"The real problem with Israel isn't the Arabs - it's the Israelis."I came out of the woods with this written on my arm - it's a quote from Dan, the hostel owner's son who helped us out while we were staying up north. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, Miriam told me that she and a few of her friends were planning a trip up to Haifa, or maybe to the Galilee. Cool, I said. Let me know if it's actually going to happen, because I'd love to come with you. I had no idea what I was signing myself up for. Last Tuesday afternoon, after our Sukkot Yom Iyun (day of learning), Miriam found me and let me know that she and Laura, Lauren, and Evelyn were sitting down to plan their trip leaving the next day and coming back Friday morning, and would I like to join them?
The plan was to rent a car, leave Jerusalem early Wednesday morning and drive to Moshav Almagor, home of the Sea of Galilee Guest House where we stayed Wednesday night and Thursday night, and then leave Almagor early on Friday so we would get back to Jerusalem in time for Shabbat.
Things started off a little rocky - we planned to leave at 9, but it wound up taking about two and a half hours just to pick up the rental car, so we didn't actually leave until 11:30ish. And then, about fifteen minutes into our exodus from Jerusalem, we got in a fender bender. Not our fault - the person behind us wasn't paying attention and rear-ended us. There was almost no damage, and we were paying an arm and a leg for insurance, so it wound up not being that big of a deal, just a little dramatic.
We got to the moshav in the mid-afternoon, with just enough time to run over to the moshave grocery store to pick up some supplies. The hostel was absolutely gorgeous - orange trees and flowering bushes and multiple hammocks for lounging. We stayed in their dormitory, which was both cheaper and more convenient for us, because there was no reason to split up - you can see pictures here.
On Wednesday night we drove up to Rosh Pinna for dinner at a restaurant called Indigo. There were figs and mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese and shakshuka and stuffed artichokes, and Lauren and I shared a fantastic chocolate cake for dessert. Reasons this restaurant is awesome include: amazing food, a sukkah!, a waitress who spoke to us in Hebrew even though we used English menus, and excellent placement near a mall so that Laura could buy herself some shoes for our hike the next day.
Thursday morning we got up and called Dan, the son of the hostel owner who had checked us in the day before. On Wednesday he had mentioned that if we needed help finding a hiking trail, we should feel free to call him and he would come by to help us out. Dan was a pretty stereotypical Israeli farmer - long hair, very tan, very laid back... We asked him for a water hike, and he directed us to a trail that runs through\near some of his fields (he farms pomegranates and mangoes). It was an adventure from top to bottom. A majority of the trail was actually in the water, generally somewhere around mid-calf, but occasionally getting up to mid torso. It was fairly well marked, and we managed not to get lost (some people I was hiking with might tell you a different story, but I'm pretty sure I knew we were on the trail the whole time...), but it was definitely a commitment. We wound up not finishing, mostly because we got to yet another section involving almost-swimming, and the majority of the group was too tired to go on.
We called Dan for a rescue - he came to pick us up in his truck, along with his two employees (both migrant laborers, probably Thai, potentially undocumented) and some freshly picked pomegranates that he cracked open for us on the spot. He was polite enough not to laugh at us for not finishing, and to give us a tour of his fields on our way back to our car. And that's when the opening quote was uttered, because we drove through the campgrounds on the moshav only to find them totally trashed by the previous weekend's campers. There was garbage everywhere - and not just a few empty bottles, but a broken chair, half empty bags of charcoal, and bits and pieces of tents strewn about. It was a little shocking to see nature that had been so thoroughly destroyed after spending four beautiful hours in the Jordan river.
Rather than go back to the hostel and change, we drove straight to the Golan Heights Winery for a wine tasting. Dad, this is for you - we tasted a Sauvingon Blanc (I liked it) a Cabernet Sauvingon (I didn't like it) and a Muscat (I liked it in small quantities) - and yes, I swirled and sniffed all three. It was pretty funny to be sitting in the middle of a winery dressed in all of my damp hiking clothes, but we were pretty much the only people there because it was pretty late in the day, so it didn't really matter.
We drove back to the hostel to clean up and do a little journaling\resting, and then we drove to Tiberias for dinner. If you come to Israel, don't go to Tiberias. I'm sure it has redeeming qualities, but I haven't found any of them yet. The part of Tiberias we were in is pretty much a giant tourist trap, and it was unpleasant. We decided to go there in search of good fish and chips, and while we found fish and chips, it wasn't the best I've ever had. They did serve us whole fish, which I wasn't really expecting - generally when I've had fish and chips the fish has been a little more processed... My photos from the trip are up here - none of me, because I don't take pictures of myself, but you can in fact see the whole fish both before and after I ate. :)
Friday brought its own set of surprises - in the car on the way back from the Galilee, I got a phone call from a woman named Judith, inviting me to come to lunch on Saturday. Judith who? I said, and then told her I would call her back later. It turns out that Judith and I are related, distantly. Her daughter Rivka is my father's second cousin, and I think if you had to diagram my relationship to Judith it would be my paternal grandfather's first cousin's wife, making her my grand-cousin-in-law. Or something like that.
Anyway, Judith lives in Holon and Rivka lives in Tel Aviv, and they were gathering the family for a big Shabbat\Sukkot lunch and wanted me to join them. So on Saturday morning I took a cab to Yaffo street and hopped in a sherut to Tel Aviv, where Rivka picked me up at the central bus station and drove me to Judith's house. There were probably 25 people at lunch, all of whom I was related to in one way or another. I spent the most time talking to Adi, Rivka's daughter, and my (I think) third cousin. Adi is starting school in Beer Sheva in a week or two, and is a little nervous about moving away from home, but I think she'll do well. I'm certainly looking forward to developing more of a relationship with her (hopefully, eventually in Hebrew!). Lunch was a great experience, and everyone was very welcoming to me. I hope to see them again some time while I'm here in Israel.
Tomorrow I'm heading back to Tel Aviv for the Nachalat Benyamin craft fair, and potentially some time hanging out on the beach, and other than that, I have no plans for the week! It's nice to have some fluidity in terms of where I need to be and what I need to be doing
And that's more than enough recapping for one blog post - moadim l'simcha, and chag sameach to everyone!