My parents were working class people. Although we didn’t have a lot of luxuries we did ok, but we needed to save up for awhile to go on a family vacation. I remember my mother buying a ceramic “piggy bank” shaped like a dog, and every time she came home from grocery shopping or other errands she would put the change into the bank. Little by litte the amounts would add up.
Planning the vacation was half of the fun. In the days before home computers and internet, you would send away for brochures, and spend lots of time picking and choosing what you wanted to do. One year we went to Washington, DC and did all of the patriotic, educational stuff – like visiting the White House, seeing the Washington and Lincoln Memorials, and having a tour of the FBI building. My parents picked a hotel with a swimming pool, so that we could burn off some energy too.
Now I am the one who plans the vacations (with some input, of course, from the men in the family). The summer is the time to head north, and we decided to focus on the Golan (in the past we spend most of our vacation just swimming in the Kinneret). I also tried to choose attractions that were Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant). (FYI – I used the internet site www.tour.golan.org.il in Hebrew. Under attractions – merkazi mevakrim – they have a chart where you can see if the place is open on Shabbat).
The drive up is not very long by American standards, especially if you use 6 (Israel’s north/south toll road). This didn’t prevent a bit of boredom in the backseat, though, and I found myself shouting the traditional parental threat…IF I HAVE TO STOP THIS CAR…. The biggest difference between the car trips that I remember as a kid is that my kids can’t have feet fights in the back, since both are safely buckled up (although they managed to smack each other pretty well anyway!) The road signs were a little different than what I remember too. In the Golan, instead of “Caution, Deer Crossing” there were “Caution, Tank Crossing” signs. As a matter of fact we did see a bunch of tanks in action on the side of the road.
We went rafting on the river (Chatzbani). My kids took the oars and had a blast. It took a little while for them to learn that if you want to go right in the boat, you have to paddle on the left side, so we went around in circles for a bit, but they got the hang of it pretty quickly. We stopped at the side once, with westbankpappa holding on to a tree branch, and we let the kids swim in the water. (Unfortunately, due to the lack of rainfall in the past few years the river is very shallow. In addition, they both had lifejackets on and are good swimmers, so I didn’t worry about them). Westbankpappa wanted to do his bit for a cleaner Israel, so we crisscrossed the river picking up plastic bottles and other debris. At one point we headed zealously to the shore to pick up a plastic bag, until a man apparently camping nearby came rushing up to us and said “no, we put our milk in here to keep it cool”.
My kids have been asking to go horseback riding for a long time – so this vacation they got their wish. I stayed back in the air-conditioning while westbankpappa played cowboy too. He likes to wear cowboy hats when out in the sun – but this time he had to wear a helmet! Noone complained about being sore, so next year I think I will join them.
The highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Dekarina chocolate factory. In a tiny village in the Golan there is a factory where they make handmade chocolates. There are guided tours, a coffee shop, and of course a place to buy their delicious products. Unfortunately I didn’t make a reservation for a tour beforehand and they were completely booked, so we consoled ourselves with just buying a lot of the sweet stuff. I guess we’ll just have to FORCE OURSELVES to go back another time to get the tour….
And, of course, we couldn’t go north without swimming in the Kinneret, and I have the sunburn to prove it (where I missed with the sunscreen). All in all we had a wonderful time, and I’m already planning next year’s trip….