Julia Yasser, CBS Communications Coordinator, Birthright Trip

Congregation Beth Sholom San Francisco

Day 1+2, March 24, 2015 After a 9 hour flight to Vienna, 3 hour flight to Tel Aviv, and finally a 2 hour bus ride to Tiberius, my 39 new friends and I have arrived! We were met by our Israeli tour guide, Itai, an Israeli native, who is well seasoned in leading group trips, both big and small. Yesterday was a complete blur of cramped conditions, zero sleep, high excitement, ultimately resulting in - complete delusion. We settled into the hotel and had our first holy meal (dinner) as a group. The food was a welcomed changed from the airplane's accommodations. After dinner, we sat sluggishly in a group, went over the program, the rules, and the expectations for our journey. Itai stressed that he hoped we would leave Israel with a big question mark and an encouragement to explore and cultivate your opinion about Israel. Hearing this came as a surprise for me- I had anticipated being overly inundated from the start with one-sided opinions about the country.

The night concluded with a ridiculously silly ice-breaker in an effort to remember everyone's name and it really worked!Congregation Beth Sholom San Francisco

Today we woke early and hopped on the bus to Banas River. On our drive we passed by the Lebanese border and could see the neighboring country in the distance. The hike was gorgeous, the flowers are in full bloom and the mountains were lush. We are truly traveling to Israel at an ideal time. The Banas River is the result of the melting snow (yes, snow!) from Mt. Hermon, the tallest mountain range in the country. The ski season is short-lived, lasting only about a month. Next we went to Golan Heights, an area with many military bases and training camps as it is located near Syria. From the Golan lookout point we could see Syria. We also walked through an old army bunker.Congregation Beth Sholom San Francisco

Afterwards we visited an olive oil factory where they pride themselves on being environmentally minded. Unlike other olive oil producers they use all the components of the olive-the oil to eat, the black water and the pit for cosmetics and cleaning products! Now we're on our way to lunch, falafel and shawarma galore! More later, le'hit!