One disclaimer and one note of gratitude before I begin. The disclaimer is that I am not Jewish and I really had very little knowledge of the Passover holiday, what it represented and the customs associated with it. The gratitude goes to my hiking buddy, Nightmare, his friends and his family. The whole trip back to Tel Aviv was Nightmare's idea and it was SO worth it.
Normally, I don't like getting off the trail (for anything, really). I've spent plenty of Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmas' alone on the trail and I am just fine with that. It's where I belong, anyway. So when Nightmare wanted to get off the trail in Mitzpe Ramon and hitchhike to Tel Aviv with no definite plans in mind, I was a little skeptical. This was, however, a chance to be exposed to a completely different culture and I just couldn't pass it up.
Once in Tel Aviv, Nightmare asked his friend Davi Haberman to put us up for the night. Davi let us get a shower and do laundry before we met some friends of Nightmare's family for dinner. And what a dinner it was! These folks treated us to a truly fine dining experience at a beautiful restaurant in Tel Aviv. Their wonderful company as well as the meal itself will not be soon forgotten. We later returned to Davi's apartment and crashed for the night.
The next day we hiked around Tel Aviv a bit and even went to a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean Sea.
Early in the afternoon, I noticed that the crowds began to thin and the stores started closing as most people went home to be with their families for the Seder meal that kicks off Passover.
Nightmare and I took a train and did a bit of a hike to get to Udim, Israel where Nightmare's friend's family lived. They have a BEAUTIFUL home complete with a long table prepared for the special celebration.
The Seder itself was a little overwhelming. There was lots of singing, reading prayers, drinking wine and food - OMG the food! Course after course of wonderful, exotic (to me) food. This family was not only incredibly generous, but they took the time to whisper to me in English about what was going on and what we were eating. Mostly, I'll remember lots of joy, family love and respect for their elders as constant themes during the whole evening.
We were invited to stay that night with a wonderful couple who, although they had just met us, opened their home to us and treated us like kings. After a good night's sleep and a huge breakfast, they dropped us off at a big city park where we relaxed for a bit before making the hike to a strictly Orthodox neighborhood where Nightmare's Uncle and his family live.
I was a little concerned because Nightmare's Uncle had absolutely no idea that we were coming. They won't take a phone call or text on this holy holiday so we had no choice but to knock on their door and invite ourselves in.
They were so warm and welcoming that it blew my mind! Even as unannounced guests, we were treated to a huge lunch and great conversation. Being Orthodox Jews, they had some customs that were new to me but Nightmare gave me some pointers about how to proceed. It was a memorable occasion remarkable for a very close, loving family and their devout reverence for God.
Later that afternoon, we met up with some friends we had met on the trail for some cold beer on a warm beach. Good times were had by all.
We're now headed back to Mitzpe Ramon to pick up the trail where we left off. We only have about one week left in the desert but it's reported to be one of the most difficult and most exciting. I can barely wait to get hiking again!
Davi and Nightmare:
If you have any questions, comments or observations, please leave them below. Thank you!