Halfway done!?

Shabbat was wonderful. I rested my body and soul in Yerucham at the student village and Nava was at her Garin Tzabar reunion on Kibbutz Lavi. Instead of heading straight down to Dimona, Nava stopped by Wingate, the army combat fitness school (where I spent three months of my army service in a combat fitness instructor course), to join in a yoga class with Karen Zivan. Karen has opened her own non-profit called Masa L’Koach which aspires to bring yoga lessons to combat soldiers to create group bonding, relaxation, and fitness. To find out more information about Masa L’Koach check out this site, http://yogaforisraelisoldiers.weebly.com/about-us.html
Masa L'Koach, Karen Zivan's yoga class in Winegate

Masa L’Koach, Karen Zivan’s yoga class in Wingate

By the time Nava, Chagai (my old commander from the army who joined us for almost two weeks), and I met up in Dimona, it was too late to go set up camp. We weighed our options and ended up calling a Dimona resident who had given Nava a ride the previous week; he had urged her to take his number and call if we needed anything. Nava called. He said that he was sleeping at his girlfriend’s that night, so his apartment would be empty and free for us to use. He collected us from the bus stop and drove us to our temporary abode. He cooked us a delicious meal and shared some very wise words. We talked a lot about life. He told us that he had been married before and during his marriage, he wasn’t living. Now that the marriage is over, he has been reborn. After he left to go to his girlfriend’s apartment, he sent us a text telling us that the past three hours for him was living and he thanked us for listening to him.
The Little Crater

The Little Crater

Early the next morning, we headed to a campsite where we met back up with Eli and Yigal, remember them? Eli is our reoccuring angel throughout this trip. He gave us a ride, then met us on the trail, then drove an hour and a half out on a 4×4 road to bring us water, and now here we are again. We decided to hike The Little Crater together. It is a two day hike and most likely would be the last time we’d see Eli since he lives in Eilat and we are already a two hour drive north from there.

Hiking with our two sixty-year old friends was quite the experience. They had another work friend come with a car and take all of our collective camping gear to our destination. So, for those two days we experienced hiking with only water and food for the day. Our backpacks were so light; it was awesome!

Eli has an application on his phone that told us how far, how long, and at what pace we’d gone. The best part was….the application was in English and Eli didn’t know how to change the settings, so it went off every five minutes!
Enjoying the fire and eachother's company with Eli and Yigal

Enjoying the fire and eachother’s company with Eli and Yigal

At night we met up with their work friend and, instead of doing what we ordinarily do, we glamped. What is glamped? Glamour camping. Everyone had their own tent, each one bigger than the next. We pulled out our tiny, rickety tent which Chagai, Nava, and I had all been sharing, squished inside. They pulled out their grill and started cooking steaks and drinking wine. I collected twigs and shrubbery to start a little fire. When I was trying to light it, Yigal came over and poured some flammable solution on it and “Walla!”

We sat around the fire for a very long time. We sang songs, Eli and Yigal talked about their grandchildren. We asked Eli why he is doing the Israel Hiking Trail. He told us that when he turned sixty, he promised himself that he would finish it by age sixty-one. And now he is fulfilling his wish.

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The next day we left Eli and Yigal and kept on hiking as a trio. When we finished the day’s hike, the first car that passed stopped to give us a ride. Nava took a look at the driver’s shirt and impulsively blurted “Garin Tzabar!” Turns out that the couple giving us a ride were actually Israeli Scout representatives working with the Garin Tzabar program. If anyone who is reading this is from outside of Israel and is thinking about coming to Israel to join the Israeli Defense Force, this is important for you to know!! *** Garin Tzabar is an Israeli Scout backed program for lone soldiers who come to join the army. The program organizes groups of new immigrants whose parents are living outside of Israel, called “lone soldiers” and makes them a home different kibbutzim around Israel.

The program helps you learn Hebrew (although it is crucial to come already with a basic understanding!), orchestrates through the complicated process of enlisting to the army, and also creates a warm community home for you to return to whenever you finally get a weekend off from duty. Please check out Garin Tzabar if anything I mention speaks to you. Both Nava and I were in Garin Tzabar and would not have had such an amazing army experience without it.http://www.israelscouts.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=295&Itemid=63

Helping out in the communal farm in Arad with Garin Tzabar

Helping out in the communal farm in Arad with Garin Tzabar

While hitching a ride with the scouts, we learned that the new Garin Tzabar 2013 would be doing community service in Arad which is where we were heading anyway. We jumped on the offer and helped out in a community farm project in Arad which aims at bringing out neighbors to enjoy the city together and work together to make it beautiful. To learn more about community gardens, check out the facebook page.

We decided to call a Shvil Angel (Angels of the Trail – people who help the Israel Trail hikers) in Arad in order to sleep indoors. I called a name on the list. The person who answered the phone told us that her family had moved to Tel Aviv, but we could sleep in their old house which was still in Arad. Over the phone she explained where the key was located, and we let ourselves in to our personal mansion for the night. We couldn’t believe it. For the second time this week, a complete stranger had opened up their home to us, and trusted us to be there even when they were not. We showered made a nice dinner on a stove. Nava and I actually sat down to eat on chairs around a table! It’s amazing what suddenly becomes a entity when you live with so little.
And then we were off again.

I hope you are all enjoying this blog as much as we are enjoying hosting it. Sometimes I find it difficult to decide what to write about, because I believe that every little detail and every encounter can be significant depending on if you are open to it. We are now a month and a half into our journey; we’re half way done. The adrenaline of starting has run dry and we are starting to get into the groove of the hike. We know how to pack, how to set up camp, how to make our meals, and everything. After a month and a half, I finally feel invested. We are in the middle of our adventure and yet there is so much to come.

Leaving the desert was very painful for me. I had no idea how much it would affect me until we started seeing shrubbery.

This week, we are walking through forests and I noticed that I am looking at the lush trees differently. I used to believe that green represented life. The past month and a half, my eyes were opened to the beauty and the life in the desert. There is so much more out there than you think. I highly suggest to anyone who hasn’t traveled in the desert to pack your bags immediately and head down there.

But, time moves on and the rest of our journey awaits us. Here we go!

Yoella
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