Bus 2 - Exploring New Heights

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Halfway through our journey, we had the opportunity to visit an extremely different part of Israel in terms of geography and culture. We started off Day 6 at Capernaum, which was an ancient Jewish community in which Jesus taught. Related to the idea of religion, we also visited the Mount of Beatitudes, the location of the famous Sermon on the Mount.  Here, we were able to connect what Jesus taught about morality to the themes we saw in Jerusalem. The words of the sermon, which we read at the site, seemed to be a representation of some of the daily life we saw in Jerusalem. We saw coexistence and equality, which Jesus preached in the sermon, within the different quarters of the Old City. This was a great connection to make, despite the fact that traveling to the North brought with it different landscapes and neighborly relationships.

By far, our favorite part of the eventful day was the jeep tour through the Golan Heights. This is an area that Israel claimed from Syria in the 1967 War. Through the tour, we were able to taste a little bit of adventure, environmentalism, politics and geography. Traveling and learning from the jeep driver, who has been working for almost a decade and had seen the Golan Heights during periods of peace and conflict, gave us an insightful narrative. He taught us about how the Golan Heights area was transformed from a swamp to arable land after Israeli citizens began inhabiting the area. We also learned about the variety of crops grown and harvested there, which exposed us to the progress that Israel has been able to make in the controversial area. In the jeep, we drove parallel to the Jordan river. To our surprise, the river was polluted along its banks. This was a strange juxtaposition to the water and energy conservation methods that we learned about and saw in the first few days of the trip. This goes to prove that although Israel has been able to implement progressive techniques of agriculture, it is evident that the country is still working to develop sustainable methods.

We also got the chance to tour the Golan Heights Winery. This winery, which has only been around for 30 years, has still managed to become extremely successful. The tour guide told us that the winery exports 20% of its annual 5 million bottles of wine. We enjoyed tasting different local wines with new friends and staff, and we also enjoyed buying bottles that we liked. Experiencing the winery presented us with a different aspect of development of Israel that is unrelated to the military situation or religion, so it was a great break. It was impressive to see how even though the Golan Heights Winery is relatively new, it has been able to export its products internationally. All of the activities that we experienced today allowed us to experience the less well known facets of Israel. Capernaum represented the Christian experience in Israel, while the jeep tour and winery showed us the agricultural portion of the everyday life of the northern Israeli landscape. We look forward to traveling to Haifa and Tel Aviv over the next few days to see a physical and culture change compared to both Jerusalem and northern Israel.

Eesha Bhave is currently a sophomore at American University. She is studying political science, with a concentration in comparative politics, as well as international studies. She is also pursuing the undergraduate advanced leadership studies certificate. Currently, Eesha is the development/communications intern at the Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law. In this position, she mainly writes blog entries, press releases, and any ad hoc work that is required. On campus, she is involved with the Student Honors Board, which is an organization that collaborates with the university's honor program to build a stronger honors community. This summer she enjoyed working with the incoming freshman class as an orientation leader at American University. In her spare time, Eesha loves exploring DC's wide range of cuisine, and reading whatever she can get her hands on. Eesha also loves dance, although she is still looking for an outlet for that kind of creative energy!

Nicky Johnson is a student at the University of Miami majoring in marine science and biology. Originally she is from New Jersey, but came down to Florida to be able to study marine science, and get to actually work in the field year round. With her degree, she hopes to go to veterinary school to become a veterinarian for the rehabilitation of marine animals. In this field, she is very interested in the rescue, rehab, and later release of wild animals, and hopes to someday be able to care for these magnificent animals. While at school, she enjoys SCUBA diving, taking part in beach clean-ups, and just enjoying the incredible marine environment that South Florida has to offer. At school Nicky also takes part in SpectrUM (an LGBTQ organization), MMRT (Marine Mammal Rescue Team), and EMET (an Israel advocacy group).

Follow the trip on Twitter using #IsraelUncovered; on Facebook; on our blog, where students and staff members will be writing posts during and after the trip.