When I was growing up, a family trip was Sunday at the Jersey shore. A big trip was up to the Catskills, and a real far out family excursion was a cousin’s bar mitzvah in Montreal. Coming to Israel after high school for a gap year was my first big adventure abroad. My accent gave away that I came from that huge, nebulous place called “Chutz la’aretz,” or just “chul” for short.
Much water has flown down the Jordan river since those days. But it is not just the post-army almost compulsory trip to Thailand that introduces many Israelis to international travel. With open skies and affordable airfare, there is also the anniversary get-away, Bar/Bat mitzvah trips overseas, skiing and sporting in choice locales, and summer reunions with family abroad. We are enamored with Chutz la’aretz, and now have the discounted Easy Jet to get us there.
This summer we won’t be traveling abroad. No hikes in Italy, Romania, Georgia. No visiting quaint villages, beautiful drives, cool caves, or beautiful beaches of chul. Luckily, though, we live in a country which the Sages teach has been blessed with nine measures of beauty. And in the summer months especially, the region steeped in this beauty (and still bountifully green and watered) is northern Israel.
How many of us have seen the sunrise from Keren Naphtali? Walked along the tidal pools of Achziv (at sunset – swoon)? Visited the old stone village sections of Mailia or Tarshicha with small home museums showing how olive oil, tobacco and arak were made more than 100 years ago? When was the last time you saw the amazing rock formations at Kisra, Keshet, Yiftach, or the incredible hexagonal pools? Taken a drive from Alma to Metulla? If art is your fancy there is a whole world outside of Tel Aviv; small galleries and workshops dot the scenery in Maalot, Kfar Yehoshua, Ein Harod and countless other communities in the north. Foodies? Knaffe or stuffed vine leaf workshops can be found – even kosher ones! Dozens of boutique wines, liquor, and beer (even hummus beer) are produced in the Golan and Galil. An entire trend of home hospitality allows you to actually meet with other parts of Israeli society, and often share meals.
But there are some things you really cannot find abroad at all – Bible stories and a deep, Jewish connection to the land. This is what brought the early Zionists here and not to Uganda. We can follow the prophetess Debora up the Tavor mountain, try to lap the waters from Gideon’s spring, stand on the Gilboa to survey the battleground of King Saul and the Philistines, look in on the home of the witch of Endor, and visit the site of the dramatic showdown between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal. We can walk the literal footsteps of our Sages who developed and wrote the Oral Law and be inspired by their wisdom and life stories. We can see both the hard-won kibbutzim and moshavim founded over a hundred years ago, and in the same trip visit communities of Jews that have remained indigenous to Israel for the last three thousand years.
A well-known Hassidic story tells of a poor man searching for a treasure. He was advised that such a treasure could only be found in a faraway land, hidden under a bridge. The poor man makes the long and arduous trip, only to find that the trip was for naught and the treasure is actually hiding in his own home.
My friend and fellow guide Tamar Weissman and I are passionate about the Galilee and its people (enough to have made it our home!). We have created a series of open tours for the general public (more information on those here) to showcase some of the many unique treasures the Galilee has to offer. We create tours that take you way beyond.
Over 4.5 million tourists who came to visit Israel in 2019 can’t be wrong. This summer, you don’t have to venture far away to find treasure — join us right here, in the cool and lush north, and discover that the best things have been waiting for us all along, right here at home.