Livnot has been hiking this path for 34 years. Nobody else really does this on such a regular basis anymore. But another 3-day hike, yet again, was just completed by Livnot’s one-month Galilee Fellowship program (along with some wonderful past- chevre; note: you’re all invited to come back and join us for this hike, which happens several times a year). What made this hike different than every other hike was the temperature: never before have chevre slept outside when the thermometer dropped to *freezing*. They are to be commended! (backpacks covered in the morning with ice…)
But alas, I was not with them on either night: by a strange quirk of scheduling from many months before, I had to guide a different, non-Livnot group on day #2 of the hike. The group was a guides’ course run by the Ministry of Tourism. It was fascinating to compare the two groups. The differences were tremendous.
Day one of the 3-day hike is all about getting into the groove. Making sure all is okay. Everyone trying to get a handle on who is hiking, what it’s like, and what the group energy is like. Getting along. Doing a chevruta. Carrying trash. Pulling snacks out of backpacks (and trying to convince others to partake). Eating lunch. Shlepping water. Wearing layers (we hiked wearing winter coats, and it was still quite cold). Having those great heart-to-heart talks. Being a community-without-walls.
Thanks to the huge snowstorm over a month before, there were unfortunate amounts of fallen trees and branches all around. This allowed for a nice, big, warm fire at the campsite; but when you crawl into your sleeping bag, not all toesies are created equal (this could be understood to mean that some people’s feet are colder while others are warmer; or that pinkie-toes are colder than big-toes), and I was told that some folks barely slept.
Then…boom…I was cut-and-pasted into another document.
The next day was all about…facts. Information. History. Being concise. Being relevant. Many were wearing dress shoes and nice clothes, carrying laptops and tablets and using smartphones. The word “chevruta” was never mentioned, not even in a whisper.
Demands from others: “Hey Mr. Guide, there’s a test coming up, and we have to pass it!” “When did you say Tiberias was founded?” “Hurry, wrap it up, the driver is not allowed to be on the road more than 12 hours a day, and we have to get back to Jerusalem in time!” “Where can I get a good shwarma around here?”
Demands from myself: “What time did I tell the museum that we’d be stopping by for a quick visit?” “In this corner were pagans, Jews, Christians and Muslims. In this corner were the Romans, the Byzantines, the Caliphs, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British and the Israelis.” “This crucial battle happened in 1187; this crucial battle happened in 1948.” “Oh my God, I left my notes for this site on the kitchen table! I’ll have to wing it.”
And then back to Maalot for day #3…to the sea. People shivering, standing around the campfire, with matted hair and filthy hands, but with huge smile on their faces. People rarin’ to go. Livnoters. You could drink the positive energy with one of those black Livnot work buckets. Ah, it was good to be home. Let’s walk!
And so we walked. A lot. Until we hit the sea. The only pressure that day was the pressure of a sock upon the foot, and only time constraint was to arrive at the sea before the sun sank into it. And just when the going got tough…there were the banana fields…
How can something so simple be so moving? All we did was walk!
But it was moving. It always is. And it always will be, no matter how many times you’ve hiked it. Almost at the beach. The final steps. The waves; the sea; the horizon. The sun setting into the sea. The magnificence.
(The truth must be told: It’s not *that* simple. The Bnot Sherut Leumi ran it, bought it, packed it into boxes. Doron’s presence was key. Meir made sure that every detail was ironed out. Aharon raised funds to pay for the food, transportation, tents, staff, etc. The chevre came to Israel (not a simple thing these days!), joined the program, and agreed to brave the elements to walk across the country…)
But the *plan* was simple: walk the breadth of Israel. Just put one foot in front of the other.
Now let’s admit it: guides need to know information; it’s part of their job! But as technology advances, getting information will be easier and easier; people will not need to hire guides in order to access data. As it is, people check information on their smartphones/tablets during a tour and often correct me or ask questions. There are apps that can identify plants and animals in a photograph. It’s easy today, in almost any country, to find the safest roads for travel, the nearest bathrooms, the top sushi restaurants.
But some things will never be able to be “apped.”
Livnot will never be able to be digitalized. It will always be personal. It will always be about community. It will always be about a journey. Livnot, Israel, and Judaism – like relationships – will never be just virtual. No microprocessor will ever be able to make it happen.
So…next time you’re in the neighborhood and you want to *connect* – to the people, to the land, to the book (and even to yourself) – come and join us as Livnot once again walks the breadth of the Land of Israel. All you need is…you. And some anti-chafing cream.
Shabbat Shalom, Michael