One of the strange paradoxes of living in Israel, is that though ours is a very small country, there is such a great variety of landscapes here. Our first chief rabbi, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook taught us that the best way to celebrate independence day was to walk four paces in the country, where we have never walked before. There is something very charming about this modest ‘good deed’. Four paces is so little. And yet, we are in no way limited to just four paces, and each step we take after those first four is our own… our own initiative. And the four paces seem commensurate with the length and breadth of our small country.
But despite the small area, we have snow capped mountains, and the lowest land point on the face of the earth. We have a length of sea shore, with warm water (in the summer) lapping on the beaches, and we have more than one desert… forests and meadows and fields of wild flowers and wild grasses. Birds of all sorts stop by and visit us, from Europe and Africa too, enjoying the plant life, the crops in the fields, and occasionally the fish in our ponds.
Our forefathers walked great distances, from one landscape to another on foot, often with a donkey to carry their load. The ever changing landscape offered inspiration, especially of a religious nature. And so it seems very natural that our land should be seen as the source of three of the major monotheistic religions. I myself have experienced such inspiration in the desert. It is so quiet when one first encounters it, that there is a lot of room for thought and appreciation. But as we look closer, we discover plant and animal life of great variety. And while the sands might look parched, those who frequent the desert can reveal to us many sources of water, hidden from the unfamiliar eye. If we follow the wild animals, they too will reveal worlds unknown, filled with sustenance and color, and even drama, the likes of which we many not have dreamed of.
To celebrate the onset of spring, Chana and I took the car a few kilometers north of Jerusalem, on a day filled with hints of rain. Though there wasn’t any real rain… there was drizzle from time to time, and occasional droplets, felt on our shoulders as we walked, or appearing on the windshield of the car. A mild haze thickened at times, and then retreated, allowing us to photograph the territory of Samaria.
The hills and valleys, and the little communities to be found nestled between the hills or atop of them, could easily illustrate myriad stories. The many scenes we saw seemed to tease the imagination, stories and fantasies sprung from the hills, begging to be heard. The pictures in this post were all taken from that area on that same day. And there are many more, sulking in the background because they haven’t been chosen.
Of course, it’s not just the physical nature of our country that exhibits such variety. One can see the diversity among the population, and in the many sub cultures, religious beliefs, and customs. From one city to another, there are worlds of difference, and between the cities there are so many towns, villages and hamlets, each with its own customs and personality. And as you might have heard, there’s the joke about the freedom of expression among our people… it is said, when two Jews get together, you can hear three opinions at least.