Well, I think we have recovered from the three-day hike. It took about 2 days for my feet to recover so that it didn’t feel painful to walk on them again but my knees took longer. There are a lot of stairs in Tzfat and my knees were none to happy to be back in this town. However, I feel some benefit from the hike. I feel I have a bit more stamina and when my knees finally stopped complaining about the stairs I found that I could do 150 stairs with at least a little more ease than before. I also got more of a tan….. er, on my arms, that is. I got a slight burn on my legs but only in sporadic spots making me look utterly ridiculous in shorts (the line where my hiking socks were really adds to the look nicely). All in all I can look back on the hike fondly now that the good memories are moving to the forefront of my mind and the pain is receding to the back. And I have to admit, there is a different feeling in our group now, a closeness, since we endured and prevailed together.
The weekend was good, very laid back as shabat tends to be here in Tzfat (everything closes around 12pm on Friday and doesn’t open again until Saturday night after sundown or Sunday morning). I got all dolled up in pink for shabat and had lunch with one of the coordinators of the program and his family. It was a truly wonderful meal with excellent debates and conversations at the table. And of course it was followed by a nice shabat nap. Hey, when you’re not allowed to use electronic devices or phones, what can you do but read and nap??
Sunday was community service day for us and a group of us had decided on a new activity, one that is not only greatly needed in THIS town but in all over Israel; we decided on a group effort to pick up garbage around town. We donned plastic gloves and grabbed garbage bags and headed out into the neighbourhood hunting for trash. I was particularly happy about this activity because I am deeply dismayed and disappointed by the garbage situation in Israel. The sense of awareness and community seems to elude Israelis when it comes to litter as they will toss garbage anywhere, anytime, anyplace and with no regard whatsoever. It is sad and it makes me angry. I am not sure what it’s going to take to get the people of this country to start taking some pride in the appearance and environmental health of their country but it had better happen soon. The lack of caring coupled with the love affair with plastics this country has is a recipe for an environmental disaster (no trees means no local paper products. If you want paper cups you buy expensive imported ones).
Anyway, enough of my ranting. The garbage pickup was a great community service for the day and we took pride in our efforts. Some of the locals asked what the hell we were doing, others said Kol Hakavod! (“Bravo!”). And we even had a stray dog, as usual, follow us around for the day. She was an absolute angel and so small and friendly. We had to keep her head out of our garbage a lot of the time and even picked up a present she left for us in the middle of the street. Eventually one of the girls ran back to the campus and grabbed a big piece of chicken left over from dinner the night before and gave it to her. Ever grateful she gobbled it up and when we soon parted ways.
Last night was a lot of fun as we had a large group cooking session for the upcoming Rosh Hashana (New Year) celebrations. At sundown tonight a new year will be ushered in and everyone will reflect on the past year, make amends to those they have wronged over the past year, and prepare for positive changes in the new year. Group cooking is always a lot of fun as the music is turned up and the group comes together to make a big old mess in the kitchen all in the name of communal cooking. Onions, carrots, celery, broccoli, beets, cabbage and tomatoes are cut, diced and sliced. Meat is marinated and pies and cakes are made. It’s a chaos but it’s a lot of fun and the food usually turns out amazingly well (ok, so the honey cakes didn’t survive this time; they sort of.. fell). However, our efforts are for tomorrow night’s dinner. Tonight we will celebrate as a group but tomorrow night, like on shabat, we will go out into the town and be welcomed into the homes of strangers for dinner and celebrations. This always promises to be interesting as it is a different family every time.
And with that I bid you farewell. I likely won’t be able to come online or call anyone for the next couple of days so I will see you at the end of the week. Sunday the group will be packing up and heading back to Jerusalem for a month.
Shana Tova! (Happy New Year!)