Centennial Mission to Israel 2023 > Centennial Mission 2023 Bus Travel Day

Centennial Mission 2023 Bus Travel Day

Tuesday, July 4

Geographical range: North from Tel Aviv

  • The document contains 12 different bus tracks organized by theme.
  • In preparation for your meeting with Ora Merin from Giant Leaps, please review each track carefully keeping in mind the composition of your entire bus. Please come prepared with the tracks that you believe will interest your bus.
  • While these are designed thematically with an eye towards a day of diverse experiences, should logistics and timing allow, you may be able to move particular components from one track to another.
  • Please note that all tracks are subject to change due to availability and accessibility at the time of the mission.
  • By the conclusion of your meeting with Ora, each bus will create a track with a series of first and second choices. You will be notified shortly thereafter of your selections.
  • Buses will join together in the evening for a special July 4th celebration.

The Golan Heights Classic Tour

9:30 a.m.
Hike in the splendid landscape of Gamla Nature Reserve, which boasts a phenomenal concentration of birds of prey in a relatively small area, and the earliest known synagogue in the world. Visit the ruins of the City of Gamla where of the most fierce and heroic battles took place during the Jewish revolt against the Romans in the first century CE. The 9,000 Jews of ancient Gamla chose to die rather than succumb to Roman siege. Gazing down the steep precipices surrounding this hilltop stronghold you’ll understand why it took the Romans seven months to conquer what is now known as the “Masada of the Golan.” It is a very easy hike along a cliff.

11 a.m.
All about Olive Oil. In 1997, the Talmon family moved from the suburbs of Tel Aviv to the wild, beautiful nature of the Sea of Galilee region, choosing to live in a truly sustainable way. They began planting olive trees, knowing that olive trees have grown successfully in the region for millennia. Later they began pressing their own olive oil and built an olive oil mill dedicated exclusively to the family farm’s crop. The farm and the mill are committed to sustainable, environmentally conscientious olive cultivation, resulting in unparalleled high quality. 

12:30 p.m.
Lunch and wine tasting at Pelter Boutique Winery

2 p.m.
ATV ride from Mt. Bental along the Syrian border. The summit of this extinct volcano is also a dormant army strongpoint, where sodden sandbags still surround guard posts. Mt. Bental is a key strategic point for Israel due to its advantageous observation point. In a region where much is inaccessible to tourists due to restrictions on non-military traffic and poor roads, Mt. Bental offers a rare and rewarding sight. Security briefing by geopolitics expert Brig (res.) Nitzan Nuriel overlooking Syria.

IDF Base visit experience (TBA)

Golan Heights – An In-Depth Look

10 a.m.
Emek Ha’bakha (The Valley of Tears) is the site of a major battle in the Yom Kippur War, fought from October 6-9, 1973. Although massively outnumbered, the Israeli forces managed to hold their positions until the fourth day of the battle when the Syrians withdrew, just as the Israeli defenses were almost at the point of collapse.

11 a.m.
Ascend to the summit of Mt. Hermon by cable car for an overview and exclusive visit to the IDF outpost of Israel’s highest peak. From the highest point in Israel, 2,223 meters above the ground, the skyscrapers of Damascus are clearly visible – deceivingly conveying peacefulness. The Israeli summit makes up only 7 percent of the mythical mountain ridge outside the IDF outpost is – more or less – the border with Syria. Here, you can get a firsthand glimpse of one of Israel’s most complex borders which rubs elbows with several enemy forces in the region.

2 p.m.
Lunch at Neve Ativ – the Israeli ski resort

4 p.m.
Tour Alawite-Arab the divided village of Ghajar, recently open to the public. Learn about the village’s unique situation with a border running directly through it, splitting it into two. The southern part is under Israeli control – even though according to the UN, the land was Syrian territory – and the northern part is located in Lebanon. Despite originally being Syrian, most of Ghajar’s 2,500 inhabitants hold dual Israeli and Lebanese citizenship. With no effective border on its northern end, Ghajar became infamous in recent years as a hub of arms and drug smuggling from Lebanon and hence Israel closed it to any non-residents. But that changed in late July, when the local council erected a fence, completely blocking access from Lebanon into the village.

Israel’s Northern Borders

10 a.m.

Explore Safed

Tour the spiritual city of Safed, pronounced Tzfat in Hebrew. Safed sits at a higher altitude than any other city in Israel and has been known since the 16th century as a major center of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Safed’s mystical aura adds to its special status as one of Israel’s four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron. The old synagogues, narrow alleyways and artists’ studios add to the hilltop city’s unmistakable charm.

