The Plantation

LivinGood Farm, Jordan Valley, Israel

We wake up early in the morning, early enough to catch the first glimpses of the rising sun. We put on our brown work boots, tying them tightly. Then we hop into the old, worn out pick up truck. Bouncing on the rocky road, ancient dust kicking behind us, we pass  mountain gazelles, Hoopoe birds, and little green birds along the way.

The Plantation. Beautiful beyond words. We are a mere few steps away from the Jordan River in the fertile Jordan Valley-one of the best places in the country to grow dates.

img_7032

img_7029

Here we’re given our first task-to cover the clusters of organic Medjoul dates with mesh bags to protect them from birds and insects while they ripen. We pick up a bundle of bags and a handful of twine and we begin. We climb the tree branch by branch until we reach the top.

img_7036img_7011

From the top of the date palm tree the view is spectacular. We can see the entire plantation with rows upon rows of emerald palm trees. We’re surrounded by the majestic, golden mountains. High up in the trees, we sing along with the birds as we work through the day.

In the distance we can smell the aroma of Turkish coffee with cardamon made in a seemingly ancient finjan. We can taste our Israeli breakfast of hummus, tehina, and pita with tomatoes and cool, crispy cucumbers.

img_9052

We continue working hard until around noon-the hottest time of the day when it can reach up to 50° Celcius (120° Fahrenheit)! We clean up our supplies and get back into the  truck, knowing that our adventures have hardly begun.

img_9036

img_7124

Here we are with Ran and Eyal, our hosts.Two of the kindest, most generous, hospitable, and amazing people we have ever met. It has been an honor to get to know them and their families. We learned so much from them, about Israel, the culture, the land, and the people. We learned about organic farming and so much about life in general. We learned that “LivinGood” is not just a name printed on a box of delicious dates, but it is a way of life.

Life is beautiful.

 

At the Lookout

Israeli/Jordanian Border

Early in the morning before work, Eyal took us to the “Lookout”.

The hills are majestic. The sunrise is indescribable. Everything is golden. The hills, the stones, the earth. Jerusalem is the city of gold, but this is the land of gold. We drive along the winding roads towards the plantation. Roads that were once, and sometimes still are, pathways for camels, donkeys, and sheep. The soft morning light mingles with Eyal and Ran’s voices as they tell us about the history, about the ancient Israelites, prophets, and royalty who could have hidden or taken refuge in the caves and mountains that we pass. We come to a gate and Eyal gets out of the car to unlock it. We ride along the bumpy road towards the lookout. Here we see rows and rows of perfect date palms lined up against more of the mountains. Somewhere hidden among it all is the Jordan River, the border. Fifty years ago this land was empty-a waste, a scorched desert valley. Look at it now.

The view is amazing. From here we could see the Jordan River and over into Jordan.

img_8987img_9013img_8994

 

Pruning Trees

Moshav Hamra, Israel

The soil is rich red. Red like a terra-cotta pot. The dry dust covers us, out shoes, our legs, our clothes as we dig a single furrow between the trees. One of us plows the row by hand with a hoe, while the other puts the irrigation hose inside and hammers it in with a peg. We work towards the mountains. The trees are slanted, some lean so far to the left or right it seems they are reaching for the earth, while others are so perfectly erect, they clearly reach for the sky. After digging, we prune the trees-cutting away the little pieces growing low on the trunk to give strength to the rest of the tree. Covered in soil, intertwined with the trees, one with the land.

img_6839-copy-copy

img_6783img_6791img_6804

 

Painting the Mountains

Mountains of Samaria

Moshav Hamra, Israel

img_8090

img_8806

img_8087

img_8839

Painting the mountains, or so it seems

Painting the scene, the colors of a million dreams

The perfect blue skies, the golden hills

The puffy white clouds, the dots of flowers so still

And yet nothing we paint could ever compare

To the beauty that is already there

Moshav Hamra, Israel

Painting the Skies

Moshav Hamra, Israel

We walk into a square, open roofed building on the top of a hill, overlooking shady dessert mountains and picturesque blue skies. There are big buckets of paint inside and lots of dirt and dust. Our task for the day-renovation. We start early in the morning. Cleaning out all the leftover pieces of things that were never put in the right place, we sweep the dust and dirt, and we throw buckets of water on the walls to clean them off. And then we begin to paint. We paint all the walls white. A new coat of paint can make such a difference. It’s like a long night’s sleep to an exhausted person, or a bite of food to someone who is famished, or a kind word to someone who is hurt. We watch it go from a dusty, dirty mess to a neat and rustic bungalow that could be used for anything. When we’re done, we pick some dried out wildflowers from the hills outside the building and put them in our empty paint can.

