On the Israel Trail

July 5, 2011

June 26, 2011

“Where do you spend the night? How heavy are your backpacks? How much money do you carry with you? How many miles do you walk per day? Where and what do you eat?“ All these questions were fired at us by a group of pupils we met climbingMountTabor. When we get back to Switzerland this autumn, we will also be ready to tackle questions in schools, churches, home groups etc. Since we have benefitted many times from listening to other people’s experiences, we thought we might do the same for others. Our first encounter with wild boars in Israel made our hearts beat a bit faster. We then remembered what Judy Pex had mentioned about the bristly creatures in her book. Walking the entire 597 mile length of the Israel Trail or shvil, as it is called in Hebrew, from Eilat in the south to the Lebanese border in the north together with her husband, the authoress wrote down her thoughts and impressions along the way. Later, her travel log was published under the title “Walk the land”, where she mentions that boars do occasionally attack passers-by. Still, after chancing upon some of them at least five times in one day and each time watching them take to their heels quite voluntarily at our sight, our courage rose. So that evening, we thought nothing of pitching our tent out in the open. Around 1:30 in the morning, though, we heard boars’ hooves making rapidly for our makeshift abode which was, let’s be frank, quite insufficiently fortified against pig attacks. As we were pricking up our ears in terror, we heard it stop in its tracks right next to our tent, snorting heavily. In an effort to chase it away, Hanspeter gave several quick flashes with his torch which luckily had the desired effect: it was gone within seconds. But only a short while afterwards, one of its mates came to see us, apparently curious to find out who had dared to invade their habitat. 

Just a couple of days before, following our visit to Banias (see video), we had met two young ladies who were like us about to start the Israel Trail. “Would you mind if we joined you?“ they asked at Kibbutz Dan. “We could spend the night on the sports field here and set off tomorrow” they suggested. We in turn threw in we’d prefer leaving right away thus making good use of the evening chill. So shortly after six that evening, we and our new travel companions, Yaara and Reut, hit the trail. On the following day, we had to take a bit of a detour due to water shortage on Reut’s part. Now we can understand why warning signs have been posted all around the edge of natural reserves here advising hikers to take a minimum of three to five litres of water per head with them. Fellow hikers told us they had carried up to eight litres with them while walking in the south.

Even though a bit thorny, the nature trails in the north offer views of outstanding beauty (see video). There were times we hardly made any progress since we just had to stop to marvel at some miracle of creation or another at every turn. Before the path climbs up Mount Arbel right on the stretch where the Israel Trail and the “Jesus Trail” meet, we could not take our eyes from a stunning rainbow (see video). And one morning, we marvelled at a curled-up centipede as it woke up and slowly set its multitude of tiny little feet in motion. We are glad we only have a pair of feet to think of each. On the first stretch of the national trail we asked  fellow hikers coming up from Eilat about their footwear. Apparently, good hiking boots are essential. On the other hand, the heat in Israel at this time of year makes our sturdy waterproof shoes, which proved invaluable for the best part of the stretch now behind us, quite unbearable at times. After giving this some thought, we have now decided against experimenting with sandals or new hiking boots and to change our socks every hour instead, a routine we have been able to cope well with so far. Last week, our feet were given a bit of rest when we took a break and stayed at Beit Yedidia, a guest house in Haifa. We played tourists for a couple of days and took several drives to Biblical sites in northern Israel. On those outings we also went to see a couple who experienced God’s protection in an extraordinary way (see video). Nazareth Village, an open-air living history museum, was quite fascinating, too. There you can watch the way people lived and worked at the time of Jesus (see video).

Taking in the view of the village of Cana from a spot not far from Nazareth, exactly 10 months after starting out at Basel was a thrilling moment for us. At Cana, Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding by turning water into wine. Standing there, we remembered the great number of miracles we ourselves had been privileged to witness throughout our hike up to this day. Before we set out, Marianne and Werner lent us their car at exactly the right time, while Christine, Katja and Rahel helped us with the cleaning and packing for one entire day. Fredi, Walter, Marianne and others helped us move our furniture. If we were to list the names of everyone who lent us a hand back then, we could fill quite a number of pages. When we gave a table to Laendliheim (a retirement home in Basel), they let us stay with them for free the night before we set off. Annemarie loves swap deals of this sort: lunch in exchange for cleaning, a haircut in exchange for babysitting, a reading session in exchange for a flower bouquet. A nurse at Laendliheim had someone tell us she would be the first one to buy our book. Others have also encouraged us to write one, but we kept putting the thought off. We have even been asked by a publisher three times, but we wanted to finish our walk first before making a decision whether or not to get involved in a book project. While climbing the highest mountain, Mount Meron, of our hike in Israel, it suddenly dawned on us how we could imagine such a book project to fall into place. What was special about that moment was that there was a cloud warding off the searing heat, even though we had been told up north there was no way we could count on any clouds at this time of year. It seems God gave it to us at exactly the right time. His timing is just perfect.

A fact we also experienced with the 20th anniversary festivity of the Kehilat HaCarmel congregation in Haifa to which we had been invited several months back. So we couldn’t believe it when we reached the highest point of Mount Carmel the afternoon before the festivity and in time to attend it. During the event (see video), we were surprised to find ourselves sitting behind a Swiss lady who had wished to speak to someone about her faith in her native Swiss German. Nothing is impossible with God.

On Monday morning we will resume our tracks back on Mount Carmel and start the final stretch of our walk. We would like to leave you today with the following verses from Psalm 92, which were read at the festivity on Mount Carmel: “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High. How great are your works, O LORD.”

Hanspeter and Annemarie

P.S. If you would like to receive a postcard from Jerusalem when we get there, please email us your address at Obrist@BaselJerusalem.info. Thanks.

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