“Trail Angels” are people who offer thru hikers on the Israel National Trail a hot shower, a bed, Internet, laundry, and occasionally food, usually free of charge. In the green and populated north, there are many trail angels and I’m told that many hikers use them frequently. I’m more comfortable being self-sufficient and sleeping in my tent but the morning after a particularly wet and interrupted night (I inadvertently pitched my tent on low ground, within spitting distance of a well used railway track on the same night that the coyotes were oddly fixated on me) I called a trail angel named Martha in Zikhron ya’ Yakov. She gave me her coordinates (about a three hour walk away) and said I was welcome whenever I got there.
En route, I met a couple of ladies, my age, sauntering along the path. When I asked how much further the town was, they answered that it was a leisurely 20 minute walk away and that there was a concert in the park, starting in an hour. Sure enough, about 20 minutes later, following their directions, I detoured through a gate that opened onto lovely manicured gardens, sat myself down on the grass under an umbrella, for a complete change of pace. And what a pleasure!
“The Israeli Brass Quintet” played a recognizable mixture of lively, whimsical and classical melodies (including “Fiddler on the Roof”) using multiple brass instruments and displaying a quality and skill that was inconceivable for a free concert. I felt very cultured (a novel experience) sitting in an Israeli park, listening to classical music, on a sunny, Friday afternoon. No one seemed to mind that I was just a grubby traveler. In fact, when it was made known (by the ladies I had met on the trail) that I was hiking the shvil, I was ceremoniously offered tea and apple cake.
When I eventually arrived to the trail angel’s house (the family Haberman), Martha (the mother) showed me to a separate little apartment in their hillside home with a view of the Mediterranean and proceeded to invite me to their Shabbat dinner that evening.
Later… candles were lit, the father sang Hebrew blessings and individually hugged and blessed each of their three children. We then ate challa (Sabbath bread) with salad, roasted potatoes and yams with brussels sprouts, grilled salmon, and wine.
There may be a version of Trail Angels on other trails but not, I believe, like this. Little villages can have as many as 10 registered Angels. The degree of caring here for other people’s well-being feels unique. The love of homeland feels unique. Hiking the national trail is praised and supported. Israelis are honest-to-goodness thrilled that Jen and I came from Canada to walk and appreciate their land. Until next time – Shabbat shalom.