Shabbat was wonderful. Our host family, Marla and Mike, let us borrow clothes, roasted us some fresh coffee, and led us to the Friday night services. Kibbutz Ketura is a pluralistic Kibbutz originally established by individuals from Young Judaea (a youth movement) in 1973. Coming from Kibbutz Dan (a secular kibbutz without a synagogue or even one observant member) where I lived for the past two years, I was enthralled by Ketura’s religious pluralism. In fact, Ketura received the Speaker of the Knesset Prize for religious tolerance as a result of its religious progressiveness. In public places and during social events, Shabbat and kashrut are both observed.
Friday night dinner at Kibbutz Ketura is eaten as a community in the dining hall. Transitioning from silent meals in Ne’ot Smadar to the loud, upbeat environment at Keturah took Nava and me some time to adjust! For more information about Ketura, check out their website! http://www.ketura.org.il/newsCategory.aspx?categoryID=4
One of the most inspiring things we found on Ketura was the Arava institute. The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is an academic program that brings students together using study of the environment as a shared goal. The Arava Institute strives to create open conversations between students from North America, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Morocco, Gaza, and other countries. It was interesting and intense to hear some student experiences. One student is a high school teacher in a refugee camp in the West Bank and hopes to bring back what he has learned to teach the next generation about environmental awareness in order to create a better standard of life. To find out more about the Arava Institute, you should check it out! http://arava.org/
Sunday was a tough day. At sunrise we left Park Timna planning to reach Shachrut, a small village of 25 families with a public water faucet located smack in the middle, available for hikers to restock their water supply. At noon, we were munching on our Cracker Mush Mush Salad debating continuing past Shachrut (after filling up from the legendary golden spout), in order to make the following day’s hike shorter. As the day progressed, we puzzled over what was taking us so long. Although we took only brief, sporadic water breaks and kept a steady pace, we could not work out where this little town was.
When the sun had started to set, our feet (and minds) began to wear. At one point, Nava was ready to set up camp in a random (and very rocky) hilltop. I painted her a picture of the beautiful faucet awaiting us up ahead, along with nice, flat ground to sleep on. With this picture in her mind, she agreed, pulled out two dates, said a quick a prayer, and we trudged on. We climbed up and around a tall mountain and saw our dreamy mountain village awaiting us. It was only when we arrived that we realized that we had hiked for over ten hours, more than 30 kilometers of extreme uphill terrain.
This hike was unique because we were not fully aware of how much hiking awaited us; perhaps we unconsciously understood that knowing the big scary number of kilometers might actually hold us back from our fullest potential. Simply walking without putting meaning into every meter helped us lose ourselves and surpass the fallacy of what we thought possible. We would not have planned to walk thirty kilometers in one day, positive that it would have been too much for us. However, hiking thirty kilometers is exactly what we did.
For our victory meal, we each had three figs with tehini (far over our average meal ration!). We had no problem going to sleep that night, feeling like champions.
The next day was supposed to be a long, flat, boring walk along the road. After a few kilometers, we decided to leave the guided path to ‘shortcut’ to a local ice cream delicatessen.
We were so proud of ourselves for navigating through valleys and hills exactly in the direction of the ice cream store. We continued through the valley with the store in site. At the end of the valley, we realized that the only thing standing between us and a pistachio and dark chocolate ice cream cone was a 500 meter vertical drop.
I tried to put a positive spin on the situation by pointing out that this must be a dried up waterfall. Nava was not having it. For the first time in history, Nava was not excited to discover a new waterfall. We searched North and South to find an alternative descent that was less steep than 90 degrees. This challenge demanded patience, cooperation, and team work… (Nava made me write that line.)
Long story short, they didn’t have either pistachio or dark chocolate ice cream so I had to settle for mango chocolate. Our server, Chaim, force fed us multiple tastes of every single flavor they had available. Nava treated me to the ice cream and a beer as thanks for the support I had given her on that treacherous hike.
And now for something completely different: My friend Arava got married. Nava said that it is a mitzvah to bring joy to a bride, so the next thing you know we were on our way to Jerusalem. Although we showed up to the wedding smelly and wearing backpacks, I received a warm welcome from Arava. She gave us the key to the newlywed suite and told us we could shower and change there.
The wedding was quite the change in setting and we were both ecstatic that we had come. Seeing my friend under the chuppah was not something I was willing to miss. Not to mention running into one of our blog followers there made us feel like rock stars (Debra, if you are reading this, here’s to you!) Nava took advantage of our trip to Jerusalem by making some alterations to her luggage. She left 2 pairs of socks, a flashlight, and sunglasses, making room now for her blanket, Pupalon.
QUIZ QUESTION! Let’s see who was really paying attention in Tanach class: Who was Ketura? Winner gets to choose between smelling our socks or a taste of Cracker Mush Mush Salad.
Lots of adventures, lots more to come.
Doing our best to keep you posted as frequently as possible. Stay tuned for our Tu B’Shvat post!
Yoella and Nava