Today was a day of caves. First we drove to a stalagtite cave on a big hill overlooking Beit Shemesh. We were driving on our own, without Donna, as we were meeting Sami and the kids and Donna there. We made it no problem through Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh (Noah was excited to drive through Beist Shemesh, now he has been to the home city of every IBL team) and made it to the sign that directed us from the last highway to the cave, which according to the directions was supposed to be a turn “into the driveway.” After twisting our way up a mountain for several miles, I pulled over to call Sami and make sure we were on the right track. No cell signal. I looked at the map, and saw that the road we were taking was leading us to within a couple of km of the territories. So I decided to turn around and head down the mountain and get a cell signal. Once down, I got in touch with Sami and Donna and realized I had been about 500m from the entrance to the park where the cave is. So back up the mountain we went. And then back down the mountain we went, down about 200 steps to get to the cave entrance. Before entering the cave, we were shown a movie that unintentionally made us laugh by using lots of scientific terms and explaining the rules of the cave, including the rule that photography is forbidden every day except Fridays. The cave was amazing – we learned about all kinds of cave formations and how they are formed, and on our tour of the cave they showed us formations that looked like Moses on Mt. Sinai, smurfs and their mushroom smurf house, a wizard, a crocodile, little mermaid, snow white and the seven dwarves, a giant’s feet and finger, broccoli, a princess in a castle and much more. Then we headed back up the hundreds of steps to the car, Ilana whining for ice cream the entire way.
We then visited a small memorial to the space shuttle Challenger that was right by the park entrance,, and stopped by a section of the Old Burma Road. When Latrune and the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv highway were under Jordanian control from 1948-1967, Jews could not get supplies to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. So they built a secret road, out of the range of Jordanian guns, that they used to get food and water to Jerusalemites. This was the Burma Road, really more of a dirt track. We ate lunch in an area that was supposedly next to a section of it, there really wasn’t a marker or anything. Thank goodness for our quirky guidebook, which points out spots such as this as well as locations and times for Israeli dancing in every city across the country.
From there we went to Sataf. Sataf is a not so long hike down the side of a mountain and to a reconstruction of ancient farming techniques among some ruins. The JNF oversees the area, and they have planted terraces with irrigations trenches and are growing squash, what looked like corn, and a variety of other crops. The entire agricultural area is shaded by trees, many of them fig trees, and there are two old cisterns that contain water from natural springs. Of course, people were swimming in them despite a large swimming prohibited sign. One of the springs can be followed back to its source in a cave that is accessible by a very narrow tunnel with a small trickle of water flowing through it. It was a very dark but short trek into that cave; Mati’s big flashlight guided us well. The trip in was fun and involved lots of good family teamwork balancing lights and footholds, but the cave itself smelled like BO from the 20 yeshiva boys that been crammed in there before us and we did not stay long. Then a hike back up and finally GLIDA! My favorite image – we are sitting eating glida on these comfy chairs and cushions at the snack shop overlook and I look up and see a very messy Eitan chasing a ream of napkins being blown by the wind (he had gotten them to clean up, but dropped them all).
The Oberlanders plus Donna then headed back to Netanya. Donna and I got brave and tried an alternate route to minimize traffic, but we discovered that in Israel at 5:00 there is always traffic. It took two hours to get back to Netanya. The kids and I went to the kikar for dinner and had French pastry for dessert (lots of French here). Donna stayed home as she is not feeling great (don’t worry Dorit, we are taking care of her and she is already feeling much better). It is a beautiful cool night, the weather did finally break, so we were able to walk around and comfortably enjoy the evening. The kikar is like a street fair at night, with little kiosks set up, some selling things, some for paining and other crafts for kids, and they even have a few big inflatable jumpy things and a few other rides. The highlight of the evening – as we were leaving the kikar, having eaten and bounced our fill, we saw the Na Na Nachman van! It has been one of my personal goals for the trip to see the Nachman guys jump out and dance, and we got very excited until we realized that they were not going to dance, they were just blasting music from the van and selling things. Maybe next time....
We are now back at the apartment -- there is more music blasting this time from an outdoor wedding at the hotel across the street with an overly loud DJ. Hope that the kids and Donna can get some rest; Noah and I plan on walking back to the kikar to use the free wireless and post this. We are waking up early tomorrow to go to Yokneam! Lila tov.
Alert from the kikar!! The Nachman guys are dancing now! The crowd is joining in!