Fifth stop – temple mount is in our hands 28 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 15 תגובות »

The Paratroopers are Crying / Haim Hefer
This Kotel has heard many prayers
This Kotel has seen many walls fall
This Kotel has felt wailing women’s hands
and notes pressed between its stones
This Kotel has seen Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi trampled in front of it
This Kotel has seen Caesars rising and falling
But this Kotel has never before seen paratroopers cry.

This Kotel has seen them tired and exhausted
This Kotel has seen them wounded and hurt
Running towards it with beating hearts,
with cries and with silence
Pouncing out like predators from the alleyways of the Old City
And they’re dust-covered and dry-lipped
And they’re whispering: if I forget you,
if I forget you, O Jerusalem

And they are lighter than eagles and more tenacious then lions
And their tanks are the fiery chariot of Elijah the Prophet
And they pass like lightning
And they pass in fury
And they remember the thousands of terrible years in which
we didn’t even have a Kotel in front of which we could cry.

And here they are standing in front of it and breathing deeply
And here they are looking at it with the sweet pain
And the tears fall and they look awkwardly at each other
How is it that paratroopers cry?
How is it that they touch the wall with feeling?
How is it that from crying they move to singing?
Maybe it’s because these 19-year-olds born with the Jewish state
Carry on their backs a 2000-year weight.

And you, Itai, are only 13 years old, yet you carry the same weight on your back. My blessing to you is that your feet will always safely carry and your head will always wisely guide you as they did for the past 5 days, as they did for the last 13 years. I will do my best to be there for you and help you with the load, as I did in the past 5 days, as I did in the last 13 years.


Fourth stop – they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes 28 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 2 תגובות »

First time Tfilim at the Wailing Wall.

Pit stop 28 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

The colors, scents, sights and sounds of Mahne Yehuda market have lured us for a tasty lunch at the famous Sima restaurant.

Third stop – the silver platter 28 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

Leadership and vision must be carried out and they sometimes bear a heavy price. We have come to pay tribute to those who paid the heaviest price of all.

We are sitting at the foot of the grave of Izikiel-Haim who fell in while defending Jerusalem and he is but 16 years old – 3 years more than Itai today.

The Hagada claims that they set out to destroy us and our father in heaven rescues us. But the Hagada is wrong and we can only count on our father in Miluim (reserve duty).

The appropriate words here are not mine – they are Alterman’s:

The Silver Platter/ Nathan Alterman

…And the land will grow still crimson skies dimming, misting
Slowly paling again over smoking frontiers

As the nation stands up torn at heart but existing
To receive its first wonder in two thousand years

As the moment draws near it will rise, darkness facing
Stand straight in the moonlight in terror and joy

Then across from it came slowly pacing towards it
In plain sight of all, a young girl and a boy

Dressed in battle gear, shoes heavy with grime
On the path they will pace while their lips remain sealed

To change garb, to wipe brow they have not yet found time
Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue and all drained of emotion
Yet the dew of their youth is still seen on their head

Thus like statues they stand stiff and still with no motion
And no sign that will show if they live or are dead

Then a nation in tears and amazed at this matter
Will ask: who are you? And the two will then say
Without words: We are the silver platter
On which the Jewish state was presented today

Then they fall back in darkness as the dazed nation looks
And the rest can be found in the history books.

Second stop – leadership and vision 28 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 2 תגובות »

We have ascended the path from destruction to resarrection and have arrived at Herzel’s tomb and the cemetery for heads of state.

When I told a friend about our journey he suggested we pass via the Knesset. I replied that this is a journey of value and tradition and unfortunately the Knesset amounts to neither.

Even here – the cemetery for heads of state – politicians who do not meet criteria have sneaked their way in. Even in a place that should be at the heart of consensus – politics shows its ugly sides.

First stop – remember Amalek 28 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | תגובה אחת »

The Torah commands us to remember but we have forgotten. We have also forgotten the Spanish expulsion, the blood libels, the pogroms and more – “but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us”.

These memories have blended into a collective memory, the DNA of the Jewish people.

So that we remember, so that we never forget, so that history does not repeat – our first stop is the holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Part 2 – a voyage to identity 28 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

Last night the family came and we had a big dinner with all of Itai’s uncles and aunts. Itai got his grandfathers naval beret and we all congratulated him for standing up to the task.

Now, after our breakfast (thanks again to Ilana for the omlette) we are embarking on part 2 of our trip – the Bar-Mitzva journey to the identity of an Israeli secular Jewish teen.

The end of the beginning 27 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 4 תגובות »

We have reached Ein Karem, Jerusalem but as I wrote in my second post “Sometimes the way is the target but in our case the way is the means.”

The way was our means to get closer to each other, closer to ourselves (and obviously closer to Jerusalem).

Tomorrow we continue the Bar-Mitzva journey and follow a path of values and tradition in the city.

For the route of the 4th day: click here

Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains 27 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

And we have climbed them all…

Itai resting in the zimmer in Ein Karem (I have got the kettle on).

