Monday, Oct. 9, 2017
I woke up early and went for a small hike up the hill behind the Kibbutz. The sky was dark and cloudy. It looked like it was going to rain. I didn’t care. I just wanted to try to make some room for my heart to experience the land I was in. Can’t do that inside. Gotta get outside. Some really cool looking cows were grazing on the hill. I loved their colors; they matched the scenery of red rock, stone and dirt. I don’t think I am familiar with their breed. They seemed more like an “heirloom” kinda cow.I think they were beautiful.
I didn’t feel so good. I’ve been struggling with a cold, so I walked really slow. I walked almost slower than the cows. They didn’t know what I was doing up this early and so they looked at me weird, but finally they went back to what cows do best wherever they live…grazing.
And what a place to graze! On top of the world in Israel.
I was too tired to walk up the hill as far as I wanted, so I sat on the trail and listened to all of Hosea read by Alexander Scourby on my iphone. This time through Hosea all I heard was how frustrated Papa was with Israel. Matches the way I feel. Frustrated. Sad. A little depressed.
I felt worse when I got back to the cabin so I got back in bed and slept for a couple hours. I don’t know what everyone else did while I slept. I still don’t know. But when I came to I nearly jumped out of bed and threw open the door and exclaimed, “Mama’s back!”
We packed because today we were going to leave the quietness of the Kibbutz and head to Nazareth. We will have to come back here to visit again and do some more exploring of the Kibbutz. It’s a bummer that I didn’t feel so good. Tomer, our Kadarim Kibbutz Kottage host came over to see if he could recommend any place specific for our day. We needed to find an ATM machine. He recommended one in the Arab village we were at the other day, Mahar. He also recommended an Arab bakery that was supposedly at the “square.”
Finally, we were all done packing up at the cabin. It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon before we finally made our way down the mountain to the Arab village. We found the bank, but it was closed because the banks in Israel close at noon during the “in between” days of the Feast. Grrr! So, we went in search of the bakery. We drove quite a ways through the village and skinny streets trying to find the bakery. Miles later we realized that we had gone past it. We turned around (which was quite a feat in the tight streets of the village). I think Tomer had been confused between the word “round” and “square.” That’s because we found the bakery at the round-a-bout.
It was a little unnerving to park and get out of the vehicle in such a strange kind of town. Perhaps I would feel this way in New York. I supposed the difference between mountain life and city life is definitely a culture shock no matter what country you are in. But the way they live here in the Arab villages is super different than the way we live in America. And I hear that this is tame when taking into consideration the surrounding countries of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
As we drove through the village there were some women and kiddos walking, but what I noticed was the men. They drove aggressive. They walked with their shoulders back. They walked alone. They walked in groups. They sat in the doorways of their shops. Some smiled, most didn’t. The men here don’t look emasculated. They looked like fighting men who drive small cars.
Most of the Arab villages we drove past or went into had mosques and those pointy skinny obliques that Yah detests, rising into the sky. We could tell that there was a good chance that those villages had a high percentage of muslims in them. But you know what I find strange? Muslims want their women to cover up, right? The more the better. Yet, strewn all over their buildings, magazines and walls were images of half-naked ladies using sex to sell whatever item it was. I guess they make up their own rules as they go.
It really wasn’t far to walk from the car, but I was uncomfortable as there were men around. Blondies in the midst of olive skin. I just wondered if they thought, “man, you’re pretty far from Tel Aviv. What are you tourists doing deep in the heart of our village?” Of course, they would be saying it in Arabic in their head, not English. But I don’t know Arabic. We parked and walked to the bakery together. As soon as we walked in the bakery all the delicious smells hit us and the unique-to-the Middle East food items came into view and we forgot what was outside the bakery. The store was clean and smelled good.
In the center of the store were bins full of bread. There was some sliced sourdough bread, but mostly there was flat bread. Square flat bread. Circular flat bread. Small flat bread. Big flat bread. And also longer loaves of bread. As foodies we had a blast taking in all the new food.
A kinda-english-speaking girl at the counter noticed we needed help reading the signs. She helped us order a type-of-pizza that she put in the wood-fired oven for us. It was the thin pita bread with labana cheese, olive oil and the herb za’atar that Tomer had suggested. It was super good and there wasn’t even any mozzarella! We got a box full of other treats as well to try. The store offered free Turkish coffee to it’s customers. Isaac tried it. He said it was thick and strong like “cowboy coffee.” He didn’t like it.
The sky was dark and it rained off and on as we headed South from the village of Mahar to Saba Habib Olive Press on our way towards Nazareth.
It took awhile to find Saba Habib Olive Press because it was tucked away in an inconspicuous place in a Kibbutz, I think. Their “store front” looked more like someone’s home than a place strangers were welcomed. But I was glad to see a Israeli flag flying at their entrance. The Israeli blue and white flag with the star made me feel like I was in a safe place. Without that flag flying in places we visited it made me nervous to think we might be in an other-wise controlled area.
The family didn’t speak English at all. They barely gave hand motions a try. The older lady just smiled at us. It was quiet, there no visitors except a Jewish family who was leaving. I wondered why it was so hard to figure out why we were there. They had a room with lots of benches to sit at for presentations, a table with olive oil samples that were out and a store chocked full of olive oil and products made with olive oil that were screaming for people to buy them.
At first I felt like I was intruding. Perhaps they were used to big tour buses and when a family of 4 arrives – they don’t know what to do. I dunno. An old man (presumably the patriarch of the family) sat in the corner of the store leaning on his cane with his head down most of the time. He tried to speak to Isaac in Hebrew. Isaac thought he said he was a Christian. But in the end, I think the old man asked if we were Christians instead.
