It finally happened. We officially jinxed the weather. We’ve been so proud of the amazing conditions we lucked out to be enduring throughout the desert. We boasted when told, “You guys ruined the winter!” Now, karma has caught up with us. Yesterday we had a beautiful but slippery hike and found shelter in a cabin in Ein Hod with some new friends (Peter and Catazenya from Poland and Charlie from Japan. Catazenya keeps videotaping us because apparently she thinks we are hilarious.) The hike was glorious as we turned the hills into roller coasters sliding on our butts with hands flying in the air. It seems as though we must take a week long break because the forecast shows rain all week long. So, before we clock out for the week, we wanted to sum up what you’ve missed.
We got the phone number of the mother of the roommate of someone we met hiking and slept by, who lived in Kfar Vitkin. Originally, we said we wouldn’t call her. “Sleeping at someone’s mother’s home is weird,” we thought, “We’ll be a nuisance.” In the end, as usual, we got caught up in a ridiculous situation and ended up calling the mother. Her name was Shelly and she sounded excited to host us even though she seemed to be screaming over sirens in the background. “I want to come pick you up but we’re in the middle of an earthquake drill here at Kfar Vitkin.” We said we would hitchhike over but she wouldn’t accept that. “I tried sneaking out to come get you guys, but they won’t let me so I’m sending my cousin, a taxi driver, to pick you guys up.”
The big yellow taxi showed up and we squeezed in the backseat with assorted family members. On the ride over, the taxi driver’s young child threw up, but that has nothing to do with the story. Nava called Shelly to tell her we had arrived, but Shelly’s phone had died. Luckily, she had left us with another phone number where she could be reached. The phone rang once and then was hastily answered, “Emergency headquarters”. Shelly directed us to the central buildings where all the action was happening and briefly explained to us what was going on. Kfar Vitkin was “under attack”. That night they had staged an earthquake, terrorist attack, flood, collapsing buildings, and many more horrors and invited medics, doctors, firemen, psychologists security forces, and residents of the yishuv to all play along and try to best deal with each scenario. They even knocked down old houses and hid dolls in them, and kids got dressed up with fake blood just to give the drill as real of a feeling as possible.
We overheard one of the organizers saying that she needed two volunteers to go to the psych ward and play shock victims. Nava got really excited, dreaming of the days she used to be on stage. “Id be happy to perform,” she announced. The organizer asked us to act as if we were victims of a house that had fallen down while there were still people contained inside. We took a few minutes to get into character; Nava rolled up a pant leg, removed one of her shoes, and tried making her hair look messy.
Upon entering the psych ward, Yoella started panting and Nava began crying. They sat us down and tried to calm us by giving us cups of water and rubbing our backs. Yoella was playing a speechless character who couldn’t put full sentences together while Nava acted as a bawling mess. First we were asked where we were from and we had no idea what to say. America? Canada? Israel? Kfar Vitkin? Then we were asked why we were there, how we got there, where our parents were, what our parents phone numbers were, and many other questions that were not so simple for us to answer. We didn’t know whether to pretend that we were members of the yishuv or tell the truth– that we were homeless lone soldiers who had walked to Kfar Vitkin from Eilat and were going to be spending the night in the home of a hiker’s roommate’s mom and had only arrived at Kfar Vitkin an hour earlier by taxi.
After a while, the head psychologist stopped the scene and praised us for the challenging act. They asked us how we came up with this unique story and we explained to them that the only thing we made up was the house collapsing.
As exaggerated and hilarious as it was, it was really impressive to see how the town came together to complete this drill.
It turns out that Shelly is also from Toronto. She grew up in the same community as Nava and attended the same schools. Shelly herself hiked most of Shvil Yisrael recently. Nava and Shelly immediately bonded, reminiscing over their favorite kosher bakeries and Hebrew teacher in Canada.
Being a “shvilist” can be rewarding in many ways. Throughout our adventure, we have found ourselves collecting lots of free gifts from generous citizens. We have been given free baklava from an Arab town that we walked through, free freshly pressed olive oil by a nice Druze man, clementines from a farmer driving by, and Nava even got a free manicure once!
On the list of trail angels, it’s written that in the town of Binyamina there is a bakery that will reward shvilists (people hiking the shvil) with a cup of coffee and bread in return for a good story. So without hesitation, we made a stop in Binyamina. When we got to the bakery, they let us order any meal on the menu.
The owner of the shop, Lechem Burkin, explained that they started the free give-away because one of their workers was in desperate search of a girlfriend and they thought that free food would draw in the single, good-looking ladies. It sure did.
The next morning, on our way out of Binyamina, we passed by a house that was surrounded with big white domes, solar panels, and vines growing in all directions. A sign on the fence said “The solar garden.” We curiously walked inside to see what it was all about. The owner of the house was ecstatic that we had stumbled upon his abode and asked if either of us had experience teaching. Nava started reciting her resume and references. Without paying much attention, the man responded, “Wonderful, perfect!” and started prepping Nava for a teaching position.
It was 7 am; 75 kids were expected to arrive in an hour for a tour and one of his counselors had just called in sick. Nava was put in charge of the plastic recycling station. If you had shown up with the group and seen Nava getting full attention from all the kids (as well as curiosity), you would not have known that she only received a 20 minute training for her hour time lot with each group.
Yaniv, founder of the solar garden, built an outdoor display in his own backyard as a way to educate and spread awareness of solar energy, gray water, and plastic reusal. He runs seminars and community gatherings. Check out The Solar Garden site if you’re looking for an alternative place to have a birthday party: http://www.thesolargarden.org
One morning this week, Yoella got an emergency phone call from her dad who was in Jerusalem for the day and demanded that she immediately exit the trail and come to Jerusalem so that thy could hang out.
While Yoella was spending quality father daughter time with pops, Nava went to a nearby youth village called Kfar Chasidim. Kfar Chasidim is a boarding school for youth at risk and children with special needs. Recently the village has been an absorption center for new immigrant families of the Bnei Menashe tribe from India. Although these new immigrants consider themselves to already be Jewish, according to the Israeli rabbinate they must go through conversion in order to be officially Jewish and receive Israeli citizenship. After arrival at Kfar Chasidim, the tribe goes through an absorption period where they learn Hebrew and Jewish studies. Almost every day another family is converted and has a wedding ceremony. Nava sat in on a Torah lesson that was given by a rabbi who spoke in Hebrew. Each sentence was then translated into Hindi by one of the bilingual tribe members. During meals, Nava sat next to the tribe members in the dining hall. They were unable to communicate with her, but said the grace after meals together in Hebrew.She had a feeling of being so close but so far at the same time.
You know those mornings when you hear a pitterpatter on your window and just wanna curl up in your bed? Well this is one of those mornings. Nava is cutting an onion for a barley lentil dish after making an open-faced peanut butter date cashew sandwich for Yoella who is lounging in bed typing this very blog post.
The weather has cleared up so we are about to throw our packs back on our backs and head out to tackle Mount Tavor. Wish us luck, join in the muck!