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Aug 21, 2008

Touring in Eretz Yisrael: The Tzafon: The Hilton of the Outdoors

Every year, we consider going camping and chicken out at the last minute and join some group. It seems daunting to take a bunch of kids up somewhere and sleep in tents and roughing it for a few days. This year we finally did it. We got up the nerve and actually joined in in Israel's national past time and went camping.

We got our equipment ready and expected to spend 2-3 days really roughing it, sleeping in tents, hiking and enjoying the beauty of Eretz Yisrael.

Little did we know, but what we did is hardly called "roughing it", though nothing we planned did we do, and nothing we did did we plan (is that the same thing twice or do they mean two different things?)...

We went up north planning to pitch tent in a campsite of Park HaYarden or further north in either Churshat Tal or Park Yehudiyah (yes, the one with the hike with the 40-foot jump that you can no longer do - they also have a campsite). At the last minute someone recommended we go to Hof Amnun, so we did..

Notice the sign for windsurfing on the beach by Amnun.. I wonder if this is where the guy Tzuberi who won the bronze medal in the Olympics the other day trained....

Hof Amnun is a beach at the very tip of the Kinneret, at practically the northern-most point possible. The campsite of Hof Amnon is a grassy area (and reasonably priced) just off the shore of the Kinneret. It is actually a bit set back from the beach, simply because the water level is so low!

The campsite had pretty much every amenity imaginable, for a campsite. I cannot compare it with other sites, as I do not know what they are like. Other sites might be exactly the same or maybe some offer more, though I do know that some offer considerably less.

Amnun had indoor bathrooms on site with showers. He had electricity and gave out extension cords and light bulbs. He had a fridge so people could put stuff in overnight, like bottles of water and containers of milk or yogurts. He had a kiosk on site, which came in handy despite the prices being through the roof. I called it "The Hilton of the Outdoors".

Some people were there in very large groups (multiple families together, etc.) that set up camp in very sophisticated manners, as if they do it every year (they probably do), with everything they could even consider missing from home. People had electric stovetops for cooking, some had fans, I saw someone with a computer, and there was one tent there that even had an air conditioner inside it!

So it would be hard pressed to really call this roughing it, but we did not expect all that, so we were pretty much roughing it. We brought along nothing that required electricity. We brought minimal clothes, and enough food for how long we expected to stay, with an ice chest.

Breakfast (and lunch and dinner) seemed to run by the campsite every day at about 6am. Mostly there were pretty quiet, but one day they were making a lot of noise and woke up the whole campsite at 6am. It did not matter to me, because I got up every day at 5:30 or so anyway...

It was great. I davened while the sun was rising, and then went every morning for a swim in the Kinneret while everyone else was sleeping. I am not a big fan of swimming. After about 15 minutes I get tired and bored of it, so my early morning swims were perfect. Refreshing, and it felt like I was the only person in the Kinneret at the time - I had the whole Kinneret to myself! Probably not true, but it felt like it.

So, while we made plans to do all sorts of great hikes, we have kids who had preferences. My daughter wanted us to go to The Hula Nature Reserve. It does not make sense to me - she wanted us to go because she had been there with her class on a trip. If it was me, I would not want to go to the same place, but she did. She insisted, so we went, planning on spending a couple hours there and then doing a hike afterwards....

On the Reserve, they have tried to recreate, in part, what used to be there. So they have brought in some herd of Buffalo, also known as "Jamusim" or "Tao". They look kind of skinny, so maybe they bought these guys on eBay or something...

As we were walking through the trail, I noticed some raspberries/blackberries growing along the trail. Some looked ripe, so I, and my two year old who was on my back, ate from them. I have no idea if it is healthy or if they are considered contaminated or not, but so far I am not sick from it...
The Hula Reserve is the first Nature Reserve in all of Israel. It was a big swamp land in the early days of the state that was causing the nearby residents of the villages to come down with malaria, so they went on a project of draining the swamp. They did so successfully, but the JNF agreed to leave a certain amount (I think 800 acres) for a nature reserve.

Anyways, after hiking through Hula in the scorching heat, and then eating lunch, we were all so drained (pun intended), that we had no energy for the hike. So that was that. We went back to our campsite a bit early and went swimming in the Kinneret, then bbq'ed for dinner and went to sleep. I even slept outside, on the ground in a sleeping bag, and not in the tent because I enjoyed the fresh air over the stuffiness of the tent even with an air mattress...

The next day, Tuesday, we also planned some hikes, but they too would not work out. One son was not feeling well, and we did not think it a good idea to go hiking with a kid who might get sick and need to be carried out.

So we changed our plans and went to Park HaYarden which is a large park off the Jordan River. The park has a campsite, but also has a few trails that have water hikes (at least in part), along with kayaking in the Jordan.

Kayaking down the Jordan was great. We got out at points to swim and fool around. We had two kayaks, so we raced each other, I splashed them with my oars, etc. The river is very low because of the lack of rains, but it was large enough for us to have a great time. I told my kids t imagine the Jews crossing the Jordan to enter Israel - and why would God need to split the Jordan considering how small it was. So we tried to imagine how large it must have been back then and what rain, and the lack thereof, can do...

After kayaking we ate lunch, and then did the trail with the most amount of water. We did not even do the whole trail - just the water part of it. And when we got to the best part of the water, we just stopped there and sat and played n the water. It was so hot, this was a big relief. We all had a great time, even the little kids who are normally scared of water, at least this amount of water and flowing at this strength.

After Park Hayarden, we went to Eyn Ayub which is a waterfall that dumps into the Kinneret. It is right next to Kfar Nachum, aka Cappernaum.

After which the kids went down to the Kinneret to swim a little bit before we headed back to the campsite for dinner and sleep...

What could be a better vacation??? Sleeping on the ground, connecting literally to the Land of Israel, swimming in the Kinneret, davening seaside at sunrise, hiking the trails of Eretz Yisrael, swimming and kayaking in the Jordan River. Of yeah, and the family time of course!!!


  1. Looks like an amazing trip!

  2. i enjoyed reading about your great trip.

    it wasn't too hot? 2 summers ago we didn't go to the north in part because it was 110 degrees

  3. it was amazing...

    and yes, it was 110 degrees or so...that is why all trips, especially at this time of year, must include water...

  4. The catskills are great but M. thinks your trip would be a lot of fun.

  5. Sounds like you had a blast. Great seeing you at the convention.
    Next time try Chorshat Tal. The campground is nicer, but you don't get the Kinneret.

    Another option is on the ?other? coast by Park Akhziv, which is generally quieter then Kinneret campgrounds.

  6. What? No conference write-up? :p Nice meeting you last night-hope you had fun!

  7. will get to it Benji. soon. you were great last night!

  8. rock - it was great. maybe next time by achziv, though we have been there (though not camping)... anyway, tradition says summer vacation has to be spent in the Golan and by the Kinneret.. maybe sukkot in achziv!...

  9. Looks great. You gave me some ideas for next year.

  10. proud of you bro - 2 kids paddling and you leaning back!

  11. Baila - enjoy!

    Shaya - it was loads of fun. I was splashing them with my oar, scaring Adina making the boat rock. I got out of the boat and she thought she was going to drown...
    the most fun part of it was how refreshing it was...

  12. Rafi, I googled Chorshat Tal and this came up. We leave tomorrow--very excited about our first camping trip. You make it look it fun.

    (I think this is the first time I'm commenting twice on the same post with a year between the comments).


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