CHOL HAMOED PESACH IN ISRAEL; PARKS, PEOPLE AND PLEASURE
by Ariella Bracha Waldinger
My heart goes out to my fellow Jews around the world whose holiday lasted one day longer than the seven enjoyed by Jews in Israel. The additional day means more meals to cook, more food to eat, more work to do and