12 p.m.
The Peak Trail (or Shvil Hapisgah, in Hebrew) of Mt. Meron. At a height of 1,208 meters, this was the highest mountain in Israel prior to the Six Day War. In fact, Mt. Meron is a group of mountains and not one peak. Its sides, lined with natural forest and plant growth, are green all year round. From the summit, look southeast to Tzfat, east to Mt. Hermon, and north to the mountains of Lebanon. All around are the small villages and settlements of the Upper Galilee. It is a nice and easy walk around the summit, duration one hour.

1:30 p.m.
Hafla (feast) lunch at Nebi Sablan

Visit the Druze village of Hurfeish, a unique GMW partner community. The Druze community in Israel has a special standing among the country’s minority groups, and members of the community have attained high-level positions in the political, public, and military spheres. The Druze are officially recognized as a separate religious entity with its own courts and spiritual leadership. Their culture is Arab and their language Arabic but they opted against mainstream Arab nationalism in 1948 and have since served (first as volunteers, later within the draft system) in the Israel Defense Forces and the Border Police. GMW is the only U.S. Federation with a partner relationship that connects a Diaspora Jewish community to an Israeli Arab  Village. (Site visit TBA)

4 p.m.
Drive along the Lebanese border, meet Brig. Gen. (Res.) Ilan Lavy. The soldiers of the Northern command face life-threatening situations as they patrol the border and defend Israel against attacks from South Lebanon. Discuss the Israel-Southern Lebanon relationship, the two Lebanon wars, Hezbollah, ISIS, and other current threats in the North and beyond. The tour will include a visit to an IDF post/base (TBA).

The People of the Northern Region

9:30 a.m.
Tour the picturesque Rosh Pina the first settlement in the Galilee. The town is one of the oldest Zionist settlements in Israel, established in 1882 on deserted rocky land. Today Rosh Pina is home to the perfect mix of natural, cultural, historic, and entertainment hotspots. Aged olive trees and quaint homes are surrounded by lush golden fields in this beautifully restored village.

11 a.m.
Visit the Druze village of Hurfeish, a unique GMW partner community. The Druze community in Israel has a special standing among the country’s minority groups, and members of the community have attained high-level positions in the political, public, and military spheres. The Druze are officially recognized as a separate religious entity with its own courts and spiritual leadership. Their culture is Arab and their language Arabic but they opted against mainstream Arab nationalism in 1948 and have since served (first as volunteers, later within the draft system) in the Israel Defense Forces and the Border Police. GMW is the only U.S. Federation with a partner relationship that connects a Diaspora Jewish community to an Israeli Arab  Village. (Site visit TBA)

12:30 p.m.
Hafla (feast) lunch at Nebi Sablan  

Tour Nebi Sablan – the tomb of the important prophet Sablan, one of the five main prophets of the Druze faith. The large shrine is built around a cave where the prophet is said to have hidden from persecution.

3 p.m.
Drive along the Lebanese border, meet Brig. Gen. (Res.) Ilan Lavy. The soldiers of the Northern command face life-threatening situations as they patrol the border and defend Israel against attacks from South Lebanon. Discuss the Israel-Southern Lebanon relationship, the two Lebanon wars, Hezbollah, ISIS, and other current threats in the North and beyond. The tour will include a visit to an IDF post/base (TBA).

5 p.m.
Visit Kafr Kama for a taste of the Circassian culture. The Circassians, who are Sunni Muslims, arrived in the Middle East after they were expelled from their homeland in the northern Caucasus. Established in 1876, Kafr Kama is one of the only two Circassian villages in Israel. The village center has charming Ottoman Period basalt houses and a unique mosque.

Nature at Its Best

10 a.m.
Refreshing and beautiful walk of the Majrase. See the unique meeting point of several major Golan rivers that form a delta as they reach the Kinneret. The impressive meeting between the nearby steep slopes and the flow of water has turned this site into a natural treasure that preserves a variety of animal habitats and numerous species. (Difficulty: easy)

12 p.m.
Visit the Herb and Spice shop at Kibbutz Hulata. The shop is one of the new branches of the acclaimed farm in Beth Lechem Haglilit, where the Zithershpieler family grows and manufactures medicinal plants and quality herbs. From plant propagation to harvest, tradition and originality lay in the heart of the fresh caliber yield produced every year.  The concept of an open market space invites visitors to take part in a powerful and exciting experience and enjoy a large selection of quality herbs, in the largest fresh spices and herbs store in Israel. (The hike is in water.)

