Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hanukah Tiyul

Hi again,
As we were preparing Sunday for our 2 day trip to the Negev with friends (the Richters), the fire was blazing in the Carmel, and there were reports of rain on Monday. I was cleaning off the balcony in anticipation of the rain. There was some laundry that was still damp. I was faced with a philosophical dilemma-- do I make sure to bring everything in to show, like Honi HaMeagel, that I have faith that the rain will come, and be substantial enough that my laundry could get ruined, or do I leave some out, to show my understanding of Murphy's Law, that it will rain if (and only if) there is laundry out to get ruined. This would of course result in moldy laundry, but for the greater good of rain in the region. Already feeling guilty for my part in the fire (I had told you guys that rain is not as serious an issue today as it once was, and the next day the fire broke out. It would not have happened, or would not have spread as quickly and devastatingly as it did if there had been rain), I decided to leave out the laundry, and off we went. (Does anyone think I am a little narcissistic here, taking personal credit and responsibility for the climate of the region?)

We slept Sunday night at the Richters (they live near Jerusalem) so we could get an early start down south the next morning. When we woke up, there were reports of heavy rain in the north and center of the country, and the sky was covered with clouds and the air around thick with fog. It felf like the fog itself could put out fires. In the meantime, we were packing up the cars for the trip. We were headed south, where no rain was predicted. The Richters had a full car, and needed to tie three duffels onto their roof. We were worried they would get soaked, but Tzvi thought (hoped) that if we got started early enough, we could get out before the rain, and make it in time to dry territory. As they were busy strapping the bags "securely" (more on that later) to the roof, the heavens opened up, angels started singing, and rain gushed down on the duffels. Undeterred, we hopped in our cars, and drove to a hardware store, where we bought a tarp to keep the rest of the bags dry (or perhaps more accurately, to seal in the moisture from the rain, but we didn't know that then, and we were hoping...).

We followed them down south, for an anticipated hour and a quarter drive to Beer Sheva, stopping periodically to "resecure" the bags that kept slipping off the roof. Along the way, I said to Ross, "Do you really think the weather will be so different only an hour and a quarter from here?" He said that oh yes, it is a totally different terrain and climate. This is the mountains, and that will be desert. I asked again when we were ten minutes from our destination, and not yet dry. Sure enough, the rain had reached Beer Sheva (though it stopped amazingly for us to get out and tour a really amazing memorial site

and the Air Force Museum). The museum has a collection of many of the planes used by the airforce over the years. Some of them are set up so you can climb inside. They have a little "cadets course) for the kids, where they go through training, such as learning the Air Force chant. I had a hard time picturing real 18-22 year old men flapping their arms in the air as they screamed their chant about flying for the Air Force, but I'm sure that is how they really do it. They wouldn't make stuff up for the 5 year olds, would they? Adin loved it!

The highlight of the museum for the kids was a room where they had playstation flight simulators. There was a game you could play in which you were presumably trying to shoot down an enemy plane. The kids were glued to the game for an hour, until we had to rip them away, despite the fact that no one had the foggiest idea how to play (except maybe Ross, who had what I would call a very foggy idea of how to play). It was amazing to me how the kids were so excited to sit in front of a screen and push buttons and maneuver joysticks, even if they had no idea what they were supposed to with them. We could barely remove the 6 year olds from the screen, even though all they were doing was smashing plane after plane head first into the ground. (Is this our future?)

Anyway, that night we went camping in a Beduin tent. That was an amazing experience. When we got there the owner had started a fire and prepared for us a delicious sweet sage tea that the kids loved. He showed us some of his camels, and told us about the amazing healing properties of camel milk (which unfortunately is not kosher). Apparently, it contains insulin, which is good for diabetics, and something else against cancer. He told us about the lives of the Beduins, who he said are very different than our other Arab neighbors. He explained that they are not interested in government or leadership or autonomy. They just want the freedom to live their lives peacefully and run their businesses (which for him is camel milk, as well as this tent thing). He himself served 10 years in the Israeli army, and he said that one of his brothers was the first Beduin to serve in the paratroopers (the most elite unit of the army). He was married, and had 8 sons in nine years (or his wife did...). They were exceedingly cute.

The tent was enormous, and full of mattresses and pillows. The kids had a blast setting up their sleeping space, as Tzvi made a great barbecue for us, topped off with smores. We lit Hanuka candles, ate, and got ready for bed. We had a furry little feline visitor who tried to partake of our barbecue. We tried shoeing it away a million times, before we took the if you can't beat em let em join you approach, and fed it leftover hotdogs way outside of the tent. One of the kids said, "Won't that just make him come back for more?" which was astoute thinking, except for the fact that we clearly were not getting rid of it anyway.

Sleep was challenging-- between the kids who needed to read and the kids who needed darkness (and were bothered by flashlights) and the cat (who kept returning) and the cars that, when they drove by (which wasn't often) sounded like they were headed straight for the tent, and the guy (probably a family member) who moseyed in looking for a light for his cigarette, and then, suddenly the dogs (Oh the dogs!!!) who were barking and barking like mad throughout the night, followed, eventually, by the roosters and the Muslim call to prayer. But nevertheless, it was tremendous fun, and everyone insisted we go back again for another night (though we didn't). In the morning, when we woke up, the kids were all gathered around Ross (who was sleeping), because the cat had decided to crawl up with him for the night, and they had all made great friends. The kids kept asking if we could keep it (we didn't).

The next day we went for a long and arduous and beautiful and exhilarating hike in the Negev, through a water-carved crater. It was a very challenging hike that I would not have chosen if I were planning it (due to its length an difficulty), but I am so glad we did it. Everyone was amazing!!!! And so proud of themselves afterwards!! We went for a great dinner in Dimona, and drove home exhausted.

That's all I can think to tell you for now, though I feel there must be more. I hope you are all having a terrific holiday!!

All the best,


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