The day started off innocently enough: 3 room-mates want to go to the Dead Sea. We packed our lunches (in my case a banana and a hard boiled egg) and trekked over to a bus stop to await the 486 direct to the Dead Sea. We took about an hour’s lesson in patience waiting for the bus to arrive while simultaneously realizing several individuals had waited at the same bus stop and been picked up by cars/drivers with friendly smiles… hitchhikers
One thing to note about my room-mates & I: We do love a good adventure.
As it turns out many Kibbutz or settlement members who need rides in any general direction wait around allocated bus stops where other members of these kinds of communities stop and offer a ride if they are traveling in the same general direction. It sounded good enough to us so we hitched. Our first driver was a young woman who listened to American pop music and didn’t like the Dead Sea so much, but recommended a visit to the German Colony which I will take her advice on. With her the view outside the window transformed from city to dessert. She dropped us off by another bus stop because she would be traveling soon in an opposite direction to the place where we were headed and so we again showed our thumbs up to the road and awaited the next slice of the adventure.
Our next driver a woman who had recently returned from living in Italy for 3 years with her medical student husband and two sons. She was the essence of hospitality. We spoke Italian nearly the entire car ride. We learned about how she had recently discovered her passion for voice/theatre and dance and about how she hadn’t realized her whole life that was her passion, but now that she knew it she was doing everything to learn about it. She recommended villages and kibbutzim with arts communities for us to visit. The original plan had been to be dropped off along the way at one of the Dead Sea beaches but the conversation was so lovely and she was so proud of her village that she invited us to come see her home and that of her friend who had recently built a room made of mud. We were intrigued beyond belief, and curiosity carried us there. The settlement was awesome, there is a different form of living here usually found in kibbutz where communities of people work together to operate a functioning society of their own, including sharing possessions and paychecks. We met her family, her two adorable sons and her friend’s family as well with their 4 beautiful daughters. All smiles. Her husband then drove up to the Dead Sea beach Minerale and we hopped out of the 3rd ride of the day beyond ready to refresh the arid dessert away in the salty water.
The Dead Sea is unlike anything you’ve experienced. The density of the water makes it so that you just float, and I promise you’re never ready for how cool that feels. The water itself feels a little like oil, in a very good way. It tastes brutally salty. You can also pick up some Dead Sea mud and rub it all you’re your body essentially cleaning every pore, and we so did. I recommend keeping it away from your face though, my eyes learned that the hard way. We floated, mudded, and danced around and even met a woman from Denmark who gave us a few hitchhiking tips and suggested we walk around the parking lot asking people for rides, seeing as we didn’t know how we would get back yet.
So we did.
Israeli hospitality is unrivaled. But I can’t say the same for speculative tourists. It makes sense, they have no reason to believe these 3 girls want an innocent ride to Jerusalem, they are in this strange new world too. We finally asked a couple in the parking lot who said they were sorry and were going the opposite direction and with that just decided to start walking along the road in the middle of the dessert with no real idea of what would happen next but continually giant smiles and this great big feeling about the beauty of life. The couple found us again and said they could take us where they were going where there would be a lot of cars because it wasn’t in the middle of the dessert and maybe it would be easier to catch a hitch from there. We weren’t in the position to question open doors so we went for it. The fourth ride of the day was with a man from Geneva and a woman who had been traveling throughout Europe for months, a visual artist. It was her 3rd day in Israel. They drove us through the dessert to Beer Sheva. She also gave us a tip “Ask where they are going first, if you don’t trust them… say you’re sorry you’re trying to go somewhere else.” We talked a lot, I told her about my fascination with the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain and about my desires for creating instillation dance works. I learned that she recently had an exhibition with charcoal and water color and that art is being redefined for her in these travels. The man Nikolai works for an Israeli organization called Dream Doctors that puts clowns in hospitals to help children with illnesses, they play music and tell jokes, bring puppies… things to make children smile. His grandfather founded it. He also is apparently a really talented guitarist. We drove for a little over an hour and they dropped us off at another bus stop but not before stopping along the way to Masada and other beautiful sight-see places.
By the time we were at our last bus stop it was night time and we really didn’t know what we were going to do. This is the point in time in which I ate my hard-boiled egg. It felt so surreal to again put our hands out in the road, thumbs a blazing. So many cars rushed past us on this highway. I didn’t know at all if we would find a ride or not. At this point we had a contingency plan. We could always call the couple back and ask for a ride with them back to Tel Aviv, they felt like friends. We couldn’t stop laughing at how we ended up here in the first place. What if that bus had showed up? Just as I lost a smidge of hope and car reverses up to us.
A man who spoke only Hebrew. Where was he going? To Lod. Which is smack dab in between Tel Aviv and Jersualem. He said he could maybe take us to Tel Aviv and from there we would have to find a taxi or Sherut back to Jerusalem. It was better than where we were and I had a good sense about him. I hopped in the front because I felt good about my ability to speak communicate is Hebrew. Up to now we had been lucky with drivers speaking in all kinds of languages we understood. But I too was lucky in having been gifted a decent enough memory to soak in the lessons of Ulpan Hebrew Intensive. We got to know this man. As it turns out he is a police man who was on his way to Lod to pick up a blind date, a woman he had only spoken to on the phone and seen the picture of but never met. It would be their first date and we would be along for the ride. We joked about the situation, what if it turned out she looked nothing like the picture? We played these what if games in a strange cross-breed of English, Hebrew, and physical comedy. And actually for me, it was the most fun ride of the day. He had a son our age and a daughter 16 and we got to see pictures from his phone of his family and the woman he would meet. So, we all went to pick her up.
The entire wait outside her place I just wished and prayed this woman was as beautiful as her picture foretold and that it wasn’t some internet hoax because I felt like this man deserved that. And BINGO! She was lovely. And even lovelier because she agreed to change their date plans to ride into Jerusalem instead which meant we didn’t have to take a pit stop to Tel Aviv 45 minutes away, and then figure it out all over again. We were one step closer to “home” בסדר הכל
Finally getting to Jerusalem was again completely surreal. We hoped out thanked the man for his graciousness and hopped straight into a taxi, the 6th ride of the night headed finally for the Hebrew University Student Village. The entire taxi ride I was deliriously smiling, laughing, imaging the parallel universes where this trip went very differently. Wow…
It’s still the best word to describe how I feel.
For me it was about trust. It was about trusting my intuition. There were a lot of choices to be made. Cars to get in to, things to not do, and I found that if I was tuned in to my intuition and I was calm I made the right choices. The right choices as in trusting other people as well, roommates and strangers alike.
For me it was also about finding a balance between knowing exactly where you want to go (Dead Sea and Jerusalem) and also being open to not knowing where you will go in between.
Satisfying my sense of adventure brought me more peace than I can say.
All my Best,
Pronounced: hacol beseder
Literal Translation: everything is OK!
But what I’m saying is: it’s all good
? יש טרמפ
Pronounced: yesh tramp
Literal Translation: yes you have hitchhiking?
But what I’m saying is: Can you give me a ride?