Walk the Walk for Israel’s Environment

We love the Heschel Center for reminding us about their fundraiser: Hike Bishvil Yisrael – March 23-27, 2008.

Israel’s outdoor scenery is breathtaking, writes Heschel, “and there is no better way to see it than with the people working to preserve it.

“This is an opportunity for a unique, challenging and rewarding Israel experience and a chance to literally ‘walk the walk’ for a sustainable Israel.”

If you’re new to the country, or want to come for a visit, the hike could be a great place to meet some of Israel’s cream of the “green” crop. We assume the cash raised will go to the Heschel Center and Hazon.

For your convenience, we have posted an itinerary here on GreenProphet, but mosey on through to the end for the hike’s website contact information. Registration in the hike comes with a commitment of raising a few $K, so apply only if you are serious.

Participants are encouraged to arrive in Israel before Sunday, March 23. 2008 marks Israel’s 60th anniversary and the country will be filled with celebrations.

March 20-21 mark the festival of Purim, a joyous celebration in Israel. Participants who would like to come to Israel in advance of the hike who need help planning their trip should contact info@hikeisrael.org.

THE ITINERARY DEETS

Day 1: Sunday, March 23th: Travel and Orientation

Participants are encouraged to arrive in Israel before Sunday. There will be a coach bus available from the Ben Gurion airport at 1 pm and 5 pm to bring participants to Ma’alot. Participants wishing to arrive in Ma’alot will be able to take the train to Nahariya and will be picked up by a shuttle bus. Sunday will be dedicated to community building, registration and orientation. Participants will enjoy the accommodations in the Hacienda Forestview.

Ma’alot was created as a “development town” for Jewish immigrants from Romania, Iran, and Morocco, in 1957. In 1963, Ma’alot was merged with the larger Arab village of Tarshiha, and the unified town was renamed to reflect both origins. Tarshiha is mentioned in Crusader times (12th and 13th century) as an inhabited location. During the Crusades, several battles between Christian crusaders and Arab Muslims took place in the area.

Day 2: Monday, March 24th: Ramot Naftali to Mount Meiron- 8.6 miles (13.75 km)

After our orientation and safety briefing, participants will descend into the Nahal Dishon – the Dishon Wadi. We will follow this ancient dry riverbed as it winds westward along the southern border with Lebanon. Participants will continue to their trek through the Bar’am Oaks Nature Reserve, filled with rare and majestic oak trees. Bar’am is one of Israel’s National Parks. It contains the well preserved ruins of an ancient synagogue, constructed from large and particularly beautiful hewn stones. The size of the building is evidence that a highly successful Jewish community lived in this area during the fourth and fifth centuries. The facade, which is preserved almost in its entirety, is especially remarkable. All three gates face Jerusalem and are decorated with exquisite stone engravings; the imposing center gate is especially ornate. We will continue our journey through the Mount Meron Nature Reserve, the largest reserve in Israel with over 28,000 acres and breath taking views.

Hikers will complete the day at the base of Mount Meron, the highest peak in the Upper Galilee, which rises 1,208 meters above sea level. Hikers will finish their first day of hiking at the Mount Meron Field School. Established in 1964, Mount Meron Field School is situated on 30 acres of natural wood groves in the midst of a beautiful nature reserve. The Mount Meron Field School serves as a hostel for travelers on the Shvil and as a unique study center. It also serves researchers from around the globe, studying the wildlife, trees, flowers and other ecological aspects of the unique reservation.

Day 3: Tuesday, March 25th: Mount Meron to Tzfat - 10 miles (16 km)

Participants will begin the day with a gentle climb, winding through a forest 300 meters, to the top of Mount Meron. Mount Meron is the highest mountain in Israel, outside of the Golan Heights. The grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a famed Talmudic rabbi and author of the mysitcal text the Zohar, is located on the slopes of Mount Meron. Leading up to the anniversary of his death on Lag B’Omer, thousands of people camp out along the slopes near the tomb, and on Lag B’Omer itself, hundreds of thousands make pilgrimages to celebrate the occasion.

On the other side of Mount Meron, participants will descend into Upper Nahal Amud valley. Nahal Amud is the only riverbed in Israel that runs from the upper to lower Galilee. We will hike through beautiful river beds, lined by ancient water mills down that were used in the fifteenth century, when Safed became a center for the production of high-quality woolen fabrics, which were exported to customers all over Europe.

The expertise in this field was brought to Tzfat by Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal; they had first settled in Salonika and Adrianople (Edirne), where they learned the trade. The path ends with at the shallow Sechvi pools, which contain water all year round, create a charming little corner of the riverbed. Large plane trees are reflected in the clear water, and there are also fig trees, an abandoned flour mill, and a cave. As we leave these pools we will begin the steep ascent to the mystical and ancient city of Tzfat. At 3,000 feet above sea level, participants will enjoy the five-start accommodations of the Tzfat Rimon Inn & Spa.

Day 4: Wednesday, March 26th: Tzfat to Hokok - 8.5 miles (13.5 km)

At the start of the day we will begin a dramatic descent from Tzfat into the Lower Nahal Amud valley. About 20,000 years ago, the erosion that created Nahal Amud began to accelerate, leaving several caves suspended on the cliff. In 1925, they were the scene of the first prehistoric research in the Land of Israel, when British archaeologist Francis Turville-Petre excavated there. In one of the caves, he discovered forehead bones of what became known as Galilee Man, estimated to be over 230,000 years old.

Our path will take us through springs and lush vegetation before the wadi becomes almost desert-like leading up to the rock pillar (amud), from which the valley draws its name.

We will finish the day with an uphill climb to Kibbutz Hakuk-Balev where we will enjoy breathtaking views of the Kinneret and warm kibbutz hospitality.

Day 5: Thursday, March 27th: Hokok to the Kinneret - 5 miles (8 km)

On our last hiking day, will follow the trail south, out of the wadis and towards the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). Since antiquity, the Kinneret has been surrounded by a ring of small communities and farmland, many of which still exist to this day. We will walk through the modern agriculture fields, and then follow a new trail which will eventual surround the entire Kinneret. We will finish with a lunch and closing ceremony on the water’s edge.

For those who need to return directly to the airport, we will provide a bus from the end point to Ben Gurion (there will be opportunities to change beforehand).

For more information on how to register, for what looks like a once in a lifetime experience, go to: www.hikeisrael.org.

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