Off the Beaten Path
One of the wonderful things about being at Livnot is the access to the great outdoors. Jewish learning encompasses the world around us. Whether it is the mind and perspective of our learning partners, or the physical world around us, it is always best to learn from many angles. Having access to so many natural sites allows us to use nature not only to relax and feel appreciative, but to push ourselves physically and mentally.
More challenging for the mind than the body, one could spend an entire day here reflecting on the landscape, the history and the strength of will it inspires. A beautiful cliff looks out on fertile valleys on one side, and tragically steep and unforgiving cliffs on the other. After taking in the breathtaking views from the top, one must mentally prepare oneself to climb down a vertical cliff with the aid of metal rungs and wires. Even the thrill seeker can appreciate the mental energy it takes to trust your feet as they step blindly down the mountainside. Once down the main drop the road is a gentle, but there is a steady incline to the castle remains that are carved directly into the rock. Caves along the way mark hideouts for Jews fighting against the Greeks and Romans. It was here that entire families were mercilessly plunged to their death. The sights are beautiful, and the craftsmanship of the castle impressive, but what is maybe most powerful is the knowledge of the atrocities that happened here. A place of such beauty and rebirth is also a place of such sadness and tragedy. The best thing to see is hope, and that out of destruction, new life is born. A visit here inspires awe and admiration for the beauty of the natural Earth, deep reflection within ourselves, and how to cultivate peace in our communities.
At the foot of Mount Hermon there is a natural spring than rushes along a canyon until erupting into the beautiful Banias waterfall. Around it are ruins of a temple built by Herod the Great and a few caves carved into the mountainside that feature the deity Pan. The air here is clean and fresh, and the running water is an almost forced mediation. By the end of the two hour hike it is difficult not to feel as if part of your spirit has been flushed, and easy to see why water and pools have been linked to purification. As you descend the wet and slippery stone steps to the fall itself, the massive roar and spray of the crashing water take over. A visit to the Banias Waterfall park is a great exercise for the quads, see a few ancient flour mills, and a chance to let yourself wash clean your own stream of thoughts.
-Tess Rose, past chevre