This article first appeared in The Jerusalem Post and then in the International edition of The Jerusalem Post.
Last year, my husband suggested that we start the Israel Trail as a family. His plan was to take a few days each year over Pesach and to walk together. We’ve reached the sweet spot as a family where everyone is old enough to take a good, long hike without too much complaining; no one needs to be carried and no one has, yet, left us for greener pastures.
The family loved the idea.
And then we had a health scare this summer and had to cancel a planned trip. Vacationing near Kiryat Shemona instead last week, we realized, with excitement, that we might be able to accelerate our plans.
And so we began.
The Israel National Trail is 1,025 kilometers and covers the length of the country. It was included in the National Geographic list as one of the top 20 hikes in the world. It’s extremely well marked and divided so that it’s truly walkable for just about anyone.
And we really are “just about anyone” with our family of boys ranging in age from 8-19 and their moderately in shape soon-to-be 50 year old parents (us). Prior to starting the trail, I let those tapes of doubt simmer in my mind for a bit.
“It will be too hard for me at parts!” “We’ll never finish it!” “What if we get lost?” “What if some of it is boring?” And on and on the tapes ran.
And then the morning came when we realized that everyone was healthy enough to get started and that we could divide Day One (which is 12 kilometers in length from Tel Dan to Kfar Giladi) into two hikes. We started out the first day dropping one car 7 kilometers into the Day One hike and enjoying the walk. We took a picture, all smiles, by the arch that marks the beginning of the trail. We’re here! It’s all new and shiny! And I wondered, to myself what we would look like in that final picture, years from now when we finish the trail. How many of us would be in that picture? Would it be a picture of us surrounded by kids and grandkids, celebrating our massive accomplishment? I certainly hope so.
And then we were off. The trail went by Tel Dan, through avocado groves, along a few highways and through Nachal Snir. We ran into cows on the path at one point and marveled at my oldest son as he rhythmically clapped and got the cows to quietly walk away. We dubbed him the cow whisperer and kept walking. It was a beautiful, refreshing walk and was easy to the point of making my kids question if everything would be this simple. The next day, we woke early and started where we left off on what turned out to be quite a boring 5 kilometer walk mostly along the highway. It ended with an uphill climb to Kfar Giladi and the memorial at Tel Chai (which was a lovely and dramatic way to finish off).
As we finished those first 12 kilometers, my 19 year old declared, “And now we’ve officially done 1% of the Israel Trail.” I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry, give myself a high five or declare that I was giving up. But I realized that this, and so much about the Israel Trail, is a perfect teaching moment.
Yes, we finished 1%. Amazing! Had we not started at all, we wouldn’t have finished that 1%. And yes, that has left 99% left for us still to accomplish, but we’ve got to start somewhere. As we walk the Israel Trail, we are showing the kids that life is just about putting one foot in front of the other and starting at the beginning.
Also – the Trail isn’t all exciting all the time. But every inch is a piece of Israel; every inch means that we have walked and appreciated and admired another inch of the country where we are so honored and blessed to live. And this, too, is a lesson. Not every hike is exciting and interesting. Not every moment of life is filled with bliss and entertainment. But only by walking through the less exciting aspects do we get to enjoy the Nachal Snirs of our lives; do we get to admire the beauty and blessings awaiting us.
At the end of those 12 kilometers, we decided to follow the signs we saw everywhere (good advertising people!) to the “Country’s Northernmost Falafel!” We drove to Metulla and to the most divinely delicious falafel only yards away from the border with Lebanon.
With full bellies and full hearts, we started to plan for the trail’s Day 2 which we will start in another 8 months during Pesach. Our adventure has begun; only time (and our hiking shoes) will tell how it will unfold.
For now, we are 12 kilometers closer to that dream of finishing the trail together, as a family.