As I was preparing for this hike, I reached out to Mr. Saar with myriad questions which he either kindly answered himself or directed me to an online forum where I could get the latest info:
Imagine how shocked and honored I was when he offered to meet me on the trail and let me spend a night at his home. We stayed in touch during my hike and made plans to meet.
Jacob Saar is a fascinating man. He has a PhD in electroanalytical chemistry. He's owned his own business and been a consultant. He is very knowledgeable about history and has traveled much of the world but his passion is obvious: The Israel National Trail. He knows every bit of this trail and has thru-hiked it twice (plus he'll be hiking it for a third time with his granddaughters). In 2006, he wrote the first guide book which was, in fact, in English (I had heard otherwise) and was far removed from the book that I carry today. It was bigger (and thus, heavier) and featured many stories from the trail. The latest edition (2016) is smaller, more concise and has the latest maps offered by the Survey of Israel. I'm happy to carry it every step of the way.
Jacob met me on the trail and took me back to his beautiful home in Gedera. We had great conversation about the trail, our mutual acquaintances and the current state of long distance hiking. Not only has he thru'd the INT, he's hiked the Jesus Trail, the Jerusalem Trail and the Golan Trail among others.
After I got a shower and threw my nasty clothes in the washer, we sat down to eat. Jacob had promised me a 'taste of Russia'. A taste? It was a BANQUET! Salad, sauerkraut, herring, pelmeni with sour cream... And multiple desserts including Russian ice cream! With a full belly and a comfy mattress, I slept like a rock.
The next morning started off with (you guessed it) MORE FOOD! Coffee, cereal, grapefruit and Russian pancakes with homemade strawberry jam. He even packed up a bunch of food for me to take with me on the trail! I was bursting at the seams.
We made one stop before he returned me to my home (the Trail) and that was to Emmaus Nicopolis - a place of important Jewish, Roman, Christian and Byzantine history. It was fascinating to visit and I'm so glad he offered to bring me along!
After we said our goodbyes, I got back to my hike but my head was swimming with all we had talked about and my pack was heavy (with FOOD!). It was really an honor and a privilege to have met him and I feel like my life is richer for it.
Ever had a 'brush with greatness'? Leave me a comment below and tell me about it!