After this last week, walking through Jerusalem as if tiptoeing through a firing range, it was good to return home to the Galilee.
Here in the Galil, I am reminded that the old adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” doesn’t always work in Israel. Quite the opposite. If I start worrying about the big picture, about the Palestinians, about the delicate social structure of multi-ethnic and multi-religious Israel, about ISIS and about Iran… It’s not easy to find solutions or even comfort.
Today I sweated the small stuff.
This morning my daughter and I picked up two elderly hitchers, a man and his wife. They had been picking olives on their land, and were returning home with buckets and plastic bags full.
It was tough.
The old lady enthusiastically pushed a gift of a bag of olives into my daughter’s lap, giving her a careful and swift explanation as to how to turn them into oil.
For although my daughter’s Arabic was good enough to work out how many days to soak the olives, and with what ingredients, one word – accompanied by vigorous hand-gestures – evaded her. We parted with many thanks but no idea as to the key action required for the oil. It wasn’t until we reached a good internet connection that we discovered that she had instructed us to shake the bag of soaked olives, and not to crush them. Same kind of gesture…
It was touch and go for a while, but we made it through.
Then this afternoon we went for food. My brother had come to visit from the UK after a short academic conference in Israel. They’d been culinarily so spoiled during the conference that he was desperate for a falafel. We went to my old haunt. Two Arab guys from Dir El Assad, working from the old center of Karmiel. They were happy to see me, and were very gracious to my brother, until one of them found out that we hailed from Manchester, England.
His face clouded over. My face clouded over. We sweated.
For him to meet two fans of Manchester United soccer club, when he was a passionate fan of Bayern Munich (a team Manchester United had famously beaten in the 1999 European Cup Final), was very difficult for him. The bitterness of a historical defeat hung painfully between us as we sat, munching into tahini-soaked falafel in the heart of the Galilee.
He and I still giggled a lot and had a hug goodbye, but it was close.
Back home on Tuval, my brother and I faced the final test. Sitting in the visitor’s center of Jonny Stern, tasting his boutique wines. The grapes had been picked from Tuval’s fields, the wines had won awards throughout the world, and we were in a bind. Which wine to choose for tonight’s Friday night meal, when every single wine we tasted had won some Golden Cluster award from some wine festival around the world?
We sweated the small stuff all day.
It felt good.
(We plumped for the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve…)