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Back in Israel

30 Aug

900Arrived late this morning in Tel Aviv, went quickly through the citizens line at the airport for the first time when entering Israel, sort of a re-aliyah moment. Anyway, no trip from the airport is complete without a Nesher (shared van/taxi) to take 8-10 passengers to their final destinations. Drivers of the Nesher are often gruff, scruffy, with a deep smoker’s voice, and of dubious repute when it comes to handling the vehicle.

Before we are off the airport grounds, the driver (not wearing a kippah), whose name I later discovered was Levi, is already on his cell phone. Correction, he is yelling at person on the other end. Conversation concluded, the passenger(wearing a kippah) next to me comments to Levi that he must love driving back and forth all day between the airport and Jerusalem because of the beauty of the land. The two begin trading verses from all over the Bible. When one man cant finish the rest of a verse, the other one finishes it, but with the volume meter continually rising.

We then move on to politics. At this point, I have been listening to the conversation, which is in Hebrew, and been able to follow, I was afraid I would lose them once the topic shifted. Thankfully, I was able to hang in there with them, not daring to participate, but listening attentively. Both of them like the Prime Minister Netanyahu, but for different reasons, economic, political, security, etc… Levi begins to explain his position, but before he starts he warns the passenger not to interrupt. Guess what, the passenger interrupted. Levi’s response, “Ay, let me finish.” This was repeated a few times until Levi had driven home his points. The passenger then began, but Levi jumps in with an emphatic, “And one more thing!” I could hardly contain my laughter.

Levi also gave us recipes for Shabbat, new ways to use the Shabbat food warmer, told us that he doesn’t go outside in the winter, and tips on how to avoid Friday traffic all over Israel.

At some later stage, Levi reaches for his water, which means taking his eyes off the road for what seemed like five minutes. Taking a swig, he says, “This is the only good thing that the Arabs have taught me.” He had wrapped his bottle in newspaper, and covered it with a plastic bag. “Why pay 300 shekel” he says “for a thermos, when I can make this myself! I filled it at dawn, and I still have cold water!” He then offers his name and phone number to anybody who would like it. Why? He says, “For help, for restaurant recommendations, for reservations, for a driver, anything you want.” With that we were all dropped off at our respective destinations.

Back in Israel. Where else does this happen?

Shabbat shalom.

Walking the Land

3 Apr
Dried lake bed next to Beit  Zayit

Dried lake bed next to Beit Zayit

The Great Outdoors.

Most digital cable and dish networks in the United States have an entire channel or two devoted to the outdoors and the numerous related activities, from hunting and fishing, to hiking and camping. Israelis, although I am not able to vouch for the television coverage, certainly are committed to experiencing nature. More precisely, being outside and walking the breadth and depth of the Land of Israel is an experience that is near and dear to a large percentage of Israelis. In the week prior to the Passover holiday, the Israel Trails Committee estimated that 100,000 Israelis had set foot on one of Israel’s countless trails. Most popular among those trails are the Sea to Sea (From the Galilee to the Med.) or the monstrous Israel Trail (From Metula to Eilat). Regardless of the abilities of a particular hiker, each trail gives the trekkers the opportunity to have some up close and personal time with the land itself. Meeting fellow hikers on the trail is not to be underestimated, sharing information on routes, places for a hot shower, water, and safe camping sights. There is in fact a list of people who can help during the grueling journey on the Israel trail, affectionately named Trail Angels. In order to get a taste of the Land of Israel, it is not necessary to commit oneself to sleeping under the stars and eating canned tuna for days at a time, as there are shorter trails that can be done partially or completely over the course of a few hours, which are more appropriate for those with less time or less ambition.

Yesterday, as vacation begins to wind down, I, with a couple of friends, decided that it would be a good day to attempt a portion of the Jerusalem Trail. 42 kilometers in all, the Jerusalem Trail makes a circuit around the city, parts of the trail appear quite rural while others are close to the urban center. We joined the trail a few blocks from the central bus station along with a large school group of Arab girls who photographed every flower they passed. After some overtaking them, we spent a while on a relatively boring bike path before finally finding the “rugged” part of the trail. Picking our way over rocks in a dry river bed eventually we found our way to a reservoir which none of us knew was there, despite a combined 5 years of Jerusalem residence. Some of the water had already evaporated, leaving a crusty but still squishy surface to walk on, in which had grown the most painful hitchhikers (not to be confused with trempers). Enjoying the water were Hareidi and secular children, along with couples who had come to walk around the edge of the lake. We turned off from the reservoir and headed for several steep rocky and earthy uphill sections, which gave us a great views of the outskirts of dowtown. Our day finished with several kilometers in the Jerusalem forest and a lucky tremp to Ein Karem where we took the bus back to center city.

At times it was hard to believe we were still within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, while at others it felt as if we had not journeyed so far from home. At the risk of concluding with a cliche, there were a few moments during our tiyul when I had to stop and look around, almost to remind myself of having the privilege to walk the land.