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From Caesarea to Tzfat to the Hula Lake

Meet One of Our Past Israel Adventure Participants

01.29.2017
Erin Danzig
Erin Danzig Birthright Israel

Erin Danzig is a 23-year-old Atlanta, Georgia native. Erin recently graduated from University of Georgia with a degree in Social Work which she believes has helped her understand and observe the world around her. Erin also enjoys being outside, eating, reading and writing. Below is an excerpt from Erin's blog, "A Broad Named Erin" which discusses her 10 day Israel Adventure Birthright Israel experience. 

... Caesarea is exceptional. I feel connected to this coast - no surprise there - which is quite the historic site. Apparently, it was at one point the most influential port in the area. I desperately wish I could time travel as I walk through it and hear of its countless transitions. There is such a variety of architecture and materials from different years. Our guide, Noam (pronounced No-ahm), says that Caesarea represents the old and new, the ancient and renewed. I like that idea, that a place can be so much. 

Everything is porous, eroded stone and marble. And crashing waves and shells and sand. Stray cats are everywhere, which is common in Israel. There are a couple of stray dogs as well, which run around with the tours and investigate the smells of the different people here. When people pass me by, I forget that everyone speaks Hebrew first and foremost. It’s disorienting to realize if you bump into someone or you overhear strangers talking. Yet again, I have to remind myself I am very far from home. I think my confusion has to do with being in a group of 40 other Americans. It almost feels like an allusion; I have no reference for places like these.

The theatre pictured above was built a long time ago by the very king who prompted Caesarea’s construction. Today, Israeli artists see it as a significant venue to “sell out Caesarea”. Maybe one day I’ll see a performance here. Maybe one day I’ll perform here!

Tzvat was very humbling. Walking through such an old city, with its cobblestone walkways and narrow roads, I was transported back to an older time. This is on purpose; the traditional look is renewed constantly due to frequent earthquakes. In fact, despite their older design, the streets and passages we walked through were maybe 25 years old. It’s the people who have remained the same.

Most of the locals we saw were dressed in religious garb and with their families. I haven’t mentioned the playgrounds yet, but you can be sure I will again. There are playgrounds absolutely everywhere, though in Tzvat especially. And as I was surrounded by all of the adorable orthodox children, I started to think about their lives. How different they are from my own, and how odd the forty of us must look to them. I mean, what if I just stopped and said okay, I’ll stay here in this town for the rest of my life! The adjustments I would have to make are astounding. 

The last part of the day was spent roaming through the market streets. I have never seen so many Jewish stores in one place, ever. I guess that’s part of the point of this trip. There were mezuzot and chamsas and channukea and jewelry and artwork in every entrance, on every corner. The traditional candle store in particular has been around forever. After I walked in I was immediately hit with the strong smell of wax. Women were braiding the very Chanukah candles they were selling behind a clear panel. Unique figures and varieties were on every shelf and table, all in vivid colors. It certainly makes sense that this place is known for keeping Tzvat’s old, Jewish soul alive. 

This alley has a lot of history to it. According to religious belief, the Jewish prophet Elijah took this very stairway on his way to Jerusalem. It is also believed that when the next prophet arrives, they will take the same route. The woman living next door sat outside her house and waited to witness this everyday until her death in 1985, at age 100.

On Thursday we biked around the Hula Lake, which is located in the valley between the Golan Heights to the east and the Upper Galilee’s Naftali mountains to the west. Five million birds fly through here twice a year because of its location between Europe, Africa, and Asia. The fault line makes it a substantial highway for migrating birds, and one of the best locations to birdwatch in the world. 

As we were told all of this information about where we were and it’s history, all I could hear was the squawking of birds. The sound was surprising, given how far away they stood. And there were so many - they’re counted every morning as they fly from the water to land. It starts as a slow 1…2…3,4…5,6,7…and then goes to 10…20…30…and then gets to 1,000…2,000…10,000…50,000… Yeah, don’t give me that job. 

Riding through felt spectacular, like watching a world within a world. Everything was lush grass and farmland. I had to check a couple times if I was still in Israel; it felt more like Asia. But I went my own pace and soaked up as much as I could. Occasionally an Israeli Jeep would drive by on a farm road (shoutout to Morgan on this one! They’re like miniature models and they’re everywhere and I need one). At one point I meditated on an observatory dock with some other girls in the group. Perfect start to a day, I’d say.

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