1:30 p.m.
Picnic lunch with fresh local produce of the region

3 p.m.
Proceed to Kibbutz Misgav-Am, the most northern kibbutz in Israel, surrounded on three sides by the Lebanese border. The tour provides an excellent overview, past and present, of the difficult issues that the people of the kibbutz have encountered with terrorist organizations, how Misgav-Am serves as a frontline army base, and how the events of the Second Lebanese War in 2006 and its aftermath have affected the economy and development of the northern communities.

5 p.m.
Wine tasting in one of the region’s boutique wineries

IDF Base visit experience (TBA) 

Dreamers and Builders

9:30 a.m.
See the magnificent, ancient synagogue at Umm el Kanatir, dating from the Byzantine era. Construction and preservation work recently began here using new technology and innovative methods, which will result in the restoration of the building as it was 1,500 years ago. 

11 a.m.
IDF Base visit experience (TBA)

1 p.m.
Lunch in a kibbutz

2:30 p.m.
Tour Nimrod Fortress, the biggest Crusade-era castle in all of Israel. The fortress (known in Arabic as both Qal’at Subayba and Qal’at Nimrud, Cliff Fortress and Nimrod Fortress, respectively), once controlled the region’s road which began in Tyre (part of modern-day Lebanon) and ran down the Mediterranean coastline, through the Hula Valley and Banias on the way to Damascus. Situated on a peak neighboring Israel’s highest and only snow-capped mountain, Mount Hermon, the fortress is named for Nimrod, the great warrior from early Biblical times who was also rumored to have built his own castle up on the mountain. The ruins of Nimrod Fortress are beautiful and well-preserved, a truly visible snapshot of history.  

4 p.m.
It was at Tel Hai that the one-armed Jewish pioneer and hero Yosef Trumpeldor uttered his famous last words: Tov lamut be’ad artsenu (“It is good to die for our country”). Trumpeldor and seven of his men were killed here in an Arab raid in 1920 but their heroic fighting played a decisive role in securing the Upper Galilee for the Jewish people. 

5 p.m.
Wine tasting in one of the region’s boutique wineries

Making a Splash

9 a.m.
IDF Base visit experience (TBA) 

Refreshing and beautiful walk of the Majrase. See the unique meeting point of several major Golan rivers that form a delta as they reach the Kinneret. The impressive meeting between the nearby steep slopes and the flow of water has turned this site into a natural treasure that preserves a variety of animal habitats and numerous species. (Difficulty: easy) 

Drive south along the Jordan River 

1:30 p.m.
Lunch at Kibbutz Kinneret 

At EcoPeace, learn about the influence of climate change on water resources and how it affects geopolitics in the region. Understand Jordan-Israel relations on water, the current status of the Jordan river, and EcoPeace vision for the rehabilitation of the river.  

4 p.m.
End with a refreshing and fun kayak or raft experience floating down part of the Jordan River!

Tzfat (Safed) & Its Vicinity

9:30 a.m.
The Peak Trail (or Shvil Hapisgah, in Hebrew) of Mt. Meron. At a height of 1,208 meters, this was the highest mountain in Israel prior to the Six Day War. In fact, Mt. Meron is a group of mountains and not one peak. Its sides, lined with natural forest and plant growth, are green all year round. From the summit, look southeast to Tzfat, east to Mt. Hermon, and north to the mountains of Lebanon. All around are the small villages and settlements of the Upper Galilee.  

11 a.m.
Overlook for a security briefing with Brig. Gen. (Res.) Ilan Lavy. Discuss the Israel-Southern Lebanon relationship, the two Lebanon wars, Hezbollah, ISIS, and other current threats in the North and beyond.   

1 p.m.
Lunch and wine tasting in Adir Boutique Winery

3 p.m.
Tour the spiritual city of Safed, pronounced Tzfat in Hebrew. Tzfat sits at a higher altitude than any other city in Israel and has been known since the sixteenth century as a major center of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Tzfat’s mystical aura adds to its special status as one of Israel’s four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron. The old synagogues, narrow alleyways and artists’ studios add to the hilltop city’s unmistakable charm.

Visit the Cana’an Gallery, founded in 1992 by Orna and Yair Mor in the artist colony of Tzfat. This old mountain town is the cradle of the mystical teachings of Judaism that greatly affected the work and designs being done at Cana’an Gallery. Orna and Yair design and hand weave unique Judaica like tallit, kippot, challah covers, and ceremonial objects. Orna studied artistic weaving at an art school in Tel Aviv and jewelry design in Jerusalem, has been weaving for 17 years and is among the top weavers in Israel.

