Today was field trip day, so we didn't work today either. Instead, we piled on to a minibus and headed off to do some touring of the north. Two soldiers from the base, Harry and Lloyd, came with us as guards. They looked pretty funny in their swim trunks and flip flops with their M16s, but looks aren't everything, right? Oh yeah, turns out that they may have forgotten ammo. If somebody attacked us, they would have had to make gun noises with their mouths to scare the attackers away. In any case, the day was completely peaceful so it didn't really matter.
Our first stop was the Tsippori olive factory. Before we even got to the part where the lady who owned the place told us about anything, one of our Madrichot slipped and fell. She messed up her foot pretty badly, but she still carried on. To be fair, we were literally carrying her as she was having some trouble walking, but she wouldn't let us interrupt our tour to do anything with her foot besides wrap it. On a happier note, the factory building itself was pretty amazing. The lady explained that it was made of stacked bales of hay that were covered in mud and then sealed with a coating of olive oil and egg albumen. The windows were recycled bottles. The whole thing was built by her and her family on the site of an old barn. Inside the factory, she explained the olive oil making process to us. She had an ancient grindstone brought in from Italy so that she could crush the olives the old-fashioned way. Using modern machinery with knives heats the oil too much for her taste. Heating the oil at any stage increases the acidity, she explained, and the highest quality olive oil has lower acidity. She also showed us the cold press, where they press the ground up olives for oil (using a cold process, again to prevent acidity). Finally, she showed us where the oil goes when it is complete. Once we were done learning about the oils, it was time for us to taste them. We were fed lebne, pita, veggies, dip, and a selection of oils. They were all pretty good.
When we were done eating, it was back to the bus for us. Harry and Lloyd sang for us on the way to our next stop. I felt a little bit like I was at camp, except that they were the only ones singing as they were the only ones who knew the words. I was very amused. Additionally, they were fooling around. These guys were behaving as if they were let out of their cages for the first time in a long time. Or, maybe they were just acting as if they were 18 year old boys. I haven't been around any 18 year old boys in a while, so perhaps what I saw was normal.
Eventually, we stopped for lunch in Kiryat Shmona. Janice and I made a beeline for the falafel stand. As usual, it was delicious. Next, we stopped off at the grocery store that was inside the bus station mall. By this point, I was so used to opening my bag for a bag security check at the entrance, that I was ready right as I walked up. Fortunately, I was able to replace or get a substitute for all of the foods that were in my bag that I left on the bus yesterday.
Our next stop on the field trip was a mountain right next to Metula. Metula is a town on the northern border with Lebanon. From the mountaintop, you can see the buffer zone between the city and Lebanon, as well as the border and the Lebanese mountains. If you look to the right instead of the left, you can see Mt. Hermon and the Syrian mountains. The view was pretty cool.
From there, we went to the site of a memorial. In 1997, two Israeli helicopters crashed into each other, killing 73 soldiers. Near the site of that crash, there is a memorial with 73 stones in a circle and all of the names of the soldiers in a pool of water in the middle. Off to the side, in some woods, there are more private memorials to each soldier.
Our final tourist stop on the field trip was at a park with a little stream running through it. There were some waterfalls in the park, as well as signs saying not to swim as there is a drowning danger. I'm guessing that at a different time of year, the water has to be higher. We ignored the sign and went in anyway as the water was about up to my thighs at the highest. I didn't really think anybody was going to drown. After the nice "swim" we hiked back to the bus and got ready to return to our base.
The Madrichot must have been in good moods though. They let us all stop at a rest stop on the way back and grab dinner there instead of eating on the base. I had matbucha and an extremely large ice cream. Both of those were very pleasant meals, not because they were particularly great, but because they were different. The lack of variety of food on base was really starting to wear on me. If I was getting bored of cucumbers and tomatoes after not even 3 weeks (with breaks on the weekends). I can't even imagine how bored the soldiers must be after 3 years. I'm surprised any of them ever eat tomatoes and cucumbers again.
Olive grinding stones
Playing in the stream
Waterfall in the park
Lebanon and Metula