The older lady finally figured out why we were there and served us some tea (really good tea). A hungry black cat jumped into the trash can next to the tea and olive oil samples. Have I mentioned that there are cats everywhere in Israel? No collars. Just cats. Free cats. Everywhere cats. Cats that have gone forth to multiply like Yah intended.
The lady set us down in front of a movie that showed how they’ve make olive oil over the centuries. The movie was in Hebrew with no sub-titles, but at least we could see and understand. I don’t think I ever knew how olive oil was made. Pretty cool.
When the movie was over we met her in the store. Now she started smiling. She motioned that Maggie and I looked alike and that Hadassah and daddy looked alike. Looking back now I’m wiser. Generally speaking, among many things, locals tend to use flattery on tourists to sell their products.
I would have loved a tour of the orchard, but no such luck.
It wasn’t too long before a young lady showed up right in time for us to figure out what to buy. She helped us – then split. We tasted a few different olive oils and butters. The olive oil was so cheap compared to in the States. I bought lots. I have no idea how I will get them home. I also purchased olive oil soap, almond butter and herbs. She gave us some free things as well. After all was said and done, it was fun being there.
Hoping to get to Nazareth before dark we headed out, stopping to get gas. They say that you need to fill up when you are at 1/2 a tank. That’s for 2 reasons: you don’t want to be stranded somewhere without gas and there is a limit on how much you can buy with a credit card at the pumps. The limit is 199 shekels (about $56).
I guess there was a bunch of unforeseen traffic ahead of us so as we approached Nazareth our phone app, Waze took us on a shortcut. We don’t think it was a shortcut, because it took us forever! It supposedly took us around some road construction, but in so doing led us way up into the backside of Nazareth. We were driving up and down little tiny streets into places that didn’t look like streets at all! It was like an amusement park ride. Isaac loved it!
Merging is a hopeful thought. Everybody pushes which causes mass congestion with no hope of it clearing. No one lets the other one go first. They all want to go first. So they inch their way into place. As Isaac noticed, they drive aggressive, but are not angry. No one is flipping each other off. They just all want to be where the other person is at the same time. I think they would do better with some traffic regulation. There is very little. And then what is there seems only to be a suggestion.
We were trying to get to the Fauzi Azar Inn (an Abraham Hostel) which was in downtown Nazareth. We knew it was going to be a little tricky to find, but Waze decided that we needed a tour of the city before bedtime. Waze took us down streets that were originally built for a donkey and cart, but now were used as 2-way streets, plus parking and pedestrians. It was crazy, and Isaac was loving it! Good thing we didn’t get caught in any real tricky situations – like backing up on a curvy and slick cobblestone hill for on coming traffic. That would have been a nightmare. Towards the end of our app tour we made it fairly smoothly to the parking garage. It was a little hard to see amongst all the signage and tight streets, but for 35 shekels we parked there for 18 hours. They are serious about how they park the garage. The attendant made us get all our bags out before we parked. He told Isaac to park it really tight and if we couldn’t do it he would do it for us. Isaac barely was able to get out of the car after he parked it.
The attendant told us where to walk to the hostel. It wasn’t hard. There were signs everywhere. On really narrow streets, dragging our luggage behind us, all in a line we walked quite a ways to the Inn. We traveled up a flight of outdoor stone stairs; through alleyways and stone arches; past cars that should be there. Every once-in-a-while we’d turn a corner and there would be men sitting in front of a door talking or not talking, just staring. Wouldn’t want to meet them alone at night. At least we were all together!
We finally found the Fauzi Azar Inn. At this point, the family was super tired and I was just praying that it was everything that I saw in the photos online. And it delivered. It was amazing! We went past the front desk and up a small flight of stairs where it opened up into the Arabian mansion that was advertised. I could hear Maggie whisper, “epic!” There was really enchanting music playing as we entered this open-air mansion. I thought they were pumping in music. But then it stopped. I then realized that was the Muslim call to prayer. Oh! We heard similar sounds throughout the evening and I think around 9 pm before we went to bed.
Since it was evening time (which meant it was business hours back home) I called our bank to get them to lift the international restriction on our account so that we could use the card at the ATM machine. Shuki was also trying to use it to charge for our stay in Caesarea. We learned that it’s best to pay with a credit card –– not a debit card. With one phone call I activated the Verizon travelers pass I had signed up for before we left. So this one call cost me $10. But unfortunately, the customer service lady told me that their computer system was down and they were actually closing all the banks today. I can’t believe it! The banks closing and we’re in Israel.
She hopes it gets resolved by tomorrow. I’ll have to call back. Ok.
We made dinner in the community kitchen with what we had managed to carry with us from the car: a huge wonderful pomegranate, some yogurt, some bread and the goodies from the bakery.
There was no food in the hostel and it was dark. We weren’t about to venture out into Nazareth at night for our stomachs. I love the community kitchen idea. Super fun to meet other people! In the kitchen I met two nice girls from Germany traveling through Israel for an adventure. They were as young as Maggie. I’m not sure I’d want Maggie tromping with a girlfriend around Europe yet.
Outside the kitchen, Isaac and I stepped out onto the little balcony that overlooked Nazareth. Leaving the kitchen and standing on the balcony was like entering another world. It was warm, quiet and beautiful. The stars shone; I think I remember the moon was out. There was a lot of golden lights throughout the city. Quite stunning. It was a nice moment out on the balcony with Isaac.
I thought, “Yahshua lived here. I wonder where he lived.” I went to bed not sure what I was thinking… except that “how could anything good come out of Nazareth?”