The photo is the top of the wine barrel for the local winery. The barrel is in the entry way of their home. Elaine’s husband is a vintner and his crop is being evaluated by this winery for possible use. His vines were around his house and he tended to them daily – except of course for Shabbat.
I had the unique opportunity to stay in my hostess’s home which she said was located in a nature reserve – Alonei Habashan. It was out in the middle of nowhere so it made sense it was a nature reserve. There was a boarding school for high school aged boys on the reserve as well as a kindergarten. The boarding school had horses and a dairy farm. The students from the boarding school were responsible for taking care of the horses and cows. One of the students was my hostess’s son, a 17 year old senior who had to study for his English oral exam. So when I arrived on Thursday evening his mother asked if I would work with him on his English. No problem I said – his eyes rolled. As we started the discussion his phone kept interrupting our conversation. His father said something to him in Hebrew and the phone disappeared. I can guess what the comment was. Every time he did not know what I said he would say something to his mother in Hebrew and she would respond to him in Hebrew. Eventually she said she wasn’t going to help him anymore. After about an hour his father said he’d done enough and his phone resurfaced as he splayed himself on the couch fixed on the screen. Teenagers are a universal phenomenon.
On Friday morning we went last minute grocery shopping. The store was right next to the kindergarten and nursery. The unique thing about kindergarten in Israel is that it is a 3 year to 5 year full inclusion program. It is an all day program except for Fridays when it is half day. The nursery is actually for children birth through 3 and is more like a daycare center in the United States. There were all kinds of activities occurring, kids playing with toys in one corner, others at a small table learning about the story of the Ark of the Covenant, and the group learning to make challah. Here are the kids making challah.
The little boy in green had just finished making one and was getting ready to make another. His tended to be a bit blobbish – the others were attempting to braid their bread. An interesting fine motor/sensory activity – braiding a sticky substance. We said our goodbyes and later than afternoon – just before Shabbat – a delivery of challah bread was made to the house; one with my name on it. It was delicious!
On Friday midday, Elaine took me around the area. We went to Gamla nature reserve. Here the story of the Masada of the north took place. Additionally, this area hosts a nature reserve for vultures including an acclimatization area. However the historical site on this land was fascinating. It had been in the hands of Jews, Christians, and Muslims all at some point in its history. Called Deir Qeruh here is a couple of photos and an explanation.
It amazed me how sturdy the wall still was after all this time. Then we came across an olive press. It has a little metal donkey silhouette added to the site to show how it would work.
After Gamla we went to Aliyat Falls – another nature reserve. The waterfall was flowing, something that only happens after it rains.
Just above the large palm tree on the right is a group of girls spending their afternoon singing traditional Israeli childhood songs. Elaine pointed out the volcanic eruptions had placed the rocks in this unique formation vertical rather than horizontal. In the parking lot was also an apple vendor. Apparently apples and cherries are the main fruit crops in this area. We purchased some apples and off we went to one more spot.
The last spot we visited was a watering hole as we’d say in the US. Elaine’s children (all six of them) would come here as kids and when they got older they decided to tidy the place up and build a nature pool so other kids who came after them would have a nice place to visit. After that we stopped for petrol and hummus – not in the same place. The hummus was different than the hummus in the US. Perhaps because it was made fresh in a retail outlet that was a hummus store and eatery.
Elaine’s husband and son attended synagogue – she and I stayed behind to preparing for Shabbat dinner. I learned to make Israeli salad – red bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes finely diced with olive oil and lemon. My dicing skills were much appreciated. Then I filled canelloni with a mixture of Labneh, squash, and ricotta cheese – covered it with tomato sauce and set it to bake. We made cannelloni because part of Sabbat is to use up any unleavened bread products in the house. She had cannelloni. Apparently the way I filled the cannelloni had not been thought of before so during the meal on Saturday I was asked to demonstrate how I had done it. The reality is I’d never filled cannelloni in my life but it was a problem needing a solution that did not create a massive mess. Initially I was going to go with the plastic bag squeezing into the cannelloni but the mixture was too runny and I knew that wasn’t going to work – all the baking desserts and decorating cakes had taught me that. I’m just glad I could contribute in a small way to the meal. Did I mention that meal was amazing. Four courses starting with the bread, followed by appetizers – one thing I did not want to know what I was eating I just ate it like everyone else – and then the main courses of proteins with all the sides, and then ending in dessert, banana chocolate chip cake. Ahhh….chocolate is loved here too.
After dinner we played a game of Rummikub. I had not played this before but after one game I caught on pretty quickly. Her son challenged me to a game and well – challenged accepted. I won and went off to bed. Because I won he had to speak with me in English tomorrow before he headed out to have Sabbat meal with his friends where he had cooked the chicken for their communal meal, everyone was bringing something.