NOMAD NOTES – a series of blogs about and inspired by my meanderings into the places of my ancient past
Chapter 2 – The Rewards of Courage – Golan Heights, Israel – August 18, 2016
In Nichiren Buddhist practice they talk about “making a cause;” in other words, taking action to achieve a desired result, like cause and effect. Today I cried tears of gratitude that I plucked up my courage to come to the Golan Heights to my cousin’s wedding. For more reasons than one.
Yesterday, fueled by Turkish coffee, I went through with my car rental, and having not yet discovered that I could make my GPS talk to me (I later did, thank God) I navigated back to my Tel Aviv hotel using a paper map. Yes. After about an hour of wrong turns and one-way streets, driving a new car and with little knowledge of Israeli traffic laws, by the miracle of persistence I arrived to pick up my luggage. The supportive desk clerk gave me a big bottle of water (it was blazing hot out), I loaded the car, and managed to start it again. Note to USA Homeland Security: Israeli rental cars require a secret code to be punched in on a dashboard keypad, or the engine will not start with the key.
I’ve now learned that there are about four names for everything in Israel. Both Hebrew and Arabic are official languages and much of the signage is also in English, which is taught beginning in elementary school. There are ancient names and more modern names, there are colloquial names and official names, and there are different ways of transliterating the Hebrew and Arabic alphabet into our Roman alphabet spelling. So I’ve got 3 sets of directions. One in colloquial English from my cousin (with options), I’ve got yet another paper map from the car rental place, and I’ve got my GPS, which by now is talking. The directions themselves blow my mind: turn left at the Sea of Galilee, take the road to Nazareth; I feel like I’m in the Bible driving a red Kia.
Americans are used to navigating long distances with freeway NUMBERS. Take 101 north, take 280 south. I’m triaging the directions as I go, making sure I don’t go by way of Tiberias, even though the GPS wants me to; my cousin has advised against it. (why?) Finally, I begin to get closer, passing banana and coconut plantations. This is getting very exotic.
I’ve been told by the car rental company not to leave the country with the car, which I have no intention of doing, yet in my final ascent to the Golan Heights, at a certain point I get a text message: “Welcome to Jordan.” I’m momentarily terrified but I keep going up the winding road, chanting my Buddhist mantra as I go, telling myself it was just momentary airspace in the hairpin turn. Glorying in the fact that I am DOING this, determined to get there, because there is no other way!!
I finally reach the Kibbutz and manage to find my cousins, whom I embrace in victorious celebration. All the out of town family members are staying in a country lodge – “Peace Vista” – beautiful rustic-style cabins run by the Kibbutz as a commercial venture. There is a breathtaking view of the Sea of Galilee below. Biblical.
And now, the other reason for coming: my cousin’s American mother, now 80 years old, to whom I spoke sharply, out of grief, the last time we saw each other, when my own mother was dying in 2004 and she came to say goodbye to her beloved aunt. For 12 years I have sought a way to make peace but I knew that coming to her daughter’s wedding would be the only sure way. I embrace her and she hugs me back after a moment’s awkwardness. Over dinner in the rustic (Kosher) restaurant, I reach across the table and ask her forgiveness, which she gives to me.
The evening brings me together with the Israeli side of the family that my American cousin married into more than 40 years ago; relatives I have not seen since 1999.
This morning at 9 a.m. a beautiful breakfast is delivered to the door of my cabin, featuring products that are made on the Kibbutz, including the traditional Raisins & Almonds, like the Jewish lullaby.
And tonight 350 people will dance at my Israeli cousin’s wedding. So today I cry copious tears of gratitude. Even now as I write. Because I have been courageous to have “made a cause” by deciding to come, and have already been rewarded for my courage.