Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Four by Four

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 3 August 2005.

According to the story of Noah, the animals entered the ark two by two. These days, the fashionable way to go on a journey is four by four - 4 wheel drive, that is. Last month we went to see what all the excitement was about on our first-ever "tiyul jeepim." Tiyul means trip, and as far as Israelis are concerned, any vehicle with 4WD is a "jeep." In the past, I had seen other groups of "jeeps" racing along a dirt track in a dusty line. I complained to a friend before the trip that we would undoubtedly spend the day bouncing up and down inside the car for several tedious hours. I was delighted to be proven wrong.

When we arrived at the gathering point in the morning, we were greeted by our guides and offered coffee and cake. Once the whole group was assembled, we were given details about the course we would be taking and the stops we would make along the way, as well as instructions on how to handle the terrain. Each "jeep" was outfitted with a two-way radio, and every participant was offered a snazzy baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of our brand of vehicle. I had already begun revising my thinking before we even hit the road.

Our group consisted of nine guest vehicles, plus guides in "jeeps" at the beginning and end of our line. At every tricky spot on the dirt road, the guide in the lead would give us the heads up via the two-way radio. He also told us about the flora and fauna in the area. We stopped several times for more detailed lectures on those topics. We also stopped at the Amphorae Vineyard for a tour of the winery and some wine tasting. Interestingly enough, it was after that particular stop that the joke telling over the two-way radio began.

Our group was an interesting mix of people, running the gamut from a pair of Germans here temporarily on work permits to a quartet of Orthodox Jewish men from our town, two of whom are volunteers with the organization ZAKA, which I have mentioned in a previous postcard. Much of the remainder of the group were typical Israeli families with kids, with a pair of slightly older couples rounding things out.

As we drove, we passed by centuries-old olive groves. Our guide even spotted a jackal at one point. Our trek took us through the Carmel Forests and up near the top of Mount Carmel, near Haifa. The photo at left was taken at a point overlooking Nahal Oren. Later we passed by the Carmel Forest Spa, which definitely looks like a place worth investigating. Our final stop was at a restaurant with the unlikely name of Cat Ballou, for a four course meal - pre-arranged and paid for by the company that ran the tour.

All in all, it was worthwhile trip. Far from merely enduring a long, boring, tooth-jolting expedition, we learned many interesting things and enjoyed the company of several members of the group. And while at the end of our four by four journey I did not see a rainbow, I did see the light: I learned not to let preconceived notions prevent me from trying something new.

(c)Amy Samin

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