Monday, July 9, 2012

7/6/12: Sweet Escape: My Trip To The North (Day 1)

View from Mt. Carmel 

Last Friday I was able to partake in one last trip with my Master's program in Middle Eastern Studies before my official academic break from the program in order to focus on my Hebrew language and Israeli degree. The plan was to journey to the North of Israel for 3 days, see various cities, and learn more about a fascinating ethnic minority here in Israel; the Druze. On Friday morning I met my classmates at the university at 8:15 in the morning (I wasn't so happy about giving up my one day of sleeping in but I survived!) and by 8:30 we were off to the North.

The first stop on our agenda was a gorgeous Druze town on Mount Carmel called Peki'in. Seeing as we had not had breakfast, we were all very happy to hear that after a brief tour of the town, including a chance to take pictures of the gorgeous scenery, we were heading to a Druze home to have an authentic breakfast.

Morgan and me at our first stop 

On our way into the old Druze village 

View from Mt. Carmel 

So happy to be up north! 
Before food, however, we walked around the town a bit more while our Druze tour guide began to explain a bit about the Druze culture and religion. I am certainly glad we had this introductory briefing on the Druze because everything I thought I knew about them aside from the fact that they spoke Arabic was, in fact, not entirely correct. For one thing, the Druze are not Muslims like I originally thought, but they practice a sort of Mystical religion centered on 5 prophets, who include Abraham, Elijah, and Jethro. In fact, each color of their flag represents a prophet (among other things). 

The Druze Flag

Religious Druze women after prayer 
Finally it was time to eat! When we arrived at the Druze compound we were ushered into a large living room filled with comfortable couches and chairs. The walls were decorated with the Druze flag and pictures of various religious leaders, and we had time to unwind from the walking tour before eating. On the menu for the morning was traditional Druze bread flavored with various delicious spices, sage and rosemary tea, and cookies filled with delicious dates. It was a fantastic first meal of the day and was so incredibly tasty! The Druze are known for their fantastic food and Friday was a day filled with lots of good eating :-) 

Inside the Druze living room 

Druze decor 


When we all ate our fill it was time to say goodbye to the lovely town. As we were walking out we were able to see the matriarch of the compound preparing what seemed like pounds and pounds of the delicious bread we had just eaten, and it was very hard not to go over and take some parting gifts! 

So delicious 
After everyone was gathered we were off to a neighboring area of Peki'in, a place that housed one of the oldest, if not the oldest, synagogue in Israel. Though the synagogue is no longer in use we were able to get a tour before going to possibly one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. It was, of course, Druze. 

Local girl cooling off in the well 

The edge of the town that housed the synagogue 

Druze, Israeli, and American flag 

One of the oldest synagogues in Israel 

Inside of the Synagogue 

When we left the synagogue it was off to go and eat lunch. Though we really just ate breakfast not long before, no one had any objections to experiencing some more delicious Druze food. When we entered the restaurant it was as if we were going into a highly decorated cave. The walls were stone, there was plant life and Druze decor all around, and the ambiance was dark and relaxing. The amount of food we were given was almost unbelievable. Every kind of salad, pastries filled with meat, humus, cabbage, even tongue!! I am not so adventurous when it comes to food but I told myself I would try everything that didn't have tomatoes in it so I kept to my word and tried the tongue... not my favorite, but not horrible. 

Entrance to the restaurant! And they kept bringing more and more out! 


Some of the best food Israel has to offer 

Me next to some great decorations 

When our very long, relaxing lunch was over, and everyone was in such a food coma it was almost unreal, it was time for us to head back to the bus, drive to the kibbutz that would house us for the next three days, check, in watch a movie, and relax for the evening. 

When we arrived at the Kibbutz we all settled into our rooms (I was rooming with my old roommate Banchi) and then met in one of the larger rooms for a movie before dinner. We watch the Israeli film, Lebanon, which was about a group of soldiers who manned a tank during the Lebanese war. It was probably one of the more heavy movies I have seen in my time, but it gave a good look into the lives of soldiers during a war. When we were done with the movie we all grabbed dinner (Kibbutz food still isn't quite my favorite), and then went up to bed. It was a long day and we had a 4 hour hike to look forward to first thing in the morning. It was a perfect first day up North, our room at the Kibbutz was adorable and very comfortable, and I still had 2 more days jam packed with things to do! 

Our little kitchenette 

Banchi relaxing on one of the hammocks outside our room 

Our living room 

A great way to relax before dinner! 

Stay tuned for accounts of days 2 and 3!! 

Until we meet again,
Jordana Simone

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