The last ascent 27 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 2 תגובות »

Burma road is behind us as is Kisalon valley. Fortunately Tzuba was open and we grabbed a late lunch. One more (long) ascent and we have reached Jerusalem.

This is what Itai looks like after enjoying lunch… and this is what is shoe looks like after 4 days of hiking.

The sights of Burma road 27 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 7 תגובות »

Clear, crisp air and heavy fog

Diving in 27 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 4 תגובות »

After a comfortable night at Tali & Tzvika’s (yes, we skipped the “experience” of a night in a tent in the rain) we are continuing our journey…

Rain is good but, if possible, either not here or not now.

Laughs he who laughs last 26 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 4 תגובות »

We continued hiking joyfully. Passed Newe Shalom and started Burma road towards Shaar Hagay.

Passing clouds shed some drops that were refreshing and pleasant. But the downfall strengthened and it started raining again.

We found refuge under a tree and then they passed us. A couple on its way to Jerusalem with a chariot pulled by 55 horses (Daihatsu Terios).

We spent the last 2 miles of today resting comfortably in the back seat.

Fortunately the Yellow c-store is open 24×7 and we can wait for mom with a hot chocolate in hand and some pastry.

So who is laughing last? We are! Big time!!!

For the trail of day 3click here

The lunatics are back in action 26 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | תגובה אחת »

To borrow the title from the funny movie… we are back

Question: what is common to soup, shower and tea?
a. We longed for them standing shivering under the bridge soaking wet
b. We got them at Orna’s place
c. They were the best in a long time
d. All of the above
A week long hike on Shvil Israel will be raffled between those who got the answer right…

I even got a clean dry T-shirt and we changed our socks to a dry pair (although our shoes are still wet).

After a short rest, Orna put us back on track and here we are again en-route to Shaar Hagay.

Its raining, its pouring 26 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 6 תגובות »

When mom told us it is raining in Tzur Moshe we smiled and said the weather here is fantastic. We even added “touch wood”…

A passing cloud shed some drops and I, defiantly, pulled out a plastic bag and covered Itai. The cloud got the point and continued on. The ones who missed the point and continued as well were us.
When we got to a place which is the most distant geometrical point from any shelter… its friends arrived… this time the plastic bag was useless.
Itai is wet inside the bag, I am soaked without a bag and our shoes are 5 pounds heavier with all the mud.

We are so lucky that Orna lives but minutes away and is on her way to “rescue” us. I can already feel the hot cup of tea I am about to embrace shortly.


A note to our readers 26 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 9 תגובות »

Last night, during the Bar-Mitzva, one of the mothers told me she is following our blog closely (but not talkbacking).

I was happy to hear that there are people actually reading the thoughts we are sending into cyberspace…

But I wanted to approach you (our readers) with a personal request to talkback – Itai is eagerly reading each and every written word. When we make stops during our hike, sit down and lift our feet, take out the canteen to wet our lips – the iPhone is always pulled out to review the talkbacks.

By the way, you can leave a comment anonymously – it does not matter.

And we are off for the third day… From Ben Shemen to Latrun and from there to Shaar Hagay. Today my parents will remember (or so I am hoping) to bring the bread and in addition for the first hour we are reinforced by my brother Didi with his daughter Naomi.

Onwards and upwards…

Dawn of the second day 25 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 2 תגובות »

Itai resting under the berry tree. We also got some ice-cold lemonade in Iris’s house while waiting for Omer’s Bar-Mitzva.

For the trail of the second day: click here

A sea of wheat 25 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | תגובה אחת »

In the fields of Beit Nehemia

The land of Benjamin 25 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

On our way to Kule forest we passed by Elad. The trail markings weren’t clear and so I overcame my masculine inhibition and asked the guard about the trail. He was busy praying and so did not answer but nodded me in the right direction.

We continued along the perimeter fence. The kids we met also claimed there is an exit gate. But… there wasn’t.

At a certain point we found a small opening under the fence and as we did not want to break the fence (as we saw others did in the very same spot) we wiggled our way through the narrow opening. By the way, in case you are wandering – the electric fence was working… unpleasant but not too bad.

After a short rest and lunch at Kule forest we continued in the views of the land of Benjamin. Pastoral scenery all around us – 20 meters in front a young dear hopping and behind us soldiers of the IDF training with explosives.


The first crisis – the second day 25 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

We have awoken to the dawn of the second day with 2 major changes with regards to yesterday. To begin with the aches and pains, fatigue etc. of the first day did not vanish but in addition, the excitement and anticipation have faded.

On the global scale – both factors are against us. There is but one that can balance the equation – will power.

It wasn’t easy. At parts I had to carry Itai’s backpack (as well as mine). But he overcame and continued. When he got cramps – we stretched and continued walking.

The first hour was very tough but then we met my parents next to a natural spring and had breakfast together. Too bad the bag with the fresh bread they bought was forgotten at home…

No biggie… took us 5 minutes with the car to hop over to a coffee shop at Rosh Haain.

The trail of day 1 25 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | תגובה אחת »

In the morning of the second day I remembered that I forgot to upload yesterday’s trail.

