(Thursday night, November 26, 1998) – Ein Gedi to Kfar Blum
Happy Thanksgiving! It seems odd saying that in a place where it doesn’t even feel like Thursday. But, it was another day with a unique fingerprint.
Once again, I slept badly on the hard, narrow beds at Ein Gedi. The bed is so narrow, it forces you to sleep flat on your back, not curled up on one side. I cannot fall asleep that way, so it makes for a miserable night. [2012 note – this is likely the reason Ein Gedi has discontinued that inexpensive, spartan room!]
When I started the drive through the West Bank, I was extremely nervous. The Machne Yehuda bombing a little over two weeks ago has the entire country on edge. While most people I’ve met are going on with their daily lives, there is still a sense of looking over one’s shoulder, of being a tad more aware of one’s surroundings. And it’s not just Jewish Israelis who have to worry; Americans would be targets too.
But as was the case with the drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, the longer I drove, the less fearful I became. Thirty minutes in, I could have been on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And yet, I cannot say that I ever felt perfectly safe.
I got lost in Tiberias and was glad I had not decided to make it my base of operations. It had been my first choice, since it’s not as close to the border with Lebanon and Syria. But Tiberias is touristy, and I had come to Israel to see how Israelis live, not how tourists spend money.
Once I began the ascent out of Tiberias, I was immediately enchanted. I picked up two Israeli soldiers, mere children, who were hitchhiking. They couldn’t speak any English, so we didn’t talk much.
We saw the blackened earth of the October 1998 “Forest Intifada” that leveled precious trees. It’s a different kind of terrorism, but terrorism nonetheless.
After dropping the soldiers off a short distance before the Rosh Pina exit, I decided to drive up to Z’fat, just to get the lay of the land. Real exploring will come later. All the construction of brand new luxury homes came as a total shock. I’d expected a backwater town steeped in ancient mysticism. It’s anything but.
I located the artwork that Dan’s mom had requested at a gallery in Z’fat, and packed it away. One less worry for the remainder of the trip. And I bought notecards with outrageously colorful prints as my souvenir.
The drive from Z’fat to Kfar Blum was filled with beauty I could not have imagined. I could have been in Germany, or northern Italy, or France. Amazing, the miracle of only fifty years.
Kfar Blum has been a pleasant surprise. The kibbutz guest house feels like a Hampton Inn with an unusually good restaurant attached. It’s right at $50 per night for a single room. [2012 note: Current price is still about $60 per night. It’s a bargain!]
And I stress restaurant, not a self-service buffet. I’ve landed in an unbelievable place.
Today I’ve worn out the word unbelievable. How can I possibly process the paradox that is the mystery of Israel?