Life is beautiful.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv. So much has been said about it and yet there is so much to say. Tel Aviv is such a diverse city. Modern in every sense of the word and yet everywhere there are pockets that attest to its history starting from 1906 when a few plots of land were purchased on a sandy beach that would later become the city of Tel Aviv. There is the artsy neighborhood of Florentine, the beautiful White City, and of course, Tel Aviv’s famous beaches. There are outdoor markets everywhere; Carmel, Sarona, Levinsky. And somewhere you can be sure to find in some cafe or corner juice cart, Israel’s famous drink-Limonana. Lemonade with mint and ice. Limonana is the combination of the Hebrew words limon-meaning lemon and nana-meaning mint. Perfect as you walk through the streets on one of Tel Aviv’s hot summer days.

20160621203350-copy

Shuk HaPishPeshim

Jaffa, Israel

Shuk HaPishpeshim. We don’t know if it’s more fun to just say the word or to wander through Jaffa’s flea market. There are things and things everywhere, treasures waiting to be discovered and haggled over. Retro chairs with thick striped pillows, delicate glass chandeliers, vintage backgammon boards, piles and piles of woven and embroidered fabrics.

img_5933-copy-2-copy

img_5689

z-146939363880187

img_5688

Silk scarves, old beach postcards, and dusty old steamer trunks covered with vintage luggage labels. Antique clocks, stacks of old rose and lilac painted dishes, and teacups covered with Forget Me Nots. And under a big mountain of books we find a small, well loved leather book of Hebrew poems with old pictures and pressed flowers hidden in the pages. Then there’s an old aqua blue typewriter waiting for a good story, needlepoint rugs, and tons of trinkets and goodies. Sellers try to pull you in to explore all that they have to offer. Spend hours, or even days, there and I’m sure you could not even come close to seeing everything.

img_5693

Jaffa

Jaffa,Israel

Beautiful Jaffa. An ancient port city on the Mediterranean coast. Here Jonah embarked on his famous journey that would take him into the belly of a whale. Here millions of pilgrims for hundreds of years began their journey to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Jaffa was the first sight weary travelers would see. We stroll the ancient cobblestoned streets. Everything looks like a chalk pastel drawing of pinks, greens, blues, and yellows that melt into a tropical delight. The streets are lined with palm trees, a whimsical wonderland. There are quaint cafes, fresh squeezed juice stands on every corner, and boutiques, one after another along the narrow streets, all of this a few minutes walk from the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

img_5851-copy-2

Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel

Some of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods are so quaint and colorful you feel like you are walking through a dream.

img_1259

img_5496-copy-2

img_1584

img_1579

Pink and green treasures

Found along the way

Sometimes hidden and hard to find

Other times just missed in the hurry of the day

Take a short moment

To appreciate them all

From the flowers on the windowsill

To the pink stucco wall

For if you don’t take a moment

To just look and see

You will soon find

You missed all of life’s beauty

Haifa

Haifa, Israel

Haifa is beautiful with its terraced landscapes, a city built thousands of years ago on the slopes of Mount Carmel and bordering the Mediterranean Sea. There is a mix of ancient stones, modern skyscrapers, and lush mountain foliage, sparkling beaches, soft breezes, and breathtaking views.

Our experience in Haifa was certainly not what we had expected. To make a long story short, we got lost in Haifa. We took a wrong turn. Our journey led us on the back roads, far out of the way of what we planned to see. But going this unexpected way, we found wide, tiered, whimsical stairwells with overhanging, emerald green trees .We found peacocks painted on an old stone wall in shades of purple and green and framed in gold, and  lavender and blue flowers spilling into the streets.We would have never seen any of these treasures if we hadn’t gotten lost and then lost again. So I guess in life we are never really lost. Maybe we’re just taking a longer way to see what we were supposed to see, but never would have unless life made us.

Life is beautiful.