Living on the Edge – An Oasis within the Chaos
Katie Brody – Moriah College
Head of Differentiated Learning
It is days like today that are few and far between in one’s life. It is days like today, that make the penny drop in relation to the impact of the JNF more than it ever has in all the years I have attended Jewish school and then taught in Jewish schools. It is days like today that make you recognise why the Jewish community is so passionate about the projects of the JNF and why each donation is so impactful. It is days like today, that you are left with your mind still buzzing with all the incredible knowledge it has soaked in and you again recognise the extreme gratitude that one can feel being afforded an opportunity such as this trip.
As the bus climbed up the hill towards Kibbutz Misgav Am, we entered a thick shroud of fog that appeared to shield our eyes from views of the neighbours beyond the Lebanon border. The crisp air that greeted us outside the bus awakened our senses ready for all that we were about to hear. Once inside, we were greeted very warmly (both in terms of the heating and the friendliness of our speakers). It was incredible to think that where we sat we looked out on the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon and Syria. We listened attentively (and with some trepidation at times) to our speakers explain what life was like living on the border of Israel and Lebanon. The first speaker explained aspects of his experience, his uncompromising efforts in terms of protecting Israel and his views of those who seek to threaten. I could have listened to this man speak for longer. His face, hands, and shoes made me wonder about the details he was withholding even though his words were very raw and his opinions very overt. Hearing from the manager of the kibbutz was captivating as well. As a group, our questions probed him and his lovely daughter further to understand the life that he has created for the community in terms of farming, family and encouraging the younger generations to return and to carry on the traditions he has so lovingly built.
Next on our adventure was a Jeep Tour aimed at following the warriors of Israel. Most adept at filling the spaces in a range of different forms of transportation by now, we piled into a set of jeeps and set off on our next journey. Listening to the history of the area thanks to our knowledgeable drivers, we bumped along the muddy roadways and took in the scenery trying to transport ourselves back in time. There were moments, as we headed up the steeper terrain, that I found myself urging the jeep along like The Little Engine That Could. We passed expansive fields peppered with volcanic rock covered in lichen. Some areas were enclosed by barbed wire that warned of old land mines, other sections had cows grazing and there were many army bunkers. As we journeyed along, we were all the while being followed (on foot) by our trusty cameraman, dedicated to the perfect shot like paparazzi. Stopping for tea and more photo opportunities at the top, our hiking boots, and puffer jackets clambered out of the jeeps and as always there was a flurry of selfies and stills of the scenery. Hearing more about the historical context of the area; the shooting, the shelling and the living and hiding in the bunkers, our faces were serious. This juxtaposed the jovial chatter and laughter of just minutes before as we’d jiggled and jolted our way over the rocky roadway. As we stood there under the Eucalypts, which were a familiar piece of home, the crisp air on the mountain settled our stomachs, still full from the generous breakfast and sweet morning tea (yet now all shaken up like a cocktail). We headed back to the buses and off to our next stop, Katzrin Talmudic Village.
Arriving at the Katzrin Talmudic Village, we were greeted by beautiful Israeli music made by a man dressed in Hasidic garb and a woman as well. We were guided along a leafy pathway and as we came out into a clearing with a bench seat, we were faced with two racks of Hasidic costumes and baskets of headdresses. Unexpected as it was, I felt like I had stepped onto the set of The Bachelor or Bachelorette where the ‘challenge’ of the date was to don the traditional clothing of the locals and participate willingly in the experience to come. One couldn’t help but get into role, risking the cleanliness of the headscarves to truly look the part and jump excitedly into the hora dancing as the musician played. We then enjoyed two wonderful activities. One was to explore and hear about the ancient ruins of a Jewish village and Synagogue where we were treated to the melodic sounds of a range of magnificent instruments and the other where we sat in awe of the ancient artifacts used in the process of extracting olive oil. Stomachs rumbling loudly by now, as it was later in the afternoon, we were lead to a beautiful outdoor site with comfortable wooden benches and wooden tables, aptly located under the olive trees. Again a colourful feast of salads and breads, it was as aesthetic as it was tasty. Our bellies smiling again, we set off for the next stop.
Just when you thought this day could not get any better, it most certainly did. We arrived at the Hula Lake Park ready for the tour and bird watching. Guided into what can only be described as a custom built platform on wheels, with auditorium-style seating, all pulled by a tractor, we set off to view the area. It is almost impossible to capture in words the beauty and spectacle of the events that ensued, but I will try. As we came along the road we began to see some ducks and other wildlife. I think we were possibly feeling a little complacent at this point, as we had no idea what was coming. It was not long before we ventured into Hula Lake Park and came across a myriad of Cranes, all gathering in family groups and congregating as a large ‘community’, but this was just the start. As we journeyed further across the muddy swampland, more and more Cranes flew in. More and more and more seemed to gather. The noise of their squawking was akin to a school assembly prior to the start, equally challenging to silence, I am sure 😉 Soon a second tractor holding corn drove in the field and began to release some feed. It was then that the loudest crescendo of squawking erupted, a true cacophony of sound coupled with flapping of wings, pecking at the ground and Cranes flying up and over each other. The sun was going down at this point and as drove alongside a serene lake that acted as a mirror and the sunset was the perfect backdrop for many photos. Each of us took so many photos and sat there ogling over the quality of the perfect shot. We snapped away like we were at a concert and our child was on stage, it was quite funny really. Once the sun went down it was the end of the performance and we headed back to the buses.
It has become increasingly clear, as we travel through Israel, that the projects of the JNF have a profound and enduring effect on the land, the animals and the people. Weary-eyed but feeling so fulfilled by the experiences of today, we had dinner and settled down for the evening. What an awe-inspiring day. One we are sure to remember for years to come.
Living on the Edge – An Oasis within the Chaos