hupo bird is an exotic looking bird that is rarely seen in Israel; and significantly less populated that day in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of cranes in the park.

We learned from our park guide that January is crane season for the park and there are over 100,000 cranes that migrate through Israel this time of year. During this lesson, our park ranger guide took us out of the bus and across the gully-ferry to a bird-amphitheater where we learned more about the bird migration of Israel. It was a windy day, and the group stimulated each other with body heat by sitting closer to one another than ever before (maybe a subconscious ice-breaking moment).

Here we learned that there are over 500 million birds migrating across Israel every year. Every winter and summer, the park employees are furiously at work to capture, tag, and record the data of many different species of birds. The Hula Agolan park captured and tagged more than 17,000 birds last year (talk about collecting primary data!).

During our return trip across the gully, Sam and I pulled the wooden platoon in a hand-over-fist motion. Then we got back on the bus and drove to the Pelican lookout point to the north of the point. This was our last stop in the park – where we got to take some more pictures and look through microscopes at the birds (specifically cranes). The park tour ended and I came away impressed with the information and data from the area. I learned a lot, including the fact that only Israel is rivaled by Panama in terms of bird migration patterns.

The next part of our day continued with a drive west and dramatic increase in elevation to the city of Tsfat. Tsfat is a mystical city in the northern mountains of Israel. Spiritually, it is signified as the city of wind and is also the place where Kabbalah was started. The bus driver navigated some seriously tight turns and ledges on the journey up the mountain. We got to Tsfat in time for some free time with a lunch before learning about the city from Ran.

During our free time, I ate a pita stuffed with shakshuka and then bought some bread from the bakery with Jessie and Stacey. Jessie lives in the Tahoe area and Stacey lives in the Mammoth area. We then walked back up the main road to our meeting point, stopping at a café along the way and enjoying the sight-lines. Stacey was deeply inspired and moved with the city of Tsfat – like she had live there in a previous life. Personally, it felt like she was having a totally positive psychedelic experience there.

The tour began with Ran explaining a lot of the city and the history. Then we walked down to the smallest alley-way in all of Tsfat. This place is where the messiah is supposed to come through on the climb to the top of the city. We walked down this staircase and then around to the Ashkenazi synagogue. We went through this synagogue and then had some free time for a small shopping experience in the old city. I used the bathroom at this time and paid the 2 shekel fee to the restroom attendant. The interesting thing about this man was that he was a immigrant from Russia and Marat and Igor spoke to him in Russian.

I found this positively interesting and spoke with Marat later to learn that the man had lived in Israel for 20+ years and never learned English. He is partly blind and has worked in the restroom for years on end. He wished Marat the best of luck with his ambitions. There is more I am forgetting – but nonetheless and interesting experience.

We then walked around more with Ran guiding the way before he let us go through the artist’s quarter of this old city. During the free time, Ran led a small group on the optional tour of the Sephardic synagogue as well. I went on this adventure and immediately saw the internal differences of each synagogue. Here are 2 different pictures of the A). Ashkenazi & B). Sephardic synagogues

PICTURES of TEMPLES* (Coming later...)

Then I walked on my own, snapping more pictures, through the Tsfat tourist path with it’s vendors and artisans selling anything and everything religious/spiritual. I remember that my state-of-mind was almost in solitary confinement throughout Tsfat. Individually, I was admiring the city and resting my voice at the same time. I was reflecting in thinking about my religious side in comparison to my emotional, professional, nutritional, and societal complexes. In Tsfat, I was thoroughly impressed with their dedication to the religion as a sacred honor.

From Tsfat, we drove to Lake Kinneret Cemetery to learn about part of the Zionist movement in the early 1900’s. We learned that groups of young people were being disowned by their families in Europe (and other places) to come to Palestine and start living in a “Jewish” way. These early pioneers of the land made a lot of mistakes along the way but showing dedication and a resilience in the belief in a ‘Jewish’ state of Israel. There was a beautiful sunset that evening and many people took amazing photos of the sun setting behind the palm trees of the area.

The cemetery was stunning and we only spent 20-35 minutes there. Ran gave a quick overview of 3 tombs that were significant there and then we got back on the bus to the kibbutz. At the kibbutz, I swam in the heated pool for some limited exercise that day. Then I took a hot shower and somewhat packed my bags before dinner and bed. Right before bed I typed some cliff notes about the day’s activities.