When your sixty-four / by Susie Lubell

Israel Independence Day
 Flags for Independence Day

We got back yesterday from a long weekend in northern Israel. It was Memorial Day on Thursday and Independence Day on Friday so Mr. Rosen and the kids had a few days off. Memorial Day here is very different than it is in America. There are no door-buster sales, for one. Nor does it mark the season for wearing white pants. It's kind of a serious day. None of the cable television stations broadcast and network TV is all either interviews with high up veterans or patriotic performances. There's even a nationwide moment of silence for two minutes in the morning. An air-raid siren goes off and everyone stops what they're doing. Even cars stop in the middle of traffic (though that's an everyday occurrence also). And then at sundown, the Independence Day fireworks begin and the country is happy once more.

Anyway, we headed up north and spent a few days based in Tiberius exploring the upper Galil and Golan Heights. We hiked up to the top of the Arbel, a beautiful cliff above the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). We had lunch in a banana grove above a cave with open tombs and bats (for real!). We found a great little restaurant at Yehudia junction that's open 24 hours, 365 days a year, even Yom Kipur and serves a tasty roast beef sandwich. We hiked up a stream to a very old water milling station and the kids got soaked. We visited a friend of the family and spent the day swimming at her community pool. The next day we drove home along the eastern border with Jordan and watched the green fields of the North fade to the crispy tan of arid land. We made one final stop for lunch in Abu Ghosh, an Arab town outside of Jerusalem, and enjoyed some grilled chicken skewers and middle eastern salads.

To be honest, when we got home I was wrecked. For the obvious reasons - kids fighting in the car, baby up at 5:00 am, packing and unpacking and daypacking and repacking. But also I think my brain is just completely saturated. It's so much to absorb! And more than just the sites. It's the constant juxtaposition of old and new. Glittery and gritty. Orchards and desert. New construction and demolition. Poverty and wealth. Sea and sand. It's one minute we're mourning and then next we're celebrating. It's our own brand of extremism and it's exhausting.

But never mind all that. Happy 64th birthday Israel, you crazy spring chicken. I hope I'm as feisty as you are when I'm your age. Something tells me you won't be retiring next year...

Memorial Day, Israel
 Memorial Day wreaths

The Arbel
 View of Lower Galilee from the Arbel

Banana blossom
 Banana blossom

Secret cave under banana grove with tombs and bats.
 Secret cave under banana grove with tombs and bats

Hike in the Golan
 Water mill hike in the Golan

Pretty weeds
 Pretty weeds in the Golan

Garden gnomes near the dead sea
 Garden gnomes near the Dead Sea

Camel
 Camel in finery

Abu Ghosh 
Graffiti in Abu Ghosh