one of the greatest perks of living in israel is that, unlike in america, you don’t have to observe both national/government holidays as well as religious ones. here, jewish holidays are official holidays. this means that instead of having time off for christmas and easter, we have time off for sukkot and pesach.
sukkot is a long holiday, but only its first two and last two days are considered important enough that nearly no one works. this year, this meant that i had three days of work, four days off, repeat. plenty of time for holiday adventures! because fall has finally arrived and the heat is now bearable (as opposed to the summer weather, more suitably described as boiling; insufferable) we took the opportunity to do some hiking in the north, near haifa.
in the first hike, we left from haifa near the bay, walked all the way to the university, and then entered the carmel forest and crossed it before making our way to the beach and then walking south along it.
it was a really beautiful hike, characterized by a lot of different beautiful landscapes. it was also a great opportunity to really see and explore haifa, as i’ve never been there for any significant amount of time before. it was a city with a lot of character that (despite the fact that its built onto the face of a giant mountain) was very accessible and had a distinct mountain charm of its own. if tel aviv is israel’s miami, haifa is its san francisco. (also, i recently saw some graffiti that claimed that lod is israel’s chicago. thoughts?)
the most impressive part of the hike was an area called “little switzerland.” can you tell why?
the next few days were filled with excitement in the country, leading up to and following gilad shalit’s release. honestly, when i heard about even the possibility of and exchange of gilad schalit for over 1,000 arab prisoners, i didn’t believe it. regardless of the significance of gilad as a jewish, israeli soldier and as a zionist symbol, the practical ramifications of such an exchange are potentially terrifying. even though most of the prisoners were released overseas, many were not — and we know that while israel’s security is extremely strong, its impossible to close every security gap. not every store or restaurant has a guard and a metal detector at the entrance. just from living in israel this long, i know that checks of my bag upon entering transportation hubs, malls, and stores are anything but thorough.
perhaps the scariest part of this exchange was that negotiations with terrorists happened at all. now that hamas knows that israel will pay such a huge price for the return of one soldier, why wouldn’t they try a similar move again? and now that netanyahu has set the precedent of such a trade, wouldn’t the israeli public demand another prisoner exchange?
regardless, it was great to see gilad come home. even though i was working on the day of his release, i was able to sneak peaks at the tv that was playing before a good-sized audience in the lobby of the country club that i work at. my objection to the exchange aside, no one can not be touched by gilad’s homecoming. i’m interested to see his first interviews with the israeli media as soon as he recovers and is able to appear publicly.
on simchat torah max and i went on another hike. we decided to pick a section of the israel trail to hike, mostly because it is well marked and easily adjustable, as you can add different sections together to create a longer hike. we picked a section in the same area as we hiked in the previous week, starting further south and crossing the carmel from east to west. we saw a lot of the destruction from the giant forest fire last december — its encouraging to see that even though there are whole sections of forest filled with burned trees, that new life is growing on the forest floor.
there were also a lot of parts of the hike that were unaffected by the fire (despite signs that said “entrance forbidden” due to the burned trees) and the mountain provided a lot of scenic lookout spots as well as some typical fall, foresty spots.
now we’re back home and enjoying one of the last summery weekends before it starts to become something like the northeastern fall i’m used to. even though the holidays were fun, i’m glad to start getting back to to the routine of non-chag life.