Israel Excursion – March Part II

Our second adventure this month was much more spontaneous, more cliche, and a lot of fun. Our original plan was to go hiking with our friends the Rosensweigs, who were so nice to host us for the seder (more to come on that). Because of the weather and family plans on the Rosensweig’s side, our original plan to return to Ra’anana to hike with them got cancelled. It was a bit disappointing at first, but we figured we can arrange something with them in the future. Once we realized that we weren’t heading to Ra’anana, we decided to do a hike of our own. We rented a car online and spent a few hours deciding where to go. We settled on the Carmel, which is Northwest of Jerusalem. The Carmel Mountains are known for its forests and was brought to our attention a few years ago when a forest fire ravaged part of the area. Adam has wanted to see the Carmel forests for a while, so we decided to go to the southern part known as the Ofer Forest.

Because of our last minute planning for the hike, we went to sleep later than we wanted, which caused us to get up and out of the apartment a little later than we wanted although for most people, we were at the car rental place at about the time they would normally be waking up on a vacation day. When we arrived at the car rental place, it was pretty hectic with all the other people trying to rent cars to travel around the country. Passover in Israel is also like spring break. Most people have the week off, so on the days that aren’t restricted (the first and last day of the holiday and Shabbat) people do things. It was amazing how strong the smell of BBQ was in the air as you walked around Jerusalem, but pretty much every park had people picnicking. The other very Israeli thing to do during Passover break is to go on a tiyul, which is a hike. Many schools had the week before Passover off as well and were running formal tiyuls, but during Passover, it was mostly families spending their time outdoors. We knew this when we decided we wanted to go hiking during Passover, but our need to hike was mainly because we hadn’t gone for one in so long. We needed to get out of the city a little bit.

After waiting a short bit, we got to the car rental counter, only to find that there was no car for us. The reservation we made stated it required approval, but we didn’t think much of it at the time. The woman was very nice and took our number to call us when a car became available. I was worried that we wouldn’t get to go hiking, but Adam stayed balanced as usual. At his suggestion, we left the car rental place and went to the Budget across the street. It turns out that across the street from the car rental place there are four others, and Adam knew this because he had rented the cars before. We walked into Budget and were able to get a car without a reservation. It was a small car which was perfect for what we needed. After dealing with all the paperwork we picked it up and started to head toward our destination.

Being in a car again reminded me how anxious city driving makes me. Adam is a wonderful driver, and I trust him completely but I still found myself clutching the side of the car as cars came out of nowhere and people randomly would cross the street. I tried to prevent myself from doing it, but it always felt like the car in front of us was hitting its brakes randomly so I couldn’t help but grab on. Eventually we got out of the city and on to the highway, and then I felt much better. We drove for a while on the highway and were amazed that there wasn’t much traffic. That is until we got onto a route that seemed like a highway only it had traffic lights. Then we sat in traffic for a while. Oh well! The extra time in the car was just more time to chat with each other. Even though we are a very communicative couple, we haven’t felt like we have had a lot of time to just talk about life, etc. in the past few weeks because of work and holiday preparations. It was nice to just be together even if it was in a car. Eventually we got passed the lights and made our way to the area where we wanted to hike.

After a little bit of searching and a bit of bravery, we found the parking area for the hike. It was definitely later than we expected, but we didn’t care too much. We had cleared the day for this hike, so it was fine that things got a bit shifted. Adam had already figured out the trail that we were to take, so we got going right away. At the beginning of the hike, we reached a steep face that we needed to climb which was a bit unexpected since we planned for an easy hike. The group of people coming down told us not to worry; that it looks worse than it really is and they were right. After we made our way up to the top, everything was pretty easy.

Considering that lots of people hike during Passover, once we past this climb where there were lots of people congregated, we were alone for the rest of the hike. It was beautiful to walk along surrounded by wildflowers. The air was filled with insects as they went flower to flower. We saw lots of different types of beetles and butterflies. The views were breath-taking, especially as we climbed higher and the Mediterranean became visible.

Interestingly, I was a bit disappointed when we first started hiking because despite the natural beauty surrounding us, I didn’t feel that overwhelming sense of relief that I got when we went hiking in the Jerusalem forest. Adam said that he noticed the same thing and after a short discussion we decided it was because of the drive that we took to get to our current location. When we hiked in the Jerusalem forest, we literally got of the city bus, walked past the hospital and were in the woods. In the Carmel, we drove out of the city and went through smaller and smaller towns before arriving at our rural destination. Adam said that we had time to transition into the wilderness rather than the abrupt change that we experienced in Jerusalem. The difference didn’t diminish the enjoyment of the hike; it was just a bit striking.

We followed various paths until we crossed the forest. At the other end was a parking area that smelled like BBQ. You could hear that chattering of people as they picnicked with their families. We didn’t head all the way there since there was no reason to. We started heading back to where we parked the car. We tried to take a different trail to create a loop, but a short way into this new trail we came upon some white boxes swarming with insects. It didn’t take us long to recognize these as bee hives. Some one was obviously raising bees at this location, and we decided that it would be best to turn around and go back the way we came. We retraced our steps for a while until we got to a spot where the trials branched. We took a new path and found ourselves winding our way back to where we started.

We eventually arrived back at the car and made our way back to the city. We took a different route, which was more like a highway so we got back much faster. There wasn’t any traffic at all really. We tried to return the car when we got back to the city but they were already closed at that point. Instead, we went home and settled in for the night. I feel asleep on the couch later on in the evening, which was not too surprising after such a wonderful day!

Until next time…
Allison

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