A Snapshot of Israeli Life
By Cheryl Berman
"Are you sure we are in the right place?" I asked my husband as we pulled into the makeshift parking lot at the base of a hill.
"Well, there are quite a few people, so there must be something here," he explained in his most male matter-of-factly tone.
"Perhaps we should just ask someone if this is Givat Ha'Tormossim (Lupine Valley)," I countered.
"I'm comfortable just getting out and exploring this hill," he said.
"Here's someone! Let's ask
excuse me, sir. Is this Givat Ha'Tormossim?" I asked.
He was a young Israeli father with a shock of thick black hair, and a friendly smile.
"I 'm not sure. To tell you the truth, I saw all of these people so I figured I'd try it out." He explained in Hebrew, completely unaware of the fact that he just declared my husband on the right side of that disagreement.
All men are the same, I resigned with a deep sigh as I slipped on my sneakers and prepared to explore the hill that my car happened to find. I had been excited about the prospect of seeing Givat Ha'Tormossim because it was well spoken of by a few friends. All I knew about Tormossim (Lupine) was that they were some type of plant or flower that came out within a limited window of time at the onset of spring. The hill was supposed to be carpeted with them. I glanced at this seemingly sparse hill and mentally decided that it couldn't be the one. I didn't know what tormossim were supposed to look like but they probably didn't look like large white rocks or broken branches. But I put on my best mommy "enthusiastic" voice to rouse my four troops out of the car to hike up the hill. They were less than thrilled to abandon their computer games in favor of communing with nature, but like all good parents we forced them to.
"Come on guys! Let's go see some tormossim!"
Only my three year old cheered wildly as she was unbuckled from her car seat. The others had to be physically dragged from the car.
But as the hike progressed my six year old started to pick up some steam. He hastened his pace, separating himself from the rest of the clan, and slipped into his own imaginary world as Spiderman, clinging to a steep mountain by the sheer force of his spidey-powers. The rocks were slippery but they were no match for his sheer elasticity and strength.
My thirteen year old son and I walked together. At some point he commented to me that this hike was joke. (That was probably after I complained about the slick rocks). He detailed the types of tiyulim (hikes) his school takes him on.
"Our school takes us to mountains with steep cliffs that we have to climb using only our hands and the metal discs that have been inserted into the mountain to help the climbers."
I made a mental note never to send him on another school trip as I nodded my head in ostensible approval. Why can't Israeli schools just take the kids to museums like the rest of the world?
"Where is Abba?" I asked my son, suddenly noticing his disappearance.
"He's with Noa down there," he responded pointing at the air beneath us.
I squinted and spotted him taking a picture of my three year old standing next to a
what is that? A weed? Where are those tormossim? We continued to climb.
At the midpoint of the hill there was a shady flat area - a natural resting point. We sat for a brief minute to let my husband catch up. It was an opportunity to take in the surroundings. The view was from the hill was striking. There were rigid dichotomies among the various things that surrounded us, and yet they all somehow blended so peacefully. There were lush green fields amid stark rocky valleys. There were large silver cow sheds adjacent to small wooden huts that housed bees. I breathed in the crisp air and noted to myself that the hill was itself a lesson in dichotomy. The bottom of the hill was so uninviting, but by this mid-point I was completely taken in.
I spotted my husband snapping another picture of my daughter with a tree, and decided to move on. As I got closer to the top some flowers began to appear. Most of them were yellow but there were a few purple ones dotting the area. When I reached the top I found that friendly father with the black hair and I asked him to point out the tormossim. He indicated toward the purple ones and I walked over to explore. The flowers were exquisite but we missed their full bloom. Instead of completely enveloping the hill they simply decorated it, like a cake with too few sprinkles. The Petals were royal purple with one spot of either white or deep reddish purple on their backs and stomachs. They stood tall and stately, as if they understood their importance. They were after all the reason for all these visitors. But the hill had more treasures buried in its surface. There had been an ancient city on this hill. My nine year old daughter had pointed to some mosaic tiles at the base of the hill.
"My teacher told me that this is Roman." She explained to her uneducated mother.
But the real treasures were the array of people.
There was a "Carlbach" family, smiling and picking the flowers. One little girl's head was adorned with crowns of bright yellow flowers , while the father laughed and wished everyone a "chag sameach (Happy Holiday)."
And then there was the family with their collie, trying desperately to keep the dog away from the deep holes embedded in the mountain (ancient baths?).
And there were the clueless Americans (that would be us). Where was my husband, by the way? Oh there, taking a picture of my daughter with the tormossim.
Eventually he did reach the top, which afforded my husband the opportunity to take more pictures of the view, this time with 360 degree shots. I was starting to regret bringing the camera.
There were quite a few young Israelis with and without children, some religious, but most not. It was Passover vacation and this is what Israelis do on vacation. They explore nature and discover breathtaking flowers on the hillsides. Maybe my son's school avoids museums because they understand something I was just beginning to get. I marveled at the cultural difference between American and Israeli society. Maybe I had a lot to learn.
And then it was time to climb down. If the climb up was a test of power, the climb down was a test of balances. Even my six year old spiderman got the seat of his pants covered in dirt. I held on to the branches and closed my eyes and slid down some rocks. And when I looked for my husband for encouragement, he was
taking pictures of my daughter by a rock.
We reached the bottom (eventually so did my husband, the camera, and my daughter), and climbed into the car. The hill had proved to be even more than I originally anticipated; It wasn't just a pretty hill covered in flowers, it was a snapshot of Israeli life. And I was even a little bit glad that we had some pictures to remember it by.
Cheryl Berman is a freelance writer living in Israel. Her first Book, "Reasonable Doubts," is due to published within the year.
from the August 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine