A boy stands atop a steep mountain of Gamla in Golan Heights, Israel. Photography by Geena Matuson, December 2016.

A boy stands atop a steep mountain of Gamla in Golan Heights, Israel.

In early January I returned from a week-long trip to Israel with Shorashim, one of the trip providers working with Birthright Israel. The great thing about Shorashim is the fact that Israelis are with you throughout the whole trip, a program for Israelis, too! It was really great getting to know the people, soldiers, in the country.

For the first few nights we stayed at Ohalo Manor in Kinneret by the Sea of Galilee in North Golan. They had some serious plumbing problems while we were there, but the food was pretty good, and the humus tasted nothing like the stuff in America - which was great, because chickpea overload.

The area seemed calm and almost desaturated, pale yellow and green fading into the distance. Clearly, I boosted some color in these epic photos, haha.

The official start of our journey through Israel began in North Golan Heights as we hiked in Gamla (Gamala). Led by our awesome guide Itamar, we learned about the history of the area through the historical records of Josephus Flavius, Romano-Jewish scholar and historian.

Israel is also known for bird-watching and, apparently, vultures, and this statue sat atop a bird-watching area at the start of our hike. You can see into the distance for miles, something that I don't get to experience back here in Massachusetts.

'Freedom,' taken at Gamla in Golan Heights, Israel.

We walked down and back up the mountains, and as I arrived at the top I saw children over ten feet tall. Standing on the pillars, against the sun, I took some photos I call 'Freedom.' (Ironic?) These kids were just climbing on everything, and I have no idea how they did it (or had so much energy), haha.

'Freedom,' taken at Gamla in Golan Heights, Israel.

Later that day we bussed over to volcanic Har (Mount) Bental, Israeli bunkers at the highest point in Golan from which point you can see the borders of the country, and Syria. At least, I think it was Syria...

The view from Har Bental, Israeli Bunkers in Golan, Israel.

The view from Har Bental, Israeli Bunkers in Golan, Israel.

A sign at Har Bental, highest point in Golan, points to a variety of destinations.

And, on our second full day, we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with doughnuts, songs, and candles of course!

The next day, we drove to the Ghetto Fighters' House (Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum), the world's first Holocaust museum.

The museum was originally a Kibbutz setup by Holocaust survivors who pooled together their saved photographs and anything they had managed to salvage after the war had ended. These items, along with collections of art, created such an immersive environment.

There was also a whole wing dedicated to orphaned children in ghettos during the war. It was designed to be very light and welcoming, but of course it's a very heavy idea to wrap your head around.

The Ghetto Fighters' House (Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum), the world's first Holocaust museum, Israel.

I had asked our museum guide how he felt talking about this day in and day out. He said he felt privileged (or perhaps, grateful) for the opportunity to share this information and educate others. It made him happy to be able to do this, and it was a way of looking at things I hadn't considered.

The trip continued, and packing two days into one became the norm, as we wanted to fit as much into this one-week trip as possible...

- The Girl Mirage