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locusts, flash floods, & hummus

left israel 15 years ago
now getting chance to rediscover
this land of contradictions and surprises

been traveling the north of the country
lake of galilee, land of mountains,
ancient city of safed
hills full with graves that are considered sacred
each grave with specific miracle attributed to it
grave for infertile women to visit and get pregnant
grave for single women to find husband
grave for healing from physical sickness

the old city of akko sitting on the mediterranean sea
muslim city from 638 ad
captured by baudouin I during first crusade 1104
changed hands several times
taken by turks 1517
besieged by napoleon 1799
occupied by british during world war I
became part of israel after war of 1948
gigantic waves breaking on the ancient walls
walking in the narrow alleys
going through busy fruit and vegetables market
leading us into the golden spoon hummus place
which receives from us rating of 3.5 chickpeas
on the hummus index

jerusalem with its rare mix of religion and secular life
old city inside the walls
surrounded by the new city
arab quarter besides the jewish quarter
churches, mosques, and synagogues blending into each other
intensity bursting out of each brick
city regulations require all buildings to be built
from what is called jerusalem stone
creating unifying look to this metropolis
even in the new neighborhoods

walking inside the walls of the old city
jesus burial church
via dolorosa where jesus walked carrying the cross
on his back
the wailing wall
dome of the rock
walking outside of the wall through the gate across mt olive
downhill full with old graves and colorful churches
full moon is rising above the mountain
painting everything in silver color
back inside the walls heading to lina restaurant
for rich thick creamy hummus
4 chickpeas in the hummus index

escorting friend to jewish orthodox yeshiva for women
so she can inquire about studying there
been asked to stay outside the building
the only men allowed inside are the teachers and janitors
sitting in silent meditation in the yeshiva’s garden
the sun mixed with the caressing jerusalem mountains breeze
after long while a voice of man bringing me back to earth
“you can’t do this here, it is very disturbing”
laughing with eyes shut and asking the man to simply go away
what could be disturbing in person sitting silently?
but the man insisting
“you can’t do this here, it is very disturbing”
opening my eyes and noticing two orthodox women
sitting at my feet
both have silently joined the meditation

driving east from jerusalem
on the hills above us the separation wall
that the israeli government is putting up
to cut itself off from the palestinians
tall and cold concrete wall
crawling like snake up and down mountains
on path of division
reminding me of my visit to east berlin
after the fall of the berlin wall
will duality melt into oneness in jerusalem?

the road east of jerusalem goes downhill
from 2600 feet above sea level
all the way to the lowest place on earth
the dead sea at 1300 feet below sea level
from the city that gets snow in the winter
sudden exit into desert land

the dry and yellow soil of the desert mountains
surprisingly covered with thin layer of green
sign of the rare rain storm from several days ago

at one of the curves of road
the dead sea reveals itself
changing the color of the water and the jordanian mountains
from yellow to purple to pink
receiving inspiration from the angle of the sun

driving along the dead sea
white salt crystals shores from rich minerals
palm trees and desert plants feeding from underwater springs
heading up steep and narrow road
to metsoke dragot on top of cliff overlooking the dead sea
visiting the small community called hamakom
referred to as yeshivashram by its founder rabbi ohad ezrahi
coming from ultra orthodox and jewish settler background
and shifting his energy into neo-kabala and neo-hasidic
teachings
bringing in ideas of openness and experimenting

sunset time
from the road along the dead sea
getting off to dirt road then walking towards the water
natural mineral spring with very hot sulfur water
creating small pool
the water then pours down into another pool
and finally into the dead sea
getting chilly outside
inside the water warm and pleasant
big round moon rising above the jordanian mountains
on the other side of the dead sea
playing hide and seek with the clouds
taking dips in the cold mineral rich dead sea water
that makes anyone big or small, fat or thin
float effortlessly on the surface
getting closer to the place where the hot spring
blends into the sea
playing game of cold and hot water

walking the arugot canyon
river running at the bottom
herds of ibexes with big horns walking around
standing on two legs to reach the leaves of thorny trees
mountain rabbits sunbathing
at night tigers and other wild cats come to drink

