Every now and then some of my friends in Givat Ze'ev take off from work for a buddy day. The primary agenda is to get out into nature and do some hiking. A meal in a restaurant usually marks the end of the day.
Seven of us recently went on a hike in the Beit Shemesh area (between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv). Dudi made sure to give me my usual reminder that coffee/tea breaks before, during, and after the hike constitute an essential part of the day and should not be construed as "down" time. The guys love the whole procedure of making coffee out in nature. Both Dudi and Avram come with their small portable gas burners and tiny glass coffee cups. It feels like a special ritual staring at that water, waiting for it to boil. The first cup of coffee of the day was mixed with cardamom and produced in Ramallah--Dudi had purchased the coffee from an Arab friend.
Our hike actually took us over two trails: one named for a big cave adjacent to its route, and one named for the Dolev tree ("platanus orientalis," if you must know). The hikes remind the guys of their army service and make me think about what I missed. I have to say, though, that I did get a kick out of the fact that even with the extremely detailed trail map that we had along with us, we actually managed to miss the cave on the "cave trail," and only realized this when we got to the end of the path.
Two parts of the day are especially worth reporting about. Towards the end of our 6-hour hike, Yaron developed a terrible headache. The guys decided that before we went to a restaurant in Beit Shemesh we needed to take care of Yaron. Dudi said: "We'll just go to the nearest house, knock on the door and ask for some aspirin." I though he was joking, but sure enough we drove directly to the neighboring town of Nes Harim. A woman from the first house we saw was emptying her garbage and Dudi explained what we needed. It's difficult to describe how the woman responded because she kept on speaking on her mobile phone, but she did go into her house, did get some aspirin and did give them to Dudi—all the while speaking on the phone. Such a request of a stranger, which in America could only have been precipitated by an absolute medical emergency, was clearly no big deal for this woman. Ay, but that's the rub, isn't it? We aren't quite strangers to each other here--our Jewishness still binds us together (although when I reflected upon this aloud in the van, Avram ominously emphasized: "still").
After a long coffee and tea break, Yaron's head was still pounding (“dehydration,” said the guys), and so we headed home to Givat Ze'ev. After we dropped Yaron off, though, Dudi suggested that we not give up on our dinner and that we go to eat at the local gas station. Yes, it turns out that the small kiosk in Givat Ze'ev's gas station also runs a grill, and this grill is under the rabbinic supervision of our state-employed rabbi. I tried to explain to the guys what it meant for me to eat a kosher, fried chicken-steak at my local gas station. I mean how much more embedded in a culture can Judaism be?
At dinner, the guys looked around at the view of the gas pumps and remarked that this wasn't exactly the picturesque setting they had in mind for the end of the day. But in general the guys took the turn of events incredibly well, Steven saying: "it's really a bummer when you get sick on a hike." I was a bit shocked, because there I was thinking about how this whole thing was a bummer to yours truly, and here were my buddies, all veterans of combat units, with nary a wimpy bone in their bodies, and these guys were showing an extraordinary amount of empathy. Maybe you learn that as well in Israel's Defense Forces.
Copyright 2007, Teddy Weinberger