August 9, 10 and 11 – Great Adventures with New Friends

Alright so now that I was lazy and didn’t update for a few days I have some catch up writing to do.
Okey dokey.
So let’s start with August 9th.
It’s Friday! Yay! Shabbat! 🙂
So in the morning we did some more maintenance like stuff. Moving mattresses, emptying various trash bins and cleaning the campsites toilets. Fun stuff. Honestly though, it’s enjoyable because the weather is beautiful and I like feeling like I have a purpose when I’m there. And everytime we go down to the campsite I grab a few apples from the apple tree and that’s always fun.
So Chris (brit) and I took a few mattressed down to a cabin which was full of Ultra Orthodox. I think they’re part of some particular sect that may be Ashkenazi, but there were like 20 men in this small cabin when we arrived. They told us where to put down the mattresses and asked us where we were from. I love Minnesota but it’s a conversation ender. When an Israeli knows you’re an American and asks you where you are from they hope for your response to either be: a. California or b. New York. I always get a polite “Ohhh” or “It’s cold up there” comment. Anyway they were really excited to talk to us. They scared Chris a little bit though when they gave him a pan and said this is mine and I’m giving it to you but you must give it back. Chris gave it back immediately as was expected. I assume this is they’re way of saying now we’re friends. They are very entertaining (I don’t mean that in a rude way).
Later that day I decided to go to the grocery store because we don’t really have sufficient food and I’ve been spoiled by good food all my life. This time I started out on the same path that I had before with my sunglasses, an iPod shuffle and a debit card in my pocket. I found a shortcut! Now it’s only like a 3 km run down to the grocery store. AWESOME. I had a wonderful run there. I felt cooped up and needed to open my lungs a little bit. Also, the physical labor isn’t as “physical” as I thought it would be so I was feeling a little slow. It’s gorgeous outside and I can feel the wind on my body as I listen to Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Busta Rhymes and Twista. Finally my body woke up and I felt fucking great.
Here’s an example of a workout song of mine. BTW. I saw this song performed live at Soundset this year. That was nuts.
Or this classic song by the one and only, Marshall Mathers (I get chills everytime I listen to it)
I bought parmesan cheese. You don’t understand how important that was. We had asked our hosts for parmesan cheese or any strong cheese to put on pasta or eggs. They got us packaged havarti. I don’t hold that against them, but eggs without Worcestershire sauce, salsa, cheese or salt is…lacking much flavor lol. Also got some sausages from the deli. I asked for 5 he gave me 6. When I told him (in Hebrew) that I asked for six, he told me that he already packaged them. Damn. Foolproof logic. Also got jam. Perfect for the peanut butter we already have. Oh and I got Chili powder because we have a ton of chicken but very few spices.
As soon as I got back to the cabin and showered Guy (Guy (Eco Lodge architect and proprietor) came into my room and asked me to help him get some wood from outside of town. I said sure, let me just throw on my shoes. After grabbing some water (he said it was crazy hot there) we jumped in his truck and headed out. We started talking about what I was doing for the rest of the year. He was fascinated. It’s always fun talking about myself (:
I asked him about the lodge and he told me that he started building in 2000, just after the army base there closed down. I say with love that he looks like a jamaican pirate. He has a HUGE head full of dreads, a large beard, dark skin and a wonderful accent. We reached the site and we gasped at the monstrous stench of crap. But as if the stench had been compacted to create an even stronger odor. Together, we loaded up large trees (20 ft) on top of his truck. It was actually really fun. On the way back we listened to Led Zeppelin. Awesome. I love Led Zeppelin, they may have stolen a lot from Sonny Boy Williamson but they perfected blues rock and Robert Plant’s voice is awesome. But Guy knew EVERY lyric to every single song. I know the lyrics to the hits, but he knew every single song. I was impressed. When he started talking to me about offering me the chance drive his truck for the next few weeks I knew we had properly bonded over Jimmy Page’s rock guitar.
That night we had an amazing BBQ. Finally I could eat to my hearts content some amazing food. They are incredible cooks! First they made homemade fries which were some of the best fries I’ve ever had. We sat on the deck talking while they grilled a massive quantity of chicken in front of us. HUGE amounts. Enough for 20 people and we were 8. We ate all night. I had a great conversation with Guy’s daughter and wife. I talked to his daughter because she’s totally kickass. She chose to join the combat training program for women. That means 6 months of tough training. She had this great energy about her. We talked about the army and I told her about my friends in the IDF and we shared stories about people’s experiences with basic training. A very cool girl. Then I talked to her mom, Lealach (transliterated so bugger off). We talked about a whole bunch of things. We talked about the importance of the state of Israel which is where Yan (the team leader guy who I mentioned had argued with me on the roof of the Abraham Hostel. Team leader is the wrong word. He’s a goeco staff member but he’s just one of us here. And he’s really close to Guy’s family) jumped in and we all started talking. Yan brought up the photo of the holocaust survivors of Auschwitz returning on the 50th anniversary and having the IDF fly planes behind them. I told him that we as Jews can see the importance of Israel as a state because of the Holocaust and Nazi threat but that is no longer our strongest argument. I argued that Goyim could say that Hitler is dead and the threat is gone, but the imperative truth is that the threat to the Jews (specifically Israel) is greater today than ever before. They also asked about my gap year, Maccabiah Games and wanted to know how Taekwondo was different than Judo, Jui Jitsu and Aikido. We stayed late and I had a wonderful time. They are truly wonderful people. Although I hate that they smoke cigarettes but nobody is perfect (:
August 10th.
The first great thing that happened today was me finding out that those sausages I bought were AMAZING. Today was very chill.
I learned how to drive the ATV! I’m excited to use it to drive around to the campsite and maybe even downtown. It doesn’t go that fast and the brakes only work on the pedals not the handlebars, but it’s still really cool. Until Yan ran out and reminded us that we were being too loud on Shabbat since those Ultra Orthodox were staying at the lodge. We apologized and quickly put the ATV away.
I went out for a run while letting the rest of my cabin watch the movie, “Gattaca” on my laptop. I LOVE that movie, but movies are better the first time and I had just seen it again this year. So I put on some sunscreen grabbed my shuffle and headed out. I decided that this time there would be no destination to my run. I would just run to somewhere and head back. Freedom. I started out down the road and had fun making twists and turns through different paths. I was growing tired and started down towards an apple orchard. I grabbed an apple. Is that considered stealing? Well my conscious is clear. It was delicious. Then I looked down the road and saw a massive vine of green and purple grapes growing. I only grabbed a few handfuls but those were some of the most delicious grapes I’ve ever had. It was exactly what I needed. I can see the ad right now. Have you ever been running near the Syrian border? Do you ever get thirsty, hungry and tired at the same time? NOW try fresh Israeli fruit! 🙂 I headed back to the cabin and showered.
Yan asked me if I wanted to go out and play football (soccer) with him. We had a great time. First we were all gonna play. Me, Yan, David and 5 other assorted kids (some of Guy’s kids as well). But they all drifted away so it was just Yan and I. Yan was born in Russia but lived in Israel for pretty much all of his life. He’s funny, kind and a fun guy to hang with. We decided to play 1 on 1 against each other. Not everyone knows this, but I’m very very competitive. Keep in mind we are playing middle eastern ghetto soccer. A partially deflated basketball on a basketball court with bricks for goalposts. Swag. We started playing and he scored a goal on me. I couldn’t help it. I got serious. The game ended 6 to 3, I won. We had a lot of fun though. At least I did. Hahaha see! I can’t help but be competitive! After that we sat on the rocks together and talked about Israel. We got into a conversation about the Maccabiah Games and where are the most attractive Jews. I said Israel. Hands down. We got into a discussion about Bar Rafaeli where I told him that she doesn’t look Israeli to me. He said he loves her. You know. Guy bullshit talk. He wanted to know how the Maccabiah USA Taekwondo team chooses it’s athletes (not much vetting). I asked him what he wants his career to be (photographer). David and Chris joined us for a game. Yan and I played on a team but that wasn’t fair at all. After we won we switched up the teams a bit. It was fun. We sat down on the rocks again and Chris talked about British pubs. Good times.
Yan took us all to a place where we can see the most beautiful sunset. We were so high up that the clouds kinda ruined the sunset but we still had a blast. Yan always makes me laugh. He spread out his arms to the Golan and Mount Hermon and said, “Someday Aaron. This will all be yours.” Hahahaaa (:
Check out us being goofballs.
IMG_1144IMG_1130 IMG_1129
At around 11 that night I decided to call my parents. I love talking to them. The first five minutes I was able to kvetch, and then for the rest of the conversation I told them about my wonderful day. I got some advice from my mom, which I always immediately disregard until about 2 minutes later when I realize she was right and thank her for said advice. I have to Skype my family soon and show them what the lodge looks like. Got back into bed at midnight and fell asleep. Hard.
Next morning.
Woke up early to Guy running in and telling us to get out of bed immediately. Those 20 Ultra Orthodox Sephardic Jews who had been staying at the lodge…they partied hard and left the place in a wreck. 12 garbage bags full of trash. Nasty trash. Fruit covered with flies. Half opened food. Pop bottles. We spent the entire morning picking up trash everywhere around the lodge, which needed to be done anyway. When people litter in the city it’s “bad” but the city is already pretty ugly. However, when people litter in a place as beautiful as this lodge it breaks my heart. Not only is the location beautiful but the lodges are gorgeous and built handmade piece by piece by volunteers and Guy. This is a lodge built by love. Yan and I were talking and he said that the orthodox can’t eat pig, but they certainly acted like ones. Good point. I actually had a lot of fun picking up the trash. Weird right? It’s because afterwards I could see how much our work mattered. Also Yan and I were making jokes and I was dancing to the music he was playing on his phone. Goofy songs like mashups of Eminem and Elvis or the Supermario theme song played by an orchestra. As I was cleaning up the sheets on the bed I looked on the ground and noticed what looked like paper on the ground. It was $900 in cash underneath their bad. I immediately ran up to Guy and gave him the money, telling him where I found it. When I returned, Yan told me that this had been a test by God. I laughed. I didn’t even realize that I could have kept the money. It’s not solely that it wasn’t mine or that it weirded me out that a bunch of Orthodox Israelis had a stash of American money under the bed. It wasn’t just because it would have been a pain to find a place to convert American money to shekels. It was mainly that I love and want to support the Israeli family that runs this lodge. Money is one thing, fruit is another (see above, taking fruit from side of the road).
We headed back to the cabin. Tired and feeling a little gross. Yan took David, Rachel and I out on an adventure today. Our first destination was the Nimrod Fortress. We took the bus and a short walk later we ended up in front of what Mark Twain described as, “one of the finest ruins of its kind in the world.”
We walked all around and took pictures while Yan gave us a tour. How was it? I love the ruins at Masada because it’s MY history, it’s JEWISH history. These are Muslim ruins. With all due respect I don’t give a crap about them. So, yeah they were cool and I could admire some of the craft (we’re better architects and designers) but it still super fun.
IMG_1192 IMG_1168
Here’s our group IMG_1180
We ventured inside of the Fortress and I capture this panorama shot
IMG_1198 2
Anyone want to swim?
Yan was hilarious as usual. Doing one of his goofy voices (sounds like Barney from the Simpsons)
Watch this
David and I grabbed ice cream at the side of the road so we barely made it to the bus stop, but it was worth it. C’mon. Who’s gonna pass up delicious ice cream in this weather? A crazy person lol.
We took the bus to the Banias waterfalls (originally called Paneas with the temple made in the God’s honor, but the arabs couldn’t pronounce the “P”…not joking). We started at the temple ruins and read about the history.
We started hiking. I told them that 8 years ago my family and I swam in the Banias and that if I was here with my family that’s exactly what I’d do. However, nowadays because many people drowned in the water you are no longer allowed to swim. I know that if I was with some adventurous rebels (like my mom) we’d have jumped into the water over a few waterfalls. Nothing stupid.
i found a place to get in the water. Just not very far. It was very very cold.
Anyway. The water was beautiful.
IMG_1221 IMG_1232 IMG_1224
Oh and Yan and I were being goofy….again
And just me (:
Back to goofy (:
….And the big waterfall. YAY!
and this guy
We’d finished! We walked out to grab a little bit to eat
We were all in a good mood. Especially Yan (:
David and I each bought an overpriced inadequate schnitzel which was fine because we were both hungry and could care less. We sat and talked for a while. Rachel, who’s often very quite spoke up in the middle of our conversation and asked me directly the question what is the difference between being Jewish and being a Jew? Woah. First I told her, that’s a very good question. I’ll tell you what I told her. I consider myself an American Jew, not a Jewish American. My judaism defines me not where I was born because no matter where we (Jews) are born, us Jews are united as one. That ties into my argument which is that anyone can be Jewish. All it takes is a conversion. Being Jewish is about yourself. You can say, “I’m Jewish.” He/She is Jewish. Even when saying my family is Jewish, it still limits that classification to a certain extent, in that case your family. However, when I say that I’m a Jew, I am tying myself into a history and culture that has been preserved for thousands of years and connects me to the millions of Jews through all time. Does that make sense? I’m Jewish means either my mother is Jewish or I converted. I’m a Jew means that you identify yourself as a Jew and as one of many united as one people. You can disagree, but that’s my answer (written at 1:00 am).
We had a lot of trouble finding the bus stop back to Nimrod but thankfully I was able to find it because I have Google Maps on my phone. So we had to walk 2 km. So what? I liked the walk. I’m glad I brought the all powerful iPhone with me.
Got back to the cabin. Had a wonderful meal. They got us enough eggs and bread for a lifetime. Sweet!! Oh and this is out of order but it’s a funny story anyway. I left my hiking boots at my family’s house near Haifa. I asked my awesome cousin to mail them to Yan so that he can bring them to me (the mail to the EcoLodge doesn’t work) and she kindly complied. She sent me a text that said, “a messenger will bring the package to Yan’s house by tomorrow…” What did that make me think? Well, when I heard messenger I thought she meant someone in our family was going to drive the package to Yan’s house. I didn’t realize that she meant messenger as in delivery/mail man. I called her. She clarified that she had put it in the mail. I felt stupid. Yan read the text and said, “Of course that makes sense. A messenger means she put it in the mail.” Now I was getting embarrassed. David (Canada) agreed with me that he would have thought messenger meant someone was driving it. As an American I felt no stupider than the Canadian, so the victory was mine (:
End of story.
This is a long post. Glad you read the whole thing.