Hiking is a really big deal in Israel. Children climb mountains with their classes. Families carry babies on their backs, as they tread in the footsteps of our forefathers. From a very young age, Israelis are immune to the discomforts of the rugged outdoors. It’s built-in to Israeli society.
But for 12 year old Maia, it was a strange new adventure. Immigrating to Israel with her family from Bogota, Colombia, it took her quite a while to get used to this new culture. The hiking trips were definitely new to her and she didn’t quite understand why it was such an integral part of growing up in Israel.
Maia Weiner’s parents always wanted their children to grow up with more of a Jewish identity, which was unattainable in Colombia. Moving to Israel was therefore, a clear decision for them. They settled in the very welcoming community of Ofra, located deep in the heart of Israel, in the Binyamin region. The community was so supportive and all the help they received made the acclamation much easier.
“But it was very hard in the beginning. I was very opposed to leaving all my friends and all my family to come to this new place, have to meet new people and learn a new language.”
Slowly, Maia got more involved in the hiking trips in school. She did have an innate curiosity for adventure and new places, but she still couldn’t understand why everyone was so happy to walk along trails and climb up mountains.
“Where are we going? Why is everyone so excited arriving at a spring of water?!”
She can’t pinpoint the exact moment her perspective changed, but after some time, a light lit up inside her.
“I learnt that hiking here is not the same as hiking in other places around the world. Here, it’s about the journey. It’s not simply about going to see a new place, but about going through a journey of finding new realizations. It was all about the personal endeavor, coming to know yourself better… Where are you from? Where are you headed? And it is about connecting to the land on a deep and natural level.”
In Israel, when students walk through the mountains and valleys, with the Bible in hand, they are not only learning Jewish history but they are learning their own personal history.
As G-d said to Abraham, “Look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.” (Genesis 13:14-15)
Maia joined the Israeli army, after graduating high school, where she served as a tour guide and soldier teacher in the Kfar Etzion Field School.
“That really paved the road for me,” Maia explains. “It gave me a deeper understanding of what I love to do… connecting people with special places in the Holy Land. Showing the beauty of the same land that Abraham and Sarah once walked, that Joshua captured and that King David built on.”
After the army, she studied in Bar Ilan University and graduated with a BA in Land of Israel Studies and became a qualified Ministry of Tourism tour guide. For a decade she worked at the Jewish Agency in a variety of roles related to connecting Diaspora Jewry to Israel.
With her love of the land, Maia continues to serve in the IDF Reserves in a new special unit that specializes in scanning the land and becoming familiar with the topography of the landscape of Judea and Samaria.
Today, she works as the Marketing Director of the Tourism Department in the Binyamin Regional Council. Maia continues to promote Israel by connecting people from around the world to the treasures of tourism opportunities in the Binyamin area.
She believes that whether you agree or disagree with the settlements, it is important to bring people here so that they can see with their own eyes the beautiful landscapes, the real towns, real families and genuine entrepreneurs living here.
“The business owners in this region are not like any other!” Maia exclaims.
She values these unique entrepreneurs and believes they are genuinely good people.
“They are all so giving, so innovative and creative in many different areas: art, agriculture, music, reviving ancient vineyards… and many of them connect to their heritage, using ancient tools here, in the Land of the Bible.”
Maia has developed an even greater appreciation for this region, with her new role this past year. She got to know the sites and the farmers on a deeper level. There were miraculous findings by archeologists who discovered artifacts dating back to the time of the Second Holy Temple.
As we tour the land of Israel, we take in the breathtaking landscapes that G-d has chosen to reside His people in. We walk in the same paths as our patriarchs and matriarchs, remembering the Biblical promise that G-d made with them:
“See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.” (Deuteronomy 1:8)
Not only do we receive an ancient promise that the land is ours but in order to acquire our inheritance, we are commanded to literally go and walk the land. Deep down, the native Israelis know that hiking through the land was the way of possessing it, seeing its beauty and thanking G-d for it, each step of the way.
As we walk these same paths, we feel a strong connection to our heritage, keeping in mind, G-d’s words to Abraham,
“Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for unto thee will I give it.” (Genesis 13:17)
Maia reminds us of the important region of Binyamin, which offers an array of magnificent sites and unique expertise, including olive oil factories, vineyards, natural springs, organic soap factories, B&Bs and much more. The Heart of Israel, along with the Binyamin Regional Council, invites you to come enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the exciting attractions in this blossoming Land of the Bible.
Click below to see our list of worthwhile attractions in the Binyamin Region and print or download this 10% Off coupon for your next visit! Keep posted for more attractions that will be added to the list!
For more information on hiking trails in the beautiful land of Israel, visit https://hike-israel.com/.