“I want to hike Shvil Yisrael because I want to walk the paths my forefathers walked, swim in the springs my forefathers swam in, and eat from the plants my forefathers ate from.” Nava said that in our promo video and ever since she’s been really trying to learn about all the flora along the path. Upon exiting the barren desert, she’s been sniffing flowers, hugging trees, and even tasting plants.
It was a Friday morning, nine o’clock am. My friend Chagai and I were innocently sitting under a pine tree, minding our own business, enjoying the shade and the view of the Hebron hills.
Our silence was interrupted when Nava shouted joyously, “HEY GUYS, LOOK WHAT I FOUND!” If she was this excited, it could only mean two things; either she found a natural spring or a nice, Jewish boyfriend.
I turned around to see Nava slowly running up the hill behind me with a cradle of leafy greens in her arms and a huge grin running from cheek to cheek.
“We’re eating salad for breakfast!” She exclaimed.
I was surely excited for the change in diet. My body can only handle so many meals of apple with tehini, pepper with tehini, lentils with tehini, granola with tehini, and tehini with tehini drizzled with tehini.
Nava told us that she’d found “mangold” growing in the wild along the path. Recently, we had picked mangold in a few of the farms where we volunteered. It had been put it in soups, quiche, and omelets and was very tasty. “Guys I know it’s really bitter, but I’ll make a really delicious orange tehini dressing.” With a little creativity and a lot of tehini, Nava made a delicious and nutritious “mangold” salad. The salad was a huge success, so she made a second batch and we licked the bowls clean.
As usual, Nava finished her meal with a fig and tehini. After chewing, and chewing, and chewing, Nava turned to me perplexed. She tilted her head and said, “guyth ayeu caunt swawow,” tehina fig mush mush oozing out of her mouth.
“What?” I asked, irritated at Nava’s barbaric fashion of eating.
She pushed the mush mush to the side of her mouth and tried again, “I can’t swallow. Something’s wrong with the tehini.”
“Stop complaining about the tahini; the twelve shekel brand is just as good as the nineteen shekel. It’s all in your head.” I retorted as I chucked her the water bottle.
I stood up to head to the ladies room behind the large mossy rock, and I suddenly felt lightheaded. Upon return, I saw that Nava was still holding the water bottle in hand, eagerly working on getting the mush mush down her throat.
At this point, we realized that maybe the twelve shekel tehini was not the problem and it was in fact the “mangold.” Nava was getting nervous, so she started calling expert hikers and good citizens who we’d met along the way to help us identify what we had eaten. Nava called a naturopath who advised us to drink milk to help with the dryness of our mouths, which had advanced to our throats within the half hour. I looked at the map; the closest grocery store that would have milk was six kilometers away. We still didn’t know exactly what was happening to us, but it was obvious that we needed to get out of the woods.
Nava went to the medical clinic as I bought and chugged an entire liter of milk. I went to wash my face in restroom of the grocery store. As I lifted my rinsed face, I hardly recognized my reflection in the mirror. My pupils had swallowed up my irises and my eyes were bloodshot red. I looked like crackhead Mayor Ford.
It was ten o’clock am on a Friday morning and we were accidentally high as a kite from a very potent hallucinogenic plant and we didn’t even know it.
Nava rushed back from the clinic to report that they were sending us to the hospital. We brought a specimen of the plant with us since we hadn’t been able to identify it. We retold the story at least five times to every nurse that processed us and each one of them asked, “Why did you eat it? Were you really that hungry? Did you not have other food?” It was pretty embarrassing, there was no excuse. We were curious idiots.
As we sat in the hospital, the hallucinations began. I thought Nava was made of blubber and I kept poking her to check. My IV pole was my new best friend. I named her Ivy Bloom, she was very skinny. I let in the Shabbat queen thinking I was in a synagogue and the curtain of our hospital room were the mechitzas. The doctors were giving sermons and Nava was singing Carlebach tunes to me.
As hilarious as the day was, looking back we see that it was also very scary and could have ended very differently. We leaned our lesson not eat unidentifiable plants. We are not invincible. By being on this trip, we are learning not only about the beauty of nature, but also about it’s strength. This experience taught us that nature is very powerful and can lead to dangerous situations. We have to always be cautious, to think twice and then think again before we make any decisions, and we must think about everyone who is affected when we make our decisions. We are very thankful for all the people that helped us along the way.
From our research, we concluded that we consumed the leaves of a plant in the mandrake family. This plant is recorded in the Bible under the name דודא.
The fruit of the plant is known to be a luck charm for women who are trying to get pregnant. דודא literally means “the love plant”. In Genesis, Reuben and Leah stumble upon the fruit of the plant in the field. Rachel begs Leah for a taste of the magic fruit. Leah agrees to give her some of the love plant in return for spending the night with Jacob. I wonder if Rachel’s salad was as delicious as ours.
The plant is also written about in Song of Songs and in Josephus.
So I had the trip of a lifetime, and Nava took a trip to the time of her ancestors and ate the plants of the time.
Check it out online but don’t try it at home. Learn from our mistakes, don’t make your own. While the fruit is known to be good luck, the leaves are a poisonous hallucinogenic . Maybe this is what they ate before they had their prophecies.
Yoella and Nava