Israel Day 3: Syria, Land Mines, and Wine, Oh My!

There are no (as Bernie Sanders would call them) “millionaires and billionaires” where we started our third day in Israel — at the Kibbitz Kfar Blum.

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Kibbutz means “group” in Hebrew. It is a voluntary, democratic (socialist-like) community where people live and work together on a non-competitive basis. (They all make the same wages. Have the same houses. Share the same resources.)

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The goal is to generate an economically and socially independent society founded on principles of communal ownership of property, social justice, and equality. Most are secular.

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The first kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz) were organized by idealistic young Zionists who came to Palestine in the beginning of the 20th Century. Today about 2% of the population of Israel live on a kibbutz. This one was founded in 1943 and its original bomb shelters still stand. (Numbered so members of the group can find their assigned shelter easily.)

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From there we traveled to the ancient biblical city of Dan. Before its conquest by the Tribe of Dan, the site was known as Laysha, which appears multiple times in biblical stories featured in the books of Judges, Joshua, and Isaiah.

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We hiked a beautiful trail in The Dan Nature Preserve, which was created in the 1970s.

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A wading pool in the Dan River was the perfect refreshing break.


The water feeds the Jordan River. It’s one of only three tributaries.


Next we took an amazing jeep ride. But not just any jeep ride.


This one took us along the Syrian border. Every inch of land off the trail is full of hidden land mines.


The jeeps ended in the Golan Heights where one of drivers, who has lived there his entire life, gave us a personal and eye-opening view of the struggle in the area.


The Golan is the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967.


From our vantage point, you could easily see what a narrow strip of Israel the Golan is and why it’s so important to protect it.

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Two quotes I made a point to write down from our guide were:

“Our enemies are right next to us. You’re lucky in America. You have huge oceans separating you from your enemies.”

“I’m not afraid of dying anymore. I’m afraid of landing in enemy hands.”

In some spots, such as the one below, just 40 miles from Damascus (Syria’s capital), you can hear bombs and gunfire from the unrest across the border.

After a lot of heavy discussion, it was time for a drink. We were treated to a fun tour of one of Israel’s wineries, Odem Mountain Winery.


It’s owned by a family who lives in the heart of the Golan Heights.


Wine, of course, has been made in the land of Israel since biblical times. The Golan Heights is particularly desirable due to its high elevation, cool breezes, day and night temperature changes, and rich, well-drained soil.

Our group enjoyed every drop.

That was enough to make for a very sleepy bus ride back to the kibbutz — but only for a moment because dinner outdoors awaited all 500 Cincinnatians on the trip.


However, looking at the beautiful, calm, relaxing scenery I couldn’t help but think about the geopolitical struggles we had seen so clearly earlier that day.

I was beginning to understand it better than ever before and wishing for peace more than ever before.


Read Day 1 | Read Day 2 | Read Day 3 | Read Day 4 | Read Day 5
Read Day 6 | Read Day 7 | Read Day 8 | Read Day 9 | Read Day 10

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