A Whole New World

In America, some of the oldest historical sites we have date back a few hundred years. In Israel, the history you can see stretches back thousands of years.

One of the most exciting, exhausting and emotional days of the trip started with a sunrise hike to the top of Masada.

Despite staying up partying the night before (drinking Arak and Tubi 60, two fairly awful Israeli liquors), we got up at 4 a.m. and took off for the ancient mountain fortress of Masada.

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Israel Outdoors

The Birthright program, also known as Taglit (Hebrew for “discovery”), has a variety of trip providers. Each organization has a different way to expose young Jewish people to the world of Israel: some are very religious, some party hard, some focus on the food.

I chose to travel with Israel Outdoors, which takes us hiking, biking, swimming, camel riding and rafting through Israel.

On our first full day in the home land, we jumped into things with a hike in the Golan Heights, which is in the northern part of Israel.

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Gorgeous waterfalls and lush foliage lined the way, and the group bonding continued as we trekked through the humid day.

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After our hike, we drove up to Mount Bental and perched on a hillside with some UN soldiers and a view straight into Syria.

Less than two miles away, mortars exploded below us and we could hear the pop-pop-pop of machine gun fire. It was unreal to watch plumes of white smoke curl into the sky, knowing a civil war was raging so close (don’t worry Mom, we were totally safe).

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