After voting early in the Israeli elections, we took advantage of the national holiday and set out for a hike in the Golan Heights to White Falls. While it's slippery and muddy from the recent rains, it's not a hard hike and good for all ages. Little did we know what we were in for.

There was a huge mix of families enjoying the day, including some neighbors from Moreshet, our village in the Galilee. We had our dog, Truman, with us. Soon we found ourselves behind an Arab family and we began chatting. Their children were adorable and loved dogs. Just before we got to the Falls, we all stopped at a viewpoint where we took pictures, admiring the surrounding view.

The Arab family asked if I could take a picture of them with our dog, and they took a picture of us as well.

Our hike started out pleasantly.

We also met another Israeli family who approached us asking about our dog. Our dog, a Standard Poodle, is quite rare in Israel, and they had one too, so we started talking. Our little newfound group would soon connect beyond the usual polite conversation in ways that none of us anticipated.

First I descended to a trail that took me to the bottom of the 45-foot falls. Next to the pool was a sign warning people to swim at their own risk and not to dive because there were hidden boulders under the water. “No chance of anyone swimming today,” I thought. The water was cold and after the recent rain, the current was too strong.

The Arab family with our dog

I then ascended the trail to the top of the Falls where we met up again with our neighbors, the Arab family and the Israelis with the poodle.

Suddenly, the Arab girl – she couldn't have been more than 9 years old – slipped. She hadn't been running around, she just simply slipped toward the water! There was nothing to grab onto and she kept slipping down...

Her father ran after her, trying to catch her... and now he was slipping down, closer and closer to the water.

They finally hit the water, with its rough swirling current and they were less than 10 feet away from the Falls. The husband of the Israeli family reacted automatically and jumped into the water to save them. Alas, he was swept away with the Arab girl and her father, over the falls.

The Arab wife and mother screamed hysterically, as did the wife of the Jewish man. We were all in shock, thinking we had just witnessed the horrible deaths of three people.

Rescue services were called and many ran down the trail to the bottom of the Falls to see if anyone had survived or to retrieve bodies from floating further down the swirling current.

We could not believe our eyes. Somehow, the Arab father had been able to catch his daughter after they both landed at the bottom and make it to shore. So had the Jewish man. He had some cuts to his nose but was otherwise okay. The little girl was freezing and shaking but unharmed. The father of the girl was injured, but he was able to walk from the bottom of the trail to the top where everyone rested and awaited further instruction from rescue services.

Survivor

Our neighbor’s teenaged daughters literally gave the clothes off their backs – sweaters and jackets and socks – to the little girl, who was shaking from the cold and had lost her shoes in the water. The father hugged his children so tight. The mother was in shock. When the Jewish woman was reunited with her husband who had risked his life for complete strangers, his wife began shouting, “You're crazy! What were you thinking?!" She continued screaming at him while crying, and then hugged him hard like she'd never let go. Once she saw he was okay, she was so proud of his heroic efforts.

Rescue still hadn't arrived. So men grasped the injured man and supported him, and they slowly started making their way back to the parking lot 3 km away. They had to stop many times since he was in pain and very dizzy.

The little girl recovered quickly. I said to her, “Hamdulillah!” which means “Baruch Hashem/Praise God” in Arabic. “Hamdulillah!” she answered back, and flashed a big smile which made me teary-eyed.

Walking with the wounded father

We were a convoy of about 15 people, trudging slowly along the trail, still processing the tremendous horror-turned-miracle that we had just witnessed. We were silent – stunned, really.

Eventually the police and rescue services arrived on the trail and the Arab father was carried the rest of the way by stretcher to a waiting ambulance.

I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that the picture I took of the happy Arab family 20 minutes before all this occurred could have been the last picture of their complete family that they would have. I saw near-death, fear, terror, anguish, desperation, redemption, joy, awe, and lots of love. I witnessed people who came together, oblivious of background, united because we are all part of the human race and value life and our families. I experienced people reaching out to help one another. And I witnessed a miracle. How did three people, one a child, survive the 45-foot fall into rocks?

What I saw on that Election Day excursion was so awful, yet so beautiful. I'm so grateful to live in Israel and to experience life with so much meaning. Thank you God for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us.