Get Outside…and Dirty in Israel

I have to admit, I did not really anticipate the sheer amount of outdoor activities that are available in Israel. I guess part of me suspected that between the religious artifacts and ruins, and the city of Tel Aviv, there wouldn’t be much time left to get outside and get dirty. But I found three ways to get covered in the stuff. Here are some highlights:

Desert Touring

After our Dead Sea soak, I was just about ready to turn round and head back to Jerusalem. But I’m so glad that we didn’t, as we ended up heading over to the protected land just south of the Ein Bokek hotel quarter, where we were met with two Jeeps that looked like they’d been props in an Indiana Jones film. Our drivers took them out onto the salt mountains of Sedom, which are thought to be the site where the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah took place. Perhaps it was because it was the “magic hour” – that time when the sun makes everything seem as though it’s lit from within – or because it was, after visiting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, so distinctly remote. But the ride was incredible. The region is protected parkland, and hiking and cycle trails crisscrossed our route, but all comers should plan on making their way up to the peak to take in the stunning views of the Dead Sea and Jordan. The group we went with, Shkedi, also offers moonlight tours (which they say are enhanced by not using headlights, which makes me a little nervous) and camping within the park grounds. It’s the warmest place in all of Israel, and I would have easily spent the night.


Shalom Y’all

I’ve heard the story of the Sermon of the Mount too many times not to be awed by the chance to actually be there. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity for contemplation that I’d anticipated, in part because my partner was intent on eating all of the available vegetation within reach. But perhaps I should clarify, as I was riding a horse at the time. After arriving at the Vered Hagalil Ranch in Galilee, which is made up of small collection of quaint cottages and cabins overlooking the sea (with hammocks, which were a nice touch), we were quickly brought into the stables and told to find our riding hats. Within 20 minutes, we were taught the basics of steering, reining, and stopping our steeds and hopped on board for an hour’s ride along the hills. Wildflowers have already begun blooming in Israel, which made for picturesque vistas…and for hungry horses. But despite a few persistent tugs on the reins, the horses were well-behaved, and even broke into a trot at times, and the view of the sea was lovely. The Ranch offers moonlight and overnight horseback riding trips as well, but be sure to pick up what might have been my favorite souvenir from my entire trip: A “Shalom Y’all” bumper sticker, which is now proudly displayed on my office door.

Four-Wheelin’ the Golan Heights

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I’m not the type of girl who signs up for 4×4 tours – both times I’ve done it, it’s been planned on my behalf – but after my second go round I might be becoming a convert. Weaving through the vineyards and fields of the Golan Heights, which were thick with yellow flowers, and taking in the sweeping views of both Syria and Lebanon in the distance, it was hard not to let out an occasional whoop! of excitement. We went out with Trak Toron, whose slogan, “the adventure starts when the road ends” is about the only thing that’s not in Hebrew on their website, but they spoke English quite well when we met them. You can opt for the ride-on 4×4 or the golf-cart on steroids, and either way, it’s a rush.

Photo and Video: Janelle Nanos

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