As a security guard for tours the month of August is a very low season of trips because schools are out and my company doesn’t work with a lot of camps or foreigners. I was surprised last week on Motzai Shabbat when my boss called to tell me I had a five day trip with a military prep school from Jerusalem starting Sunday.
So at exactly 2pm I left my home in Kiryat Arba and went to work making my way up to the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot where I saw all the kids siting outside in the hot sun waiting for the bus to come and pick them up. The head instructor of the school came and introduced himself to me and told me that today all we were doing was going to the campsite to sleep. Sunday was pretty uneventful because for the most part the instructor made the kids clean up the bus to leave it spotless as possible and made the kids stand outside in a half square formation. It reminded me of being back in the Army where we would all stand in a half square formation when we were being addressed by a commander and being given instructions.
I found myself a tent to sleep in and woke up around 6am as everyone else to start the first hike of the trip. The hike took us to mount Meron just outside the city of Safed where we were given food to eat for breakfast consisting of bread and cheese along with deli meats to pack for lunch later. After being on so many trips for the past three years it has gotten to the point that I no longer care to socialize with anyone anymore whether it is a student or a teacher. However, as unexpectedly as it happened I heard a kid speak English with one of the Israeli kids. As it turns out he was an American who joined the military prep school to join the IDF.
On one of the breaks we did one of the instructors told us about how we were on part of the Israel Trail where thousands of people pass through it every year and how he and his girlfriend did the whole Israel trail from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south. I thought to myself how cool it would be if I did this trail with my significant other. He said how there is a debate of hooking up the Israel Trail with the trail in the West Bank and the Trail with the Golan Hieghts, yet he said it was not going to be done because of the security concerns of walking in the West Bank and the possible boycotts that can occur worldwide if the trails were to be connected. He said when he was in Germany he saw flyers in English to promote the Israel trail to bring more tourists to Israel.
As we continued the hike down to Meron I got to know more about this American kid, he was very much into being an American and had no real desire to live in Israel at all. He is just here to get the experience of being in the army because the US army wouldn’t take him due to his flat feet. He would ask me why I made Aliyah and I told him the whole reason that I moved is because I believe a Jew’s place on Earth is Israel and the only future for Jews on Earth is the state of Israel as opposed to every other place on Earth. He would tell me how there were more Jews in America than Israel which is not true and I contested the fact by showing him statistics from the Jewish Agency showing 49.4 % of all Jews live in Israel and the Israel has 6.5 million Jews while America only has 5.3 million which he contested as fake news because being from New York he said New York alone has 2.8 million Jews so there must be 7 million Jews in America according to him. Even though I showed him concrete numbers he stubbornly refused to believe the numbers.
As time progressed we talked about our favorite Netflix shows a like Narcos and El Chapo, we started to discuss which drug lord was wealthier and powerful, whether it was El Chapo or Escobar. As we continued to talk more he spoke about his desire to go live in Columbia, marry some Jewish Columbian girl and make a life for himself there which is not what you hear from the average American. As time progress we eventually got to our campsite on the foot of the hill to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. There we slept outdoors without tents in the sleeping bags we brought.
The following day we got up and did the following hike down Nahal Amud which is a hike that eventually leads to natural springs where a lot of naked people were bathing there. We eventually hiked up the side of the mount to Shiehk Quais where we were given a lecture by one of the new directors of the military prep school who told us how we knew the place was a mosque and how the names of areas changed from Latin to French to Arabic and to Hebrew.
We got on the bus and headed to the sea of Galilee were we finally got to be indoors for a change with air conditioning . The whole day Wednesday was spent in the air conditioned room watching tv showing on my Ipad.
Eventually at 5pm we left the Sea of Galilee and headed to the Golan Heights where we hiked and did a forced march just like one would do in the army and it reminded me very much of my last reserve duty. The kids were given a map and they had to find their way to a location with a small cement building on a hill far away from us.Many of the girls who were hiking in short shorts or skin tight pants started to complain about the thorns in the way while I replied to them that combat soldiers don’t mind or complain about thorns. One of the girls replied back to my, ” I don’t want to be a combat soldier, I just want a nice comfy office job without having to leave an air conditioned place. At one point they thought they should go through a fenced off area but I told them not to because it could be a mine field that was left there from the six day war and many hikers ended up losing limbs and their lives because they wondered into an area they weren’t supposed to wonder into.
We got to the location two hours shorter than anyone else of all the branches of the military prep school. We ended up sleeping again outside in the wilderness while the kids had to stand guard thirty minutes each until 4 am when we had to get up again, put our backpacks on and continue to the next town of the golan. We could see in the distance how we walked over ten kilometers over night.
As we got closer to the little town on the Golan we made the kids open up stretchers and carry weights on it for another hour or so until we arrived at the final hill. They had a little ceremony and we all headed back to the bus. It might have been a trip like any other but at least this time I made a friend.