Still another thing we did on our lovely Sunday in Akko and Rosh Hanikra was to have dinner at an olive farm somewhere north of Haifa. As we walked into this green, peaceful grove we were met by a vivacious black-haired woman called Shoshi who told us (with a smile) that we would work for our supper. Sitting on benches at long wooden tables we each had to prepare a pita to bake in her Bedouin oven. I used to make all kinds of wonderful breads throughout the years when the kids were growing up: making black bread, potato bread with caraway seeds, pumpernickel, Anadama, walnut bread, all were a part of my children's childhoods. Even before they turned two years old each of my children knew how to help mix the batter, knead the dough, wait for the risings, totally enjoy the punching down part, and the resulting enticing smells and delicious warm delights of eating "their" breads. But no matter how thoroughly I washed my small son's hands before letting him knead his own little loaf, his dough always had a slight greyish tinge to it. But this was his loaf; he checked on it and guarded it; only he would eat it, it was that precious to him.
So here at this farm I think I was the only one in our group who had ever baked bread from scratch. It was fun to watch people's actions and reactions as they prepared their pitas. And how delicious they all turned out to be, accompanied by an array of fresh veggies from the farm's gardens. It was a sumptuous and very wonderful dinner.
A day or two later we walked through part of a gorgeous park, the Tel Dan Nature Reserve. After winding our way on paved paths through groves of trees we could not identify (although Zvi knew their names), we went off-trail, climbing up to see the remains of an ancient Roman fortress. Other groups crowded around as well, so we stood in what shade we could find to hear the history of this place (which, sadly, I can't well remember; I'll have to go back). Then many of us climbed up the loose, rocky trail a bit farther to see, this time in the distance, Lebanon and Syria, but unlike on maps, of course there are no visible delineations in nature between many countries, unless there is a river or other body of water or a mountain range to separate them. Here, looking out over the distance, we could see only rolling green hills, a deceptively peaceful situation. The day continued hot and sunny, a perfect day for a hike, or for strolling in the woods. I was happy just to be here, walking with friends, enjoying nature, feeling the warm sun on my skin. It was enough.
In the afternoon we lunched with a Druze family and learned a little about them, but not enough to satisfy my typically insatiable curiosity about people and their lives. There are two types of Druze, religious and non-religious. I had so many questions but since the woman we spoke with was non-religious (being part of the Druze culture only), she could not answer my questions because only the religious Druze know their secrets. This was frustrating and unhelpful in trying to learn about the Druze. But the lunch she had prepared for us was truly delicious, so I had to be content with that.
Since we were already in the Golan Heights, in the northern part of Israel, we attempted to drive to look out over the Valley of Tears. But because we were so close to Syria, and because it was almost the Israeli Memorial Day, the army did not let our bus go any closer to the Syrian border. Most of us felt this was probably wise. Our bus drove to another spot though, to another hill overlooking another rolling green vista. Again I reflected that boundaries between countries are man-made; looking out we were shown where the Syrian border was (right over there!), and we could hear gunfire in the not very far away distance, a very sobering reality. I don't know how many in our group had heard live gunfire before, but this was an unhappy first for me.
That night and the next day we stayed at the Kibbutz Kfar Haruv, also in the Golan Heights. The weather was perfect, hot and sunny; the view outside my windows of the Sea of Galilee was stunning, and the quiet there was very rural Maine-like. I awoke to the sound of bats winging home, followed by wind and birdsong. Borrowing the Maine welcome slogan: (this is) the way life should be. However, after spending a very long day here, with nothing to do as we are so isolated, I'll be happy to leave this beautiful (and successful) kibbutz and return to an active schedule. A few of us tried to walk the path far above the Sea of Galilee, but (what's new?) took a wrong turn and ended up plodding along a hot, dusty highway for a few miles before we agreed we had missed the path and turned back. I tried to work on a sudoku, but my brain didn't want to focus on that, here, looking out over the Sea of Galilee. And I meditated, but I can't do that for over six hours. I hate to waste time, anywhere, but especially when travelling. So I went back out to the little shop run by kibbutzim, and had a couple leisurely talks with the interesting man there, partly to simply pass the time, and partly to learn about his life on the kibbutz. But the hours of free time with nothing to do hung heavy.
Finally the long afternoon ended, and we gathered to eat dinner together in the kibbutz cafeteria, and then went to watch and/or participate in the Israeli Independence Day celebrations, to sing and to dance, to watch the fireworks light up the clear night sky, to be a part of their happy energy, to feel, at least for a few moments, what it must be like to be an Israeli. But to me it seems it could be difficult or at least abrupt for Israelis to switch from their Memorial Day, a day of mourning, immediately over, at sunset, to a day of rejoicing. And yet this is what happens every year. We were extraordinarily lucky to be a part of it this time.
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