Day two of a three-day study tour of the Galilee for a group of students from a Jewish education college in Eastern Europe, occurring in week 7 of their eight-week program in Israel:
9:00 They pick me up at an intersection between their hostel and our first stop, Nahal Amud, a beautiful canyon carrying a rushing stream from Safed to the Kinneret. It is already hot, but they are good sports about the hike, and appreciate the natural beauty of the path and the opportunity to wade and splash along the way in the frigid water; we do a short loop, a popular hike for families and school groups, in the upper section of the canyon. Alas, the refreshing stream is all but forgotten in the hot, sweaty climb back up the steep path to the parking lot. 11:30 The old city of Safed. I have never felt good about my frontal guiding in Safed, and today the difficulty is compounded by the need to do it in simple Hebrew. However, the group seems to enjoy being there, remaining attentive and interested as we wander some of the quaint lanes, and visit two of the old synagogues; I think some of them even get my attempt to explain the new ideas introduced into Kabbalah by Rabbi Isaac Luria. They love the candle factory, but are left cold by Yaakov Kaczmacher, a "born again" Chasid who is both a fascinating character and an interesting photographer and artist. 1:30 We eat our box lunches in a park; the usual youth tour fare: two dry salami sandwiches, a cucumber, an apple, a bag of Bamba (classic Israeli snack puffs), and a warm Coke. 2:30 We begin our tour of the Druze-Moslem-Christian-Jewish village of Peki'in with a stop at the traditional cave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, to read the Talmudic passage about how he hid there from the Romans for 12 years. It is a nice spot, and the experience brings together a number of things we have seen and discussed. Then we wander down through the alleys of the village, a pretty community perched on a mountainside, stopping at the synagogue. The keys are kept by the one remaining Jew in Peki'in, an unmarried elderly woman, the last member of the community to live here after (it is believed) 2,000 years of continuous Jewish presence. We stop for big, flat, almost rubbery Druze pita on the way out of town. 4:00 After an exciting (?) encounter with some hyraxes (cute woodchuck-sized mammals that live in rocky areas), we ride the cable car down to the grottoes at Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border. This is the perfect time of day to visit here, as the sun shines into the grottoes from the west, making the water glow. There is a nicely done video with some cute special effects, shown in part of the old railroad tunnel that connected Haifa with Beirut. Unfortunately, we are joined by 100 Israeli junior high students on a school trip, confirming my students' resolve to be teachers but not here! On the way back to the bus we do the obligatory photo-op in front of the border signs and gate (and "photography forbidden" sign). 5:30 I tell the bus driver and group leader that there are several modest kosher open air restaurants in Nahariya where the group can have dinner on the way to our evening tour of the old city of Acco. The driver insists that traffic is so backed up on the main street of Nahariya that it's not worth going there. The group leader says there must be kosher places in Acco. I say I don't think so. We pass, on the highway to Acco, a new mall, with a big sign advertising a kosher restaurant. We make a u-turn to investigate, but the basic meal there costs 55 shekels ($12), and our budget is 17 shekels ($4). We continue to Acco, cruising up and down, asking at every restaurant until it becomes clear that there are indeed no kosher restaurants in Acco. The group leader calls headquarters and gets special permission to increase his budget to 40 shekels, and we go back to the mall, where the driver and group leader negotiate a meal for the group that fits the budget. The food is great, and we have a group of very happy campers. 8:00 We are about to leave for the bus, when two girls announce that they never got the tea they had ordered, and they want it 8:20 Depart for Acco 8:30 I introduce the group to Abdu, an Acco Arab, actor, story-teller, musician, tour guide, and all-around character, who will take them on a two-hour exploration of old Acco and its culture; and take my leave. (The next morning they tell me that the evening was one of the high points of the whole seven weeks.) 9:15 I get home in time for a business meeting of the moshav, to discuss disposition of assets and debts remaining from the collective (which privatized ten years ago). Anticlimax to a lovely day.