Call it what you will: R. Bell, Are Bell, or even by its real name Arbel. Different, true, but differences that make no difference when the name is spoken. And yet, differences are the flip side of similarities. One gives the other substance, says “Here’s where I leave off so you can get started.” The blacks, the whites; the muscle-bound, the emaciated-looking; the short-limbed and the long; the cocky and the shy. And yet, when you add up all the differences and similarities, what you’re left with is the whole, a conglomerate.
No one in their right minds would climb the Arbel in 39 degrees C, this already at 7:00 a.m. The sun, never remorseful, never apologetic, does its best to keep you sane. How much water can you drink, how much sunscreen can you spread, how wide can the brim of your hat be, how much sweat are you willing to endure to face off against its tyranny?
But on just such a morning, we and a group of Korean tourists climbed the Arbel. Call it craziness, stupidity or stubbornness. Call it refusing to let the sun dominate. They were covered head to toe in big, floppy hats, white long-sleeved tops that stuck to them like second skins, white cotton gloves like servants used to wear when whisking their fingertips over picture frames, leggings and laced shoes. Someone was even wearing a hooded raincoat, leaving no centimeter exposed.
We were dressed in shorts and Shoresh sandals, lathered in sunscreen so that every pore cried out for air.
All of us had left air-conditioned rooms to reach the top of the remarkably steep and flat-topped Arbel, grabbing onto strategically placed metal rings and cables as we picked our way over the rocky route.
The getting there, the being there, made us more alike than different. I sensed this even as I remarked to my partner the moment the Koreans had passed, “Do you believe it? Did you see their gloves?”
“They’re dressed exactly as they should be. We’re the ones who’re nuts!” he answered, not to my surprise. I had dragged him out of bed, pointing at the Arbel and insisting that it wasn’t too hot.
“Now I know what to get you for your next birthday.”
He held out his hand to me, and I reached to take it. His is thick and wide, always hot. Mine is long-fingered and usually cold except when I climb the Arbel on the hottest day of the summer. And yet, when I took his hand, I didn’t mind how hot and sticky it was.