“Yallah, help each other out!” My shouts to the 9th graders as we descend into the current get lost over their high-pitched screams. Here in the Lower Galil, we leave our tents in the morning to stop by the Crusaders’ fortress on our way to the old hydro-powered flour mill. They belt the Israeli song from the EuroVison Competition- Golden Boy- a Mizrachi infused, English dance song… “I’m dah king of fun..”
We enter Nachal Ziv, walking upstream, knees deep. The three Ethiopian Jewish girls grouped together grasp each other’s arms for support. The Muslim Arab boy jumps along, cracking jokes. The Iranian Jewish boy and the Russian Jewish girl giggle in flirtation as he lends her a hand. The Moroccan Jewish girl starts a water fight with her best friend, a Syrian Jewish girl. The Polish Jewish teacher yells at them to be careful and I join in warning them right as I slip on the algae covered rocked beneath me. All the students behind me burst into laughter and soon the hike continues.
The music of the water pushing past us becomes the soundtrack as we gain momentum. Our knees become more banged and scratched as we literally fall into each other over and over again. Two of the Ethiopian Jewish girls help a Russian Jewish girl cross a deep section and a minute later “Golden Boy” makes another appearance. Sometimes walking upstream feels a lot more like going with the flow.
The tadpoles swim around us and the sun sprinkles through the canopy of different textured trees. The fig tree reminds me of Adam and Chava’s first fashion experiment and the blue dragonflies whisper around me. I meditate on the cold water between my toes and throw my well-freckled arms up to the sky to absorb even more of this moment.
Speaking with Emma about diversity, we nod in agreement that it’s human nature to fear what we don’t know. If we block ourselves off from the outside world, the universe becomes a lot more scary. If we don’t bond with other nations and ethnicities, we lose out on friendships and support when being attacked. Being part of the modern world demands us to actively belong to the world. And that means that we have to know what we add to the collage of diversity. We need to understand our family. We have so many colors and cultures and languages. We have so many different customs and styles and struggles. We are unique siblings in a very contrasting family; a problem and a solution in itself. As the Ethiopian population voices their cries for more equality, they shed a layer of being refugees, just like the Sephardim did in the 70’s during their protests. We are making progress moving upstream.
The river leads us to a pool, and as we jump in for the ultimate water fight, we celebrate the struggle to arrive. “Let me show you how we do it! I’m a golden boy…” Some kids try to push each other down into the water. Some are on another’s shoulders. One of my students jump on me and another one whines, asking me how much longer. Not all siblings enjoy the same event equally. The Arab boy swims over to join us as we grab another teacher into the pool. Sometimes it feels like the stream is carrying us all together. As we dry off and toss on our hiking boots, we prepare for the tough uphill still ahead of us. There’s always more uphill.
We climb the mountain, speaking in the silent language of heavy breaths. The sun bakes down on us and our once soaking clothes have now completely dried. The slippery algae that once questioned our balance is now steep rocks. The water battling us is now gravity pulling us down. The water is now the lack of and the rushing sounds are now ones of birds chirping. It’s another chapter of the same journey. It’s an assortment of opportunity. It’s a new grind that’s equally fascinating. The movement is still enthralling. The history is all the more magnetic. And the action, that’s the inspiration for it all.