These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Yam L’Yam Day 3 | Can’t Rain On Our Parade

Posted on December 15, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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From my blog:
Our sleeping situation – big step up

Our sleeping situation – big step up

Day 3 | 14 km: “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

Recap. Where did we leave off? We were sleeping at Beit Sefer Hasadeh thanks to the hesed of Meir. We set our alarms for five, hoping that we would make it out early, since the plan was to hike up Mt. Meron on day 3. When the alarm went off, it was difficult to hear over the sound of rain pounding on the roof and thunder crashing. Plan B – lay in bed until 6 and wake up whether or not it’s raining. And that’s exactly what we did. We got up, cooked up some oatmeal (breakfast of champion hikers) and packed up to hit the road. No sooner had we hit the road than the skies opened up. We pushed onward and didn’t let a little rain let us down. The pictures from this day are few in number due to the weather, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great day!

Purple Dot signifying Yam L’yam

Purple Dot signifying Yam L’yam

The overall plan of the day is to get from the resting area, over Mt. Meron, and down to Tzfat; heading mostly southeast on the Israel Trail, also marked with a black trail color. We determined that on the entire Sea to Sea trail, the markers all had a purple dot in the upper left hand corner. So, if you see this, you’re on the right track. It’s very important to plan ahead at the end of the day. Regardless of how tired we were, we always made sure to plan for the next day. In doing so, we realized that we would be passing the Sechvi Pools on Day 3. On a hike based on bodies of water, how could we pass up an opportunity to go swimming, even if it was 50 degrees and raining? We powered through the rain and heavy mud, up the slope of Mt. Meron, with a peak of 2952 ft above sea level.

From here onward, the trail is pretty straight forward. No more struggling to find trail markers, hitch hiking, and fence climbing – just stick to the Israel trail and you’ll be fine. With the entire view shrouded in clouds, there wasn’t much to do at the peak and we kept moving. On the descent, we encountered a group of 4 American approximately 18 year olds who did not exactly look equipped to be hiking, especially not in the rain. With only day packs on their backs and sweat pants and on their legs, they were drenched. Not to mention they were going the wrong direction. They were very confused to encounter us, going in the direction that we were traveling, with the amount of stuff that we had, but we were confident in our direction and kept going. They decided to continue in their direction…until they turned around and followed us.

The map told us that we were approaching a picnic area. Advice about the maps: they provide incredibly accurate information about the trails and what direction you should travel. That being said, they provide incredibly inaccurate information about when you will encounter water, a picnic area, or a camp site – never believe it. This case was no exception — we arrived at the “picnic” area to find a locked bathroom, no tables and no shelter that didn’t smell like urine. We heard a road up ahead and figured that we would see if our options would improve there. As the rain fell, our fingers froze and our tummies rumbled. When we approached the road, we spotted a cave that looked as though it would provide perfect shelter. As we got settled inside, we realized that we were about to have lunch in a kever, grave.

For those who do not know, in Israel, many graves are inside of caves and not in traditional cemeteries, especially the graves of individuals who are buried many years ago and will be frequently visited. Often times, people go to visit the grave of a great scholar, to pray with the hope that the merit of the scholar will lift their prayers up. Certain scholars are tied to certain ideas, such as health or pregnancy, and people flock to their grave sites to ask for these things and they are considered to be very holy sites. Although we didn’t know whose grave we were at, we figured it couldn’t hurt to have his merit on us as we traveled. Of course, as soon as we entered the cave, the down pour stopped, but once we were settled, we decided to stay put. As we were packing up and planning the rest of the day, a man came up to the grave, presumably to pray. We apologized as we hurried to gather all of our things and get out quickly. He told us that he was very happy that we were there because it was a very holy and spiritual place – we weren’t too far off?

We were told that we needed to be inside of the next national park by 1 or they wouldn’t let us in. We never fully understood this, but it was something about not being able to camp inside of the park and it taking a certain amount of time to make it all the way through the park. Thus, if we weren’t in by 1pm, they assumed that we wouldn’t be out before dark, so they weren’t going to let us in at all. We were well ahead of schedule and knew that we would have enough time to dunk into the pools. Eli was smart and used this time to reflect and stay warm, but Nina and I couldn’t resist. We couldn’t afford to get any more of our clothing wet, especially socks and shoes, so our only option was to skinny dip. Oh, boy, was the water freezing. Cold enough to the point that it felt warm to get out of the water. We decided that we would count to three, dunk under the water, and quickly exit – it was all that we could take!

We reconvened, and consulted the map. Since the picnic area that wasn’t a picnic area also didn’t have water, we needed to go through an area with drinking water before nightfall. Another suggestion for an item to bring is something to purify water so that you don’t have this issue. All of the websites we looked at said that it is permissible to remove water from the natural springs to drink as long as you had a way to purify it because, as is, it is not drinkable. We realized that Tzfat wasn’t that far from us and rerouted for a short pit stop. Let me also note that, with more time, you can totally take side trips to many of the areas in the North, such as Tzfat. Here is another part where trail turned into highway — look for trail markers on telephone poles and on the sidewalks. We stopped at another “trail angel” in the form of a mechanic, who allowed us to fill up our water bottles and gave us the low down. He told us that it was going to rain, that he thought we were crazy for walking across Israel and that we could find a super market that was “Chabad, so it doesn’t really have everything.”

We weren’t exactly sure what the plan was — our goal was to sleep at Koves Fountain/Ein Koves, which was located right outside of Tzfat, but my rain senses were tingling. We were covered in mud, rain had gotten into all of our packs, and we were tired. It was Thursday night and we were a little worried about making it to where we needed to be by the start of Shabbat. I suggested that we try to sleep somewhere in tzfat — people are pretty friendly, willing to host. However, the more rugged comrades of the group wanted to maintain some legitimacy on this tiyul and didn’t want to be caught sleeping amongst the townsfolk. They settled on trying to find an awning to sleep under.

While Nina and I meandered around the Chabad supermarket, (which was an entire supermarket and we were left confused about what our new mechanic friend was referring to when he said that it didn’t have everything) receiving many Shabbat invites, Eli was busy mingling with the owner of a warehouse type industrial building next door. When we convened outside, we informed Eli that we had food for Shabbat and he informed us that the building owner said we could sleep under his tin awning. To me, it seemed like we had won in Tzfat and we would exit triumphant. However, the tin awning wasn’t enough for the rugged outdoorsmen of our cohort and we decided to push onward to the campsite that we had set our sights upon, about 30 minutes outside of Tzfat. The sky was looking gloomy, and I didn’t have the best feeling, but I decided to surrender my thoughts to the more voiced opinions of the group. They wanted to sleep in the shetach, field, that’s what we were going to do.

Breslov Graffiti at the “campsite”

Breslov Graffiti at the “campsite”

We entered Ein Koves, a national park, on a long and windy road with a spattering of tall trees on either side. As the trees began to thin out and the surrounding area turned into an open field, the sun began to set. We knew that we had to set up camp soon, but where would we do it? Although clouds drifted eerily overhead, turning back to the safety of the tin awning was no longer an option. We pressed onward, passed many cows, until we saw a smooth cement structure up ahead. With rain being imminent, the troops determined that being in cement would be better than wet ground and that would be our best option. So, we headed in that direction. From afar, all we could see was the typical breslover spray painting on the two walls that bordered the structure. And in less artistic fashion, someone had written “Mayaan Binyamin.”

Laying out our clothes to not dry

Laying out our clothes to not dry

From the flowing water and deep pooling area, we determined that we were at a mikveh. Thoughts raced through our minds — should we camp somewhere else? What if someone comes to use the mikveh? Was it a shameful thing to do? We didn’t have time to consider the possibility of choosing a new campsite. On the edge of a slope, any other choice would mean that, in the case of rain, our tent would be full of standing water. Stars had already begun to shine in the night sky – we had,to sleep at the mikveh.

We set up the tent and laid out our already soaked clothes to try. With a frigid chill and moisture in the air, they had no chance of drying. We creates a makeshift cover over our tent using a small tarp after we determined that our tent couldn’t have been further from waterproof unless the floor was actually a waterbed. Nina went to all extents, exhausting all measures of creativity, to attempt to establish a covering over the tent and to prevent run off from entering. Kol Hakavod, kudos, to Nina for her amazing efforts.

Our rigged up tent

Our rigged up tent

Ropes were tied at strange angles. Sticks were attached to gold strategic parts of the tent up. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that we could have been under the awning a mere 30 minute walk away – we hadn’t advanced such a great amount in the trail. As we are putting the finishing touches on the tent and bringing in the last of our items to prevent them from becoming more drenched, a car pulls up. At this point, it is about 7:45 pm, although from the lack of light, one would have thought it was 11pm.

A lone man gets out, inquiring if he can utilize the mikveh. Upon learning that women were present at the site, he simply suggested that we stay in the tent while he took a quick dip and apologized for inconveniencing us. While we sat in the tent, wearing what I can only imagine to be his birthday suit, he made small talk with Eli. Informing him that the gemara says that Gd doesn’t listen to the prayer of the traveler and the camper who prays that it will not rain and, instead, listens to the prayer of those who wish for rain. And basically hinted at the fact that we would soon be drenched. After a quick splash, he was on his way. We fell asleep and were awakened at 9:30 to the sound of a man carefully and in detail explaining how a mikveh was used and what its purpose was. No splashes were made with this visit.

It then proceeded to pour and our tent, as well as my sleeping bag, began to fill with water. In the nature reserve, at least 45 minutes from any type of shelter, we had nothing to do but pretend to sleep. And that was what we did until 5 am. Upon exiting the tent and packing up our things, we were visited again by an early riser eager to purify himself. The same procedure ensued. Although, without a tent at this point, Nina and I had to walk away. He informed us about the holiness of the place that we were at, how crazy we were to have slept in the wilderness, let alone the rain, and that we should drink the mikveh water. With a splash and a Shabbat shalom, he was on his way.

Even though it rained, the day was great. I can’t accurately explain why we had a great day, and the stories don’t make it sound like it was great, but I’m telling you, it was!

Helpful Things to Know Up to this Point:

  • Bring something to purify the water
  • If you go during the rainy season, bring proper rain gear, something to cover your pack, a tarp, and as few cotton items as possible
  • Plan ahead, if you have time, and take day trips