The Abuhav Synagogue houses the oldest Torah scroll in Tzfat, a scroll associated with many traditions and legends. It is only taken out for readings on Yom Kippur, Shavuot, and Rosh Hashanah. The synagogue was built in the sixteenth century, with its design taking roots in Kabbalistic principles. The interior dome is decorated with depictions of musical instruments used in the Temple in Jerusalem, symbols of the tribes of Israel, and four symbolic crowns.  

Ramat Hagolan & Tzfat (Safed)

9 a.m.
The spectacular 3 borders triangle lookout – Jordan, Syria, and Israel. Enjoy the breathtaking view while learning about the complex situation at Israel’s borders. This small hill offers an overlook of the three borders and the old railway line that passed between Haifa and Damascus.  

10 a.m.
IDF Base visit experience (TBA)

12 p.m.
Wine tasting in one of the region’s boutique wineries (with lunch)

Tour the spiritual city of Safed, pronounced Tzfat in Hebrew. Tzfat sits at a higher altitude than any other city in Israel and has been known since the sixteenth century as a major center of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Tzfat’s mystical aura adds to its special status as one of Israel’s four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron. The old synagogues, narrow alleyways and artists’ studios add to the hilltop city’s unmistakable charm. 

2 p.m.
Visit the Cana’an Gallery, founded in 1992 by Orna and Yair Mor in the artist colony of Tzfat. This old mountain town is the cradle of the mystical teachings of Judaism that greatly affected the work and designs being done at Cana’an Gallery. Orna and Yair design and hand weave unique Judaica like tallit, kippot, challah covers, and ceremonial objects. Orna studied artistic weaving at an art school in Tel Aviv and jewelry design in Jerusalem, has been weaving for 17 years and is among the top weavers in Israel.

The Abuhav Synagogue houses the oldest Torah scroll in Tzfat, a scroll associated with many traditions and legends. It is only taken out for readings on Yom Kippur, Shavuot, and Rosh Hashanah. The synagogue was built in the sixteenth century, with its design taking roots in Kabbalistic principles. The interior dome is decorated with depictions of musical instruments used in the Temple in Jerusalem, symbols of the tribes of Israel, and four symbolic crowns.

Tzfat (Safed) & Hurfeish

10 a.m.
Tour the spiritual city of Safed, pronounced Tzfat in Hebrew. Tzfat sits at a higher altitude than any other city in Israel and has been known since the sixteenth century as a major center of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Tzfat’s mystical aura adds to its special status as one of Israel’s four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron. The old synagogues, narrow alleyways and artists’ studios add to the hilltop city’s unmistakable charm. 

Visit the Cana’an Gallery, founded in 1992 by Orna and Yair Mor who design and hand weave unique Judaica like tallit, kippot, challah covers, and ceremonial objects. Orna studied artistic weaving in Tel Aviv and jewelry design in Jerusalem and is among the top weavers in Israel. 

The Abuhav Synagogue houses the oldest Torah scroll in Tzfat, a scroll associated with many traditions and legends. It is only taken out for readings on Yom Kippur, Shavuot, and Rosh Hashanah. The synagogue was built in the sixteenth century, with its design taking roots in Kabbalistic principles.  

12 p.m.
Lunch in Tzfat

1 p.m.
Drive along the Lebanese border, meet Brig. Gen. (Res.) Ilan Lavy. The soldiers of the Northern command face life-threatening situations as they patrol the border and defend Israel against attacks from South Lebanon. Discuss the Israel-Southern Lebanon relationship, the two Lebanon wars, Hezbollah, ISIS, and other current threats in the North and beyond. The tour will include a visit to an IDF post/base (TBA).

3 p.m.
Visit the Druze village of Hurfeish, a unique GMW partner community. The Druze community in Israel has a special standing among the country’s minority groups, and members of the community have attained high-level positions in the political, public, and military spheres. The Druze are officially recognized as a separate religious entity with its own courts and spiritual leadership. Their culture is Arab and their language Arabic but they opted against mainstream Arab nationalism in 1948 and have since served (first as volunteers, later within the draft system) in the Israel Defense Forces and the Border Police. GMW is the only U.S. Federation with a partner relationship that connects a Diaspora Jewish community to an Israeli Arab  Village. (Site visit TBA) 

