Today, we’re setting out on a long hike known as Yam L’Yam, or Sea to Sea. This three-day trek will take us from the Mediterranean to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
It seems like quite an adventure. Hiking with giant packs, sleeping at campgrounds, and walking a total of 75 kilometers over 3 days is a physical endeavor that many people would never attempt. But the funny part? It seems like every Israeli we talk to has actually hiked Yam l’Yam themselves.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Hiking, trekking, and generally walking the Land is part of Israeli culture. From a young age, children go on “tiyulim” in school. These excursions almost always involve long walks through some of the most beautiful spots in the country.
This isn’t a Land of cushy field trips. School outings to amusement parks or museums are the exception, not the rule. When we go hiking as a family, we frequently run into spots that our children have already visited on a school outings. And it’s not just the easy hikes. School trips to Eilat often include a hike up Mount Shlomo. A trip up North and they’re climbing in the Biriya.
After high school, most kids enlist in the army. This tough, but character building experience gives young adults another opportunity to get to know the country. Between drills and long night treks, young men and women build physical strength and endurance outdoors.
And so, it continues into adulthood. Israelis see getting outside as an important activity. Visiting, learning about, and experiencing the different natural areas of Israel is part of what it is to live and grow up here.
As a latecomer to the Land of Israel, I don’t take this for granted. I’m in awe of this society: Israeli culture simply values outdoor exploration and getting to know nature. This means that my kids have grown up understanding the importance of physical activity in the great outdoors. Going hiking is part of the experience of growing up in Israel.
Maybe hiking from one side of the country to the other is no unique adventure, here in Israel. But I’m thankful to live in a place where something as momentous as a three day trek is practically a shared national experience.