To see the line connecting the red dots please visit here

New day. New energies. Off we go…

From the frying pan into the fire 24 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | תגובה אחת »

As most of you probably know, the road to maturity is filled with obstacles and pitfalls. About 3Km from Newe-Yarak (our resting spot for today) we ran into Kana stream – or more precisely sewer.

We were due to cross it over a bridge which turned out to be an Irish bridge and so we continued up-stream to where we could skip over some boulders to get to the other bank.

But as you probably gathered from the title – this was not the end of our ordeals as when we followed the trail it suddenly ended.

We spent the next hour following the traintracks and looking for a trail.

All’s well that ends well – we arrived, ate, showered and are (eagerly) waiting for tomorrow.

Relativity 24 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 4 תגובות »

“I thought Cfar-Saba is 20 minutes away from our home” said Itai to me when after 4 hours of hiking the rooftops appeared on the horizon.

Yes. Cfar-Saba is 20 minutes by car (without traffic). But these are meaningless 20 minutes during which you can at most make a couple of phone calls.

Today these 20 minutes stretched to 4 hours but on the way we passed a forest (Kadima), saw flowers bloom, met the kids from Cfar-Saba Airlines and even ate a carrot we picked from the field.

One more thing – the pasta lunch was much tastier…

And in a word – relativity

All roads lead to Kfar-Saba 24 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 2 תגובות »

On the way to Kfar-Saba we met Kfar Saba Airlines – a group of boys with radio-control airplanes and we took their picture.

Lev Hasharon is behind us 24 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

We have left the fields of Lev Hasharon and arrived in Tira.

A different world.

All of Israel account for each other 23 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

A moment before leaving we were accidentally reminded of a very Israeli quality. They say that in Israel one can easily find common friends even in an accidental encounter.

And this is how things unfolded…

On Saturday we celebrated Noa’s birthday. Noa is the daughter of Naama who is Osi’s (my wife) sister. Naama’s husband is Gilad who is Eran’s brother who is Nataly’s boyfriend whos uncle owns the greenhouse at Shaar Hagay. And so we have a place to stay for Friday night – at the greenhouse of the uncle of the girlfriend of the brother of the husband of the sister of…

Got the picture?

Only in Israel…

Ready, set, go… 20 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 5 תגובות »

The days pass and we are getting closer to the moment of truth. Like an athlete before the start – last preparations… Itai already has hiking shoes and I bought the water bags (will 9L be enough?), the maps are next to me and I review the path every so often…

Tomorrow I will buy the supplies and then all that’s left to do is pack our bags.

Not an easy task – physically and mentally. How will we cope? Time will tell… But one thing I know for sure – neither Itai nor I will ever forget this experience.

Wednesday (in three days) we go…

Every plan is but a base for changes 9 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | Comments Off

Every plan is but a base for changes and my plan is no different…

After talking mom into accepting my “crazy” idea and getting her blessing (not without reservations) I am now forced to face reality. On Thursday Omer is celebrating his Bar-Mitzva, on Saturday Gilad is on call and I have not yet looked into Didi’s shifts – got the picture?

And above all – everyone I told about my plan – distance, days etc. offered to hospitalize me in a mental home. I was even asked whether on the way up the Jerusalem mountains we open stretchers (my answer was that in the special forces we carry the wounded on our backs e.g. 1X1 and not 4X1…)?

OK – I got the message. Need to re-think and after a deep thought – here is the updated plan.

Our path:

Detailed map

On the first day we are invited to Amir’s house (he even said he will let us use the hose in the garden ;-)
On the second night we meet Itai’s classmates in Omer’s Bar-Mitzva at Ben-Shemen (they come with a bus and we come on foot)
On the third night we meet friends on Burma road and the last night is devoted to family.
The fifth (and last) day Itai and I will spend in Jerusalem visiting sites of Israeli history and Jewish tradition.

Sometimes the way is the target but in our case the way is the means.

The birth of an idea 2 בMarch, 2010 | Itai's Bar Mitzva Quest | 15 תגובות »

When Itai reached his 12-th birthday I started thinking… How do I mark his upcoming Bar-Mitzva?

Even as an utterly secular Jew there is something special about your son’s 13-th birthday, something to do with tradition and religion. It is, after all, a considerable milestone – one to remember for one’s lifetime. I asked myself how I would like Itai to experience this meaningful event? How can I experience it with him?? How do we do something special, meaningful, different that burns into our memory forever???

Oversea travel? A big gift? too easy. I want something that money can’t buy, something done together – father and son.

I have found the ultimate idea… We will make Aliya Laregel (pilgrimage for those of you who skipped Sunday school) to Jerusalem! Him and I, four days, 100 Kilometers, views around us, blisters on our feet.

And… our forefathers have done this for thousands of years.

Indeed, at face value, an idea which meets the (strict) requirements I have set to myself.

Will we make it?

The first answer I will get in a couple of months when we reach Jerusalem. But the real answer I will get in 30+ years when Itai will be facing the question when his son reaches Bar-Mitzva age.

Well, targets must be set but then… there is much work to be done.