I went up North to the Kinneret two weekends ago, also known as the Sea of Galilee. It is Israel’s freshwater lake, that is fed by the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south.
It was really beautiful, and being there in the peace and quiet felt like a dream compared to Tel Aviv’s loud craziness. We spent time swimming in the lake, we took a gorgeous nature hike, had a great dinner, and I got an amazing night’s sleep.
The next day, a few of my friends and I decided to go kayaking on the Jordan River. (The Jordan River is not only the most famous river in the bible, but it is also a prime kayaking, BBQing, and rock throwing destination.)
So, you know, we rent the kayaks, we put on our life-jackets, watch a quick video about the rapids that we might run into….etc. and we set off on our journey. And by ‘set off’ I mean we got pushed into five inch deep water by a twelve year old Arab boy.
The Jordan River is not that big (and it is not that clean either…) and there are many different kayaking and rafting places scattered along , so you will never really be alone on the river. The stream is probably as wide as a one-way street, and there will be two or three kayaks in front of you and behind you (and next to you, and bumping into you… remember there’s no personal space here.)
There are also people who sit above the river on the grassy patches, who BBQ, swim, and watch the kayakers slowly float by. Sometimes the little kids like to throw stuff at you too. If you get stuck on the branches or in the rocks, which happens every ten or so minutes, there are always Israeli and Arab families that will give you a push. The water never really goes deeper than past your ankles, which I didn’t realize until we decided to stop and swim and ended up just sitting in the water.
There were two people per kayak, and we were all having a really nice time just coasting and rowing along. (Actually, to be honest with you, I was sleeping and sunbathing with my sunglasses atop my head while my lovely kayaking partner was rowing and carrying my useless weight from the backseat.)
Anyway, about halfway through our journey (which totaled to be around two hours), we decide it would be fun to take pictures. As we were taking pictures, a big raft filled with two older couples floated past us. They joked around with us and asked us if we could take pictures of them too. So we did.
As they floated away, the older guy on the raft with gray hair and a great smile yelled back to us, “Tag me! Tag me on Facebook! My name’s Shlomo Bachar!”
We yelled back and said we would definitely ‘tag’ him.
Soon after taking all those photos with Shlomo Bachar, we found a blond girl who just fell off of her raft. She was laughing in a state of confusion, as her friends drifted off in a strong current without her. She looked up at us with big eyes as we slowly passed her by, so we decided to pick her up and drop her back off on her raft.
We pulled up next to her and she clumsily climbed onto the back of our kayak, and we rowed fast to catch up to the big raft of girls. The girls grabbed onto our kayak as their blond friend rolled herself off of our kayak into the big raft.
Honestly, it was pretty ridiculous.
After that odd encounter, about ten peaceful minutes go by until we find ourselves next to Shlomo Bachar’s raft again. He gave us a big smile and waved his hand for us to come closer. It was a little awkward, since we were just kind of floating next to each other, so we began to talk.
He asked us where we were all from, and I told him I was from Boston. He confidently and proudly told me, “My son is in Boston right now working! What a small world!” I asked him, “Where in Boston does he work?” Shlomo said, “Boston, Iowa!” I told him Boston was not in Iowa. He told me he knows that but it’s the same thing since it’s in the same country.
When my other two friends in the other kayak caught up to us, Shlomo Bachar asked them where they are from too. My friend Arik told him he was from Holon, a city just south of Tel Aviv. Shlomo Bachar got really excited. “No way! I am from Holon too!” he exclaimed. Everyone on Shlomo’s raft was also from Holon, and everyone got really excited, talking at the same time — “Where in Holon do you live?” “What’s your last name?” “What does your father do?” ” —etc.
This led both Arik and Shlomo Bachar to get off of their respective rafts to hug and shake hands.
So as it goes, the two got talking about Holon while standing ankle deep in the Jordan River, and realized that they actually know each other and recognized each other because Shlomo Bachar owns a photo printing store next to Arik’s house.
Shlomo Bachar even told us that we could bring those photos we took to his store and he would print them for us for free.
After the exchange of names and handshakes, we keep coasting and floating, passing by Shlomo Bachar’s family every ten or so minutes to get a friendly “Hey! it’s you again!”
After the kayaking trip was over, we were tired, hungry, and wet. So we ate something, dried off, and went on with our day…