You know it's the end of June here when the weather forecast has settled into triviality: "partly cloudy to clear with seasonal temperatures." the whole succession of wildflowers, that began with the hatzav (squill) and crocus at the first rain, has petered out, leaving only the capers, which bear distinctive flowers on a thorny shrub: a mass of long, slender purple stamens against a corolla of flat white petals. (It's the immature buds that are pickled and inserted into rolled anchovy filets). the double trailer truck laboring up the hill in front of a long line of frustrated drivers is piled high with watermelons. along the highway, kids are selling corn at makeshift stands, often just a crate or a pallet set on a barrel, with no shade; the watermelon stands, on the other hand, are much more established, with shaded display areas and classic hand-lettered signs, often barely legible: watermelon, 1 shekel (per kilogram, or 10 cents a pound). you can leave tools, projects, garden supplies etc. outside on the patio or in the yard. It is not going to rain for at least four months. there is always trash to pick up around the moshav in the morning, as the teenagers who have nothing to do hang out until the wee hours on the lawn and playground, leaving their pizza cartons and other detritus for the dogs to scatter. there are days when walking out the door into the noonday sunshine really does feel like stepping into a furnace; it is as though the heat were a hand pushing you down. And there are days when it is discouraging to discover that at dinner time it has gotten no cooler. the market is a riot of summer fruit: peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, grapes; while we are on our way to the American model of season-less, year-round supply of all kinds of fruit, we aren't there yet, and the seasons are still pretty distinctive in the market. Strawberries and shesek (loquats) disappeared about a month ago. Soon the apricots will be finished; then, as the summer wanes, the peaches and nectarines and then the plums - will diminish and get poorer and more expensive, but the grapes will dominate almost until the transition to apples and then to the first green clementinas. the smiling sunflowers in the vast fields of the Jezreel valley are beginning to hang their heavy heads and lose their color as the seeds set and grow and dry, to be harvested for oil and for Shabbat snacks. In adjacent fields, the corn is as high as an elephant's eye. the carob pods hanging in thick bunches from the female trees are just turning from bitter bright green to sweet chocolaty brown. The pomegranates are fully formed but still miniature. The sabra flowers have fallen away, but the fruit is still hard and green. driving at night from the city or the mountains into a valley lined with farms, the air blowing in the window suddenly turns cool, as you enter the microclimate created by the transpiring vegetation.
I have been teaching a course on educational tourism for Jewish education students from South America. In listing various elements that make a tour experience "work," we discussed preparation, conditions, esthetics, symbolic meaning, leadership, social setting, and pleasure. We tried to unpack "pleasure" (or "fun") into different components: overcoming challenge, intellectual satisfaction, contact with others, etc. Last week we spent a couple of hours in mid-day exploring Bet She'arim; this week, it was Yodfat. In analyzing our experiences, one girl suggested that after climbing around the excavations under the blazing sun, just sitting on a rock in the shade of a tree and taking a drink of luke-warm water was, surprisingly, a source of great pleasure, and a memorable part of the day. And I thought, yes, indeed.