Family Adventures While Navigating Israel
By Romi Sussman
We just returned from four great days in the North, staying in Moshav Amirim and hiking in the surrounding area. When we travel with the kids in Israel, there are three things that make me laugh and marvel at my children. They are such “Israel” moments and they surprise me each time that they happen.
1. Israel is my children’s Cheers, where everyone knows their name: Every single time that we travel, no matter where we are or how obscure a location we think we are in, someone knows a Sussman. Last time that we were in Eilat, the kids started cracking up. “You know EVERYONE!” Eliav said to his two oldest brothers. “Let’s see how many minutes we go before seeing someone they know.” We finished a hike and Eliav started teasing them that they hadn’t seen anyone, when we heard, “Sussman! Sussman!” and all turned around to see a friend of Matan’s waving at us from far away. This trip was no different. We stopped at a small rest stop on the way up to the Galil and I went out of the car and to the bathroom. As I was just about to step inside, I heard, “Sussman, Mom Sussman,” and turned around to find someone waving at me. I actually didn’t recognize the boy (which is unusual), but it was obviously a friend of Matan or Yehuda’s. I just laughed and waved back. Mom Sussman. That’s a new one. Then, two days later, as we finished a hike in a very out-of-the-way location, Amichai and Yehuda both ran into friends.
2. Parking in Outer Space: When we go hiking in Israel, we typically do long hikes that require a car drop. We have two cars (or more if we are hiking with friends) and we will drop off most participants at the starting point, drive two cars to the ending point to leave a car, and then drive one car back to the beginning. Matan navigates and directs us to the location where we should drop the finish line car. As we drive down a dirt road for kilometer after kilometer, or plop the car in an empty forest, or leave the car in an abandoned field, I always shake my head in disbelief. “Um, Matan,” I say, trying not to sound too concerned, “Are you sure this is the place?” “Yep, positive,” is the typical reply. And then as we hike, I hold my breath, not really believing that we could possibly wind our way over these mountains, through these streams and into these valleys and arrive EXACTLY at the location where the finish line car sits. Every single time when we get to that final peak or descend into the valley, I’m left feeling giddy as I see the car in sight. How the hell does he do it, I always think. And there it is, like magic.
3. The Maayan (Water Spring) Mystery: The final mystery is the maayan one. There are many, many natural springs in Israel and the kids much prefer swimming in these to pools. The springs are free, first of all, and they are natural, authentic and interesting. Each has different features that my older boys love. But whenever we make our way to a maayan, I know that an adventure is to be had. Because, of course, these springs haven’t been placed for our pleasure; they aren’t conveniently located; they are located where they are located. So as we venture to the spring, I always take a deep breath and I’m always amazed when we arrive. Take today’s spring as an example. There was a nice sign off the road that said, “Ein Sukkot” and I thought – yes! we are in business. And then we started bumping and jumping along a dirt road, and then we turned, and turned and turned again, and then we went the wrong way and turned around only to realize that the way we had to go was the one that said this: "Military Zone, No Entry"
Oh, but of course. And then we were along the fence with the Jordanian border bumping and jumping some more until suddenly – cars. Lots of cars. And a spring. How does everyone know?
I’m convinced that, just as every Israeli knows the same songs and the same dances at weddings, they are all given hidden maps when they are born so that they know how to signal to their friends when they will be in a certain location, park the finish line car, and find the mayan.
It’s the only explanation I can imagine.
Romi Sussman heads the content writing department for a technology and digital consulting company. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she made Aliyah from Potomac, MD and is raising six boys in the hills of Gush Etzion. She frequently blogs about life in Israel and her experiences over the last decade.