Last week NFTY EIE experienced Passover and hiked from the Kinneret to the Mediterranean Sea on a program called Sea to Sea (Yam l’Yam). It was the most fun, dirty, amazing, adventurous experience we have done our whole 2.5 months here in Israel. I don’t know a single member of us 73 EIE kids who didn’t absolutely love it. Many left having made some huge epiphany about their life; if not that then at least most people decided they were more independent and liked nature more than they thought.
On the first day we did a creek hike down a creek that led to the Kinneret. We were all falling and splashing around, and proceeded to get into a circle with our guide, Pio. Pio had us all spit into a bottle with water of the Kinneret in it to bless our journey. We carried that disgusting bottle the whole way to the Mediterranean. After that we were driven to a campsite and got settled in our first tents. As per usual I wore 30 layers to avoid getting cold. They fed us food that was far better than I expected it would be! We had a staff that cooked dinner for us. Breakfast and lunch we made ourselves.
The second day was completely uphill. We started off that morning on the most beautiful hike, it looked similar to a jungle I think. We stopped about a half hour in for breakfast. Since the hike was over Passover, we ate a lot of Matzah. In addition to that there was chocolate, hardboiled eggs, apples, etc. I brought along my own fruit and nuts as well. We then proceeded to walk uphill for what seemed like forever. It was a lot more fun than it sounds though. We talked and climbed our way up to the most beautiful views. Lunch was always a highlight of the day. My friend and I would scout out a good place for our group to sit (we always found a nice shady spot with a good view). Our group would make rice, saute meat with veggies, cook tuna, and have tea and cookies all made with just a few pots and a portable stove. We were very proud of ourselves when every lunch was shockingly better than the last. After lunch we continued on our hike. In total we were up and about for around 11 hours of cooking and hiking (6am-5pm) until we finally arrived to our next site. That night Pio took us out on a trail and left us all on our own to sit by ourselves and think. It was a really interesting exercise in self reflection.
Day three was the beginning of our downhill climb. By downhill I really mean less uphill than before, sometimes flat, and also downhill. For lunch we stopped at this spring. We all took a ‘shower’ in the cold water, and washed the bowls we ate with. While we were there this herd of goats started to run past us. Maybe 200 goats just piled into the clearing we were in, then turned around and left. It was the funniest experience, they were so cool. It has inspired the phrase “Oh my goat” in our group. In this time we also learned how to make a filter for water out of a water bottle and some rocks, and had a competition to see who could make the best filter. After this we hiked in our subgroups (cooking groups) for another hour, then got on a bus for 10 minutes to our next site. That night my friends and I fell asleep directly after dinner, and accidentally skipped group time.
Our fourth day had some of the most memorable experiences. In the morning we ahd a competition to see which group could make the best shelter to sleep in at night. My group won, not to brag (mostly because I was not very helpful) but it was a very nice hut that we built. After that we hiked down by a creek to a spring. It was so beautiful; the water was incredibly clear. The funny thing throughout the trip was that there were always Israelis around. Families and couples were doing a similar trip to what we were doing with their passover week! The spring was pretty crowded, but my group found a nice spot to make our food. We had a master chef competition, and won it with our sauteed veggies and rice. We also smashed our crumpled up cookies into a pan with the chocolate spread to make a ‘cake’. It was pretty impressive. We spent a few hours swimming in the spring and eating, and then continued on with our sub groups to the campsite. The last 30 minutes of the hike was the steepest uphill, and everyone was screaming and complaining. However, when we got to the top it was all worth it. We saw the most beautiful view of an entire valley we had hiked in just that day. This view was where our camp was set up. The campsite we were at had a store with ice cream, so everyone was pretty excited. This was our last night so we all went out with Pio at night and went around in the circle sharing stories about our experiences and looking at the stars. It was amazing, we all realized what a valuable experience this had been.
The last day of Yam l’Yam was 10 miles of biking. It was all downhill, and wasn’t very interesting except for a few injuries. When we finally arrived to the other coast we all started to cheer (one of my friends even cried of joy and pride). It was the most rewarding feeling, and we all received ‘certificates’ which was quite funny. Then we went to the beach, where my friends and I ran around and screamed and danced for at least an hour. I absolutely love the beach and the water, and had the time of my life. After that we went back to a hostel outside of Haifa.
We spent the next two days having services, eating, relaxing, and exploring. They took us to these caves right by the water, and essentially everyone got soaked. The caves were absolutely beautiful though, and we got the most amazing view of the sea. Another memorable moment throughout the weekend was an Arab restaurant my friends and I found during free time. I had the best rice dish and hummus there (Arab hummus is the best hummus). Most of my favorite EIE memories involve either water or food. On our way back to the Kibbutz on our last night, we stopped by this Moroccan party to celebrate the end of Passover. It was a very strange concert, they said there would be food there and there simply wasn’t which was crushing. We danced a lot, though, and right when we were leaving a song we all love came on so we all simultaneously turned around and sprinted back on the dance floor for one last dance. After that we finally went back home.
Prior to all of this we stayed a weekend with a family for Passover. It was very interesting to see how Israelis celebrate. My friend and I stayed with a very secular family, so they rushed through the services and then fed us a five-course meal. It was amazing. Then the next day we had a brunch and did the same eating process all over again! My friend’s family took us to the market and beach in Tel Aviv, it was great to see more of the city. I wish we spent more time in Tel Aviv, because it’s probably my favorite place in Israel. It’s so modern and fun, and there are so many cool places to eat.