The Great Outdoors

10 a.m.
Take a refreshing walk around the Banias, one of Israel’s most beautiful nature reserves. The Banias spring feeds into the Jordan River, the reserve’s large waterfall tumbles down a 33-foot precipice year-round, and a nearby cave houses remains of a temple to the Greek god Pan. The trail introduces a hanging trail, and a suspended bridge spanning 260 feet. Walking across, one feels a part of the natural world surrounding it. (Difficulty: easy) 

When summer has already set in over the rest of the country, Mount Hermon is still bursting with the vitality of an extended springtime. Ascending to the summit you’ll have a superb view of the mountains of: Galilee, the Golan, and southern Lebanon. The slopes of Mount Hermon offer other attractions as well including the noteworthy Har Habtarim, 1,296 meters above sea level on the slopes of Katef Sion. According to tradition, this is where God promised Abraham that He would give the land to his descendants. An ancient tomb marks the spot, and huge oaks grow next to it. Next to the summit of Har Kahal (1411 meters above sea level), lead quarries have been discovered; the source of raw materials for the kohl used in ancient eye makeup. 

12 p.m.
Exclusive visit of the IDF outpost of Israel’s highest peak. From the highest point in Israel, 2,223 meters above the ground, the skyscrapers of Damascus are clearly visible – deceivingly conveying peacefulness. Here, you can get a firsthand glimpse of one of Israel’s most complex borders which rubs elbows with several enemy forces in the region.

2 p.m.
Enjoy the famous Druze hospitality and learn about the Druze community at the Golan Heights.  The Druze community in Israel has a unique standing among the country’s minority groups, with members attaining high-level positions in political, public, and military spheres.

3 p.m.
Hike the beautiful Nachal Hazuri (Hazuri Stream), named after the Druze Sheikh Nebi Hazuri. Walk through the Mediterranean vegetation and see some of the region ancient trees, cross over large boulders, and use the bedrock stairs to enjoy this secret trail.

4 p.m.
Tour Nimrod Fortress, the biggest Crusade-era castle in all of Israel. The fortress once controlled the region’s road which began in Tyre (part of modern-day Lebanon) and ran down the Mediterranean coastline, through the Hula Valley and Banias on the way to Damascus. Situated on a peak neighboring Israel’s highest and only snow-capped mountain, Mount Hermon, the fortress is named for Nimrod, the great warrior from early Biblical times. The ruins of Nimrod Fortress are beautiful and well-preserved, a truly visible snapshot of history.

Northern Treasures

9:30 a.m.
Overlook from Mitzpe Gadot, a former Syrian bunker on the Golan with sweeping views of the Hula Valley. Israelis living there suffered 19 years of daily Syrian bombardment. 

10:30 a.m.
The ruins of the ancient Jewish village of Katzrin are located in the central Golan. The main water source was the spring located in the village, from which water was channeled to a small collecting pool cut into the basalt bedrock. Over the hundreds of years of the village’s existence the level of its streets rose, and retaining walls had to be constructed around the spring, to allow continued drawing of water. The location of Katzrin, mentioned in ancient Jewish sources, was identified at the end of the nineteenth century. The remains of ancient Katzrin have been restored after excavation: the columns of the synagogue are upright once more and houses near the synagogue are two stories high and roofed. Samples of ancient household utensils and agricultural implements are displayed in the houses and there are activities showing life during ancient times.

12 p.m.
Wine tasting in one of the region’s boutique wineries including lunch 

2 p.m.
Entering the Tel Dan Reserve is like stepping into a wonderland: scores of bubbling brooks feed into a running river and tall treetops reach for the sky, their leaves and branches keeping the ground shady and refreshingly cool, even at noon on a hot summer day. Of the three sources of the Jordan River, the Dan River is the largest and most important. It is fed by the snow and rain which fall on Mount Hermon, the tallest mountain in Israel. The water seeps into the mountain, branching off into hundreds of springs by the time it reaches the foot. Together these form the largest karstic spring in the Middle East. 

4 p.m.
Visit MIGAL, an internationally recognized and multi-disciplinary applied research institute. MIGAL specializes in biotechnology and computational sciences, plant science, precision agriculture, and environmental sciences as well as food, nutrition, and health. 

5 p.m.
Explore the magnificent surroundings of Ramot Naftali (Naftali ridge) on ATVs/buggies/ranger tracks. The Naftali Mountains is a mountain range between Lebanon and Israel’s Upper Galilee. The western side gradually changes into the highlands of southern Lebanon. The eastern side sharply descends into the Hula Valley of Israel.

IDF Base visit experience (TBA)