tall mountains on both sides of the canyon
hidden waterfall ends in natural swimming pool
two hours walk from heaven to paradise
ending at spring that feeds the river
putting hand or head into the narrow spring
feels very erotic
warm water coming out from the ground
very tasty with lots of minerals
large sweet water crab standing nearby
pretending to guard the spring

noticing gun pointing in our direction from behind few rocks
getting closer and finding young guy greeting us
telling us he’s here to guard the canyon
from robbers and terrorists

few weeks ago terrorist arrived in air glider
carrying on him explosives
our young guy surprising the terrorist from behind the rocks
handcuffing him and handing him over to the army
happily receiving $500 reward
telling us “i wish everyday a terrorist will come”

on the way out of the canyon
where the river meets the dead sea
noticing the road gets cut of
strong flash flood washed away the bridge

it could be very sunny in the canyon and dead sea area
when rain comes down miles away in the mountains
since the soil of the desert can’t absorb much water
small streams join each other and pour into the canyon
resulting in a wall of water mixed with trees and huge rocks
that seems to suddenly show up out of nowhere

driving south of the masada mountain
what seems like long and narrow black cloud
is passing low above us turning to be
endless stream of large pink locusts
that made their way to israel from egypt
millions of them flying above and around us
landing next to us eating the desert plants

locust is one of the biblical ten plagues
considered as sign of social injustice
indicating there are too many poor people in the country
surprisingly few days prior to the locust arrival
official report was published showing that there are
over 1.4 million poor people living in israel
huge percentage for such a small country

locust is considered kosher
the newspapers ride the wave
and with the reports on the locust invasion
and its damages to agriculture
sneaking in recipes for roasted, grilled, and fried locust
thought of creating recipe for raw marinated locust
oops, we’re vegetarian

spending the nights in the ein gedi kibbutz
located on mountain overlooking the dead sea
and the arugot canyon where the kibbutz also gets
its abundance of water
the entire kibbutz is one big botanical garden
with over one thousand species of cactus and desert plants
from around the world
a green jungle surrounded by the yellow desert mountains

as part of every dinner in the kibbutz hummus is served
tastes somewhat industrial
2 chickpeas on the hummus index

the dead sea is gradually evaporating and shrinking in size
big parts of it becoming dry land and islands
along the shores big pits suddenly appearing
as result of the land drying up
some areas dangerous to walk in
since the land opens up and swallows itself

group of american women going for first swim in the dead sea
shouting at each other with excitement
“oh my god i’m floating”

leaving the dead sea area heading to tel aviv
going for hummus in the yemenite quarter
good creamy hummus with fava beans
4 chickpeas on the hummus index

so what’s up with this hummus fetish?

the tel aviv newspaper dedicated ten pages
to the hummus places in the city

with an economy that’s far from skyrocketing
inexpensive hummus places sprouting all around the country
each place having its secret style and formula
some hummus places have mythologies created around them
abu hassan in the old city of jaffa
makes fresh hummus in the morning and closes before 2 pm
when all the hummus is sold out

visiting different hummus place every day
enjoying the variety in texture, flavor, ingredients,
serving style, and vibes

hummus can also be prepared as raw dish
by sprouting the chickpeas instead of cooking them

usually people feel heavy after eating hummus
surprisingly it’s not the hummus creating the heaviness
it’s the pita bread
to enjoy hummus without traffic jam in your intestines
let go of the bread
try eating hummus with spoon or fork
or even better as a dip using cucumbers, broccoli,
or other veggies instead of pita bread
or indulge in creating hummus lettuce wrap
taking lettuce or any other dark leafy green
such as kale or collard greens
spreading hummus along the center of the lettuce
adding in some of the arab salad
then rolling the lettuce
and eating it as you’d eat lafa/burrito/wrap
satisfaction guaranteed

did any hummus place receive the 5 chickpeas rating?
of all places it was small restaurant
in ramat hasharon where i grew up as a child
rumors say that the cook from abu hassan in jaffa
prepares it for them

planning on visiting israel again soon
many more hummus places to explore

© 2004. All Rights Reserved.
Zemach Zohar Wilson, Israel, November 2004

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