I heard voices. I waited a moment for whoever was out there to go away, but they didn’t. It was definitely me that they were interested in. I was in my tent on the rocky hillside of Mount Scopus near Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was about 10 pm and I had just settled into my sleeping bag for the night. I popped my head out of the tent and saw three police cars. The policemen shone lights in my eyes and were visibly relieved when they saw me. They said there had been a lot of trouble from the Palestinian town below and told me to pack my stuff, they would find me a better spot because it wasn’t safe where I was. The better spot they found me turned out to be a bed in the dorm of the university. Which was very cool. The next morning in the Botanical Gardens I saw the Stephen and Gail Victor Plaza (which had been a goal from the start) and ancient burial caves where the tombs and ossuaries of Nicanor of Alexandria and his family rested. The roots of a fig tree, sensing the cool moist interior of the caves climbed up the inside of the limestone walls. I am astounded how nature finds its way.
With only a couple of days left, I arrived at a beach in north Tel Aviv on Shabbat where nubile, lithe long haired beauties and swarthy men with rippling six packs roamed. I clomped through the sand with my hiking boots and back pack like I had just tumbled off the turnip truck. I settled myself in beside the cliff and watched the fit and beautiful twenty something crowd perform mating rituals as old as time. Techno music blasted, dogs of every size raced around like they were communally owned, the thwack, thwack of paddle balls echoed everywhere. Shabbat was over at sundown and the beach emptied as suddenly as a switch being flipped. I set up my tent in the gathering dusk, the grey sky blending with the calm sea and decided not to put on my fly. That evening, while writing in my journal, the sky lit up and I heard a loud boom followed by a reverberating rumble roll across the water. (For a nanosecond I thought it was a bomb.) The wind picked up and I realized that I was in for a rough night. I raced out to get my fly on and all my belongings in the safety of the tent. By now the sea was raging and the intensity of the thunder and lightening was unnerving. I got everything battened down just as the rain started. I couldn’t believe I was getting hammered by an electrical storm. When I emerged in the morning, my pegs were gone and my tent was wrapped around my head.
I packed up and walked south to Jaffa under clear skies. Along the coast, I saw a gathering of people dispersing and a bunch of delicious food laid out on tables. When I realized that the servers were throwing out the food I almost had a coronary. I raced over, found the boss man and got permission to eat my fill. Yum! Turns out it was a company fun day. It was certainly my fun day!
Jaffa has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in its 4500 years of habitation. St Peter lived there, Jonah left from there for his ill fated date with the whale, the Greek mythological tale of Andromeda and Perseus originated from Jaffa. (Andromeda’s mother boasted of her beauty, Poseidon took offence, sent a sea monster to devour them. Andromeda was stripped naked and chained to a rock to pacify the monster, Perseus heroically saved her).
Jaffa and Tel Aviv are the meeting point of old and new. Tel Aviv is a democratic, vibrant, liberal city that is technologically advanced where, for every two citizens, there are three opinions. It is full of diversity and the contradictions and passions of modern Israel but I can’t do it justice. Cities are not my thing at the best of times but now I am just too weary. My mattress is leaky, my stove is broken, my stuff is sandy and wet, I’ve got 6 shekels to my name, my email has crashed (can’t send or receive) and I am ready to point my poles homeward.
I slept in the far reaches of the employee parking lot of the Ben-Gurion airport under the stars in a soft green thicket for my final night. It was comfortable, out of the way and I slept well. It would have been perfect except for the dozens of red spots that now cover my face. I’m not sure what they are but I’m assuming hundreds of bugs feasted well last night. Before leaving for Israel I had visions of returning home lean and tough. Instead, I am wearing my long johns because my hiking pants are too tight, my ankles are toast, and my face is a sight. Ah well – it has been the Cadillac of adventures and I am savoring my final hours on Israeli soil in the comfort of the airport, swollen, itchy face and all.