Six weeks... & counting.
At this point I really am counting. Counting the number of people who have been so very wonderfully warm and welcoming to me on the trail. Counting the number of times I've asked myself "what are you doing?". Counting the kilometers I've walked; and definitely counting the kilometers I've left to go.
And in the simple sense of the phrase, counting the days till I can walk in the door and say "I'm home".
The North – the upper Galil and moving into the lower Galil, has been as promised: green, lush, verdant... tho also chilly, a bit rainy, and with far fewer people on the trail than I anticipated. Sleeping in my tent on 7° nights made me appreciate all the more the hot showers, comfortable beds, and most importantly warm hospitality of the friends I stayed with this past week.
Don't know how I would have made it through the week without my cousin Chagit (again! - so sweet, she drove an hour to come pick me up, take me home, feed me, do my laundry, and then drove me back to Mount Tavor in the morning); Chana N Shmuel Veffer who not only opened their home to me but treated me to an incredible 'pinuk' of a stay in their beautiful Zimmer for the night - which I can highly recommend to anyone looking for a special getaway in near the Kinneret; and Haviva and Jacob Ner-David who hosted me for Shabbat - as well as introduced me to all sorts of inspiring aspects of their life in Kibbutz Hanaton, a new experience in label-free Jewish life (replete with multi-nusached tefilla, user-friendly mikveh, a vibrant Jewish cultural life... and an excellent winery, Jezreel).
Highlights of the week included cliff-climbing my way down Nachal Amud from Tzfat, arriving after dark at the edge of the Kinneret (with a cold shower my reward - why did I pay NIS45 again for this privilege at Chof Tamar?); hiking along the shore on the "Kinneret Trail", including getting lost and trapped in the reeds and vines and mud, and then hacking my way through to find a beautiful secret beach (and of course grabbing the chance to jump in the lake to cool off and clean up); camping out in Tzippori forest (yes in spite of the cold it was great), including my morning wake-up-call from a few dozen cows clomping right past my tent on all sides; and visiting the ancient synagogue & mikvehs and the roman city of Tzippori, which has been impressively expanded since I was last there almost 30 years ago and is outstandingly presented.
Truth is, I found it difficult to start the week; after a richly spiritual Shabbat in Tzfat I wasn't sure I shouldn't just remain for a few days and do some learning; then the hike down to Nachal Amud and then the cliffs - and the heat - took a lot out of me. I suffered my first real injury of the trip - lost my balance, stumbled off a low ridge and stopped my fall with my arm and elbow. Swelled up a bit, hurt like hell, couldn't lift my arm to my nose or pull my pack strips... and the day was much longer than expected. I spent the entire day in silence.
It was the first day since I started that I didn't sing; didn't talk to myself or the birds or lizards or signs. Yes, I have found myself saying inane things to trail markings like "there you are"... but not Sunday. It was a new sort of contemplative, painful, angry, almost complaining silence.
By Monday and my intemperate, spontaneous, almost whimsical jaunt through the shallows and hidden wonders of the shores of the Kinneret, I was back on form. Helped somewhat by the grand "Bouri" fish meal (with a half-bottle of '09 Har Hermon Red from the Golan) I treated myself to in celebration of my victorious arrival in Tiberius. 😏 And the jacuzzi in the Zimmer that evening went a long way to healing my arm and elbow too.
The next three days were somewhat uneventful: happily so. I enjoyed rambling through the rolling hills of the lower Galil, and exploring some of the less-known but still really pretty areas around and between some of the sites of early biblical history - like where Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera and Saul died - and of early Zionist history - like some of the first kibbutzim and moshavim.
And Tzippori is such a powerful example of what makes this trek so different from, say, the Appalachian trail or Nepal, Machu Picchu or the Pacific Crest Trail: This almost emotional, certainly spiritual and psychological, even metaphysical connection to the land I'm walking.
My people prayed here; my ancestors farmed here; my family struggled here: these hills and valleys echo with the voices and tears, battles and songs and footsteps of the Jewish people, Am Yisrael, the house of Jacob/Israel. My people; our people.
On Friday after hiking casually right past a 2000-year old huge gat (stone wine press), I discovered a new winery, Yiftah'el, in Alon Hagalil, learned from Zvika of his family's generations of farming the area, and tasted his unusual wines (and honeys) - making that the seventh so far. (The others: Rujum, Midbar, Yatir, Adir, Dalton, and Jezreel.) Talk about connecting past and present.... 😋
Tonight, the week ended in a fascinating cultural evening, a discussion and reading by the author Reuven Namdar, an Israeli who lives in NY but writes in Hebrew - a new genre almost - about and from his new book, הבית אשר נחרב (The Ruined House). Fascinating, confusing, intellectual and extremely enjoyable talk, including a debate over whether a Hebrew culture is possible distinct from Israeli, and separate from Jewish. With wine and cheese, it was a great start to the week....
Shavua Tov - and see u on the trail....