FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN TO THE KINNERET
The last time I saw Nehariya was a little over a year ago. I took off my hiking boots, and made my way across a stony beach to the water where the ancients set sail to trade purple dye and glass. Our goal was not distant lands, but to walk the entire breadth of a country. According to tradition, I filled a small bottle with the Mediterranean, capped it, and put it at the bottom of my backpack, to carry across mountains and through canyons, and eventually to pour it into that other sea—the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee. Salt to fresh.
It takes only 3 days to hike across Northern Israel from Nehariya to Tiberius. It was a varied trek—through banana fields, past a ruined Crusader fortress, over wooded mountains, down dry cliff-sides, on trails and dirt roads and paved roads and highways, through Arab villages and apple orchards whose trees were white with blossoms, and across hillsides red with poppies. In the shadow of the mystical city of Sefat, we rested at a holy cave, the site where an ancient Talmudic sage eluded the Roman conquerors. There seemed no need to build a wall in Northern Israel, where twin Arab and Israeli villages share the same city hall. In the Galile people live at peace with each other. We were welcomed to wash our feet, and drink a coke at tables set among olive trees. Our host asked, “Why don’t American Jews move to Israel?” And we wondered why not. Surely there was work for us there. Always something needs to be built.
We reached Har Mitzpe Hayamim, the highest point of our trek, and the moshav where we slept a second night, at twilight. We could see the lights of Tiberius to the east, though clouds obscured the coast of the Mediterranean from which we had come. North we knew was Lebanon, across the “good fence”. In the morning, we admired the cedars deep in the arroyo Nahal Amud—so like the American West—red stone with cliff swallows and canyons with waterfalls. We thought these trees had brothers in Lebanon, but we did not think of a Lebanon where a new war was gestating on the border. We chewed the round wheat bread of our sandwiches in a concrete culvert where hiking Yeshiva students chanted Minhah, and we rested from the afternoon heat. We did not think of bomb shelters and Hezbollah’s Ketusha rockets. Was it evening chill, or a premonition of war, as we splashed our tired feet in the melted snows of the Golan, and looked across the mist to Syria? As we ate grilled St. Peter’s fish at a cafe beside the Kinneret, and said shalom to our fellow travelers, how could we imagine the future that is today?
Today is July 14, 2006, and I see Nehariya again on television. Last time, a port on the sea; today, my own salt tears.