In another “This-too-is-Israel-moment,” the war was over. We climbed out of bomb shelters and safe rooms and returned to shaky post-COVID-19 classrooms, cafes and workplaces. Paper and fabric masks casually hung from our chins.
Israel—crazy, quirky, vibrant and loud–was back.
Like many, I was having trouble settling down. Everywhere I went and with whomever I spoke, the mood was the same. Edgy. An allure of “future normal” was not grounding us. Coronavirus, Hamas, post-elections funk; we were more tuned out and turned off than ever. In a country the size of a postage stamp, I was choking.
Thus, we loaded the van, hitched up the camper and set off for, as per its webpage, a “boutique caravan park” with five-star showers and bathrooms. The pictures showed foliage, a lovely Israeli breakfast, pristine swimming pool and lush, verdant bike paths and hiking trails. Only an hour away from Jerusalem! My spirits lifted and I vowed to make the most of this luxurious outing.
Following directions, we entered a beautiful moshav (agricultural community), founded by Romanian survivors in 1951 after the establishment of the state. Ronney and I found ourselves in an alternate Israel: proudly secular, fiercely Zionist, politically liberal, cultured and content.
The “boutique caravan site” was owned by Oren and located in his back lot, a pitted and badly paved parking area outfitted with four “caravan” sites replete with pergolas, water and electric hookups, plastic chairs, Formica tables and fake grass. There was one unisex toilet and shower to accommodate the potential crowds, both situated in cleverly outfitted plastic garden sheds.
Everything was clean, but I wondered if “boutique” translates differently in Hebrew and English.
On Friday morning, the husband set off by bicycle for the Sabbath fruits and vegetables while I prepared for the upcoming day of rest. We had heard that there was a synagogue not far from our site (the backyard of industrious Oren) and Ronney was curious. He bemoaned not having something a little dressier than an aqua tee-shirt.
Within minutes he called to tell me to drop everything and come see what he’d found, but I declined the invite. Inaugurating shabbos cannot be delayed and plodding along paths thick with tree roots, unruly reeds and large lizards held less appeal than stoking the grill and transforming our caravan home into a holy space, worthy of the sabbath.
Even in 90-degree heat, the joys of diving into an eddy frequented by rambunctious Haredi teenagers and pot-smoking hipsters would have to be deferred.
Sunday morning, I secretly hoped that we’d make it back to Jerusalem before Ronney recalled his insatiable need to share more of nature’s bounty. I envisioned him hitting brow with the palm of his hand and shouting, “How could I have been so forgetful?” I would tsk, tsk, coo the words “Next time,” and secretly perform spiritual cartwheels.
No such luck. He remembered.
Invisible from the footpath, deeply green water appeared out of nowhere. My ears adjusted to both gurgling and roaring water that raced over the mossy boulders, which formed a barrier. A family picnicked on the bank while young girls splashed in the maayan (spring).
I entered the rushing torrent, balancing on slippery stones. In a trance, I lowered myself, becoming one with the dam. Water swirled about and my body no longer mattered. With the sun baking my exposed face, time disappeared. I had no age. No gender. No ethnicity. There was only His presence.
The drive home was quiet. A tacit agreement said that separation exists between the sacred and profane.
New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She writes for several publications, appears regularly on Israel National Radio and owns an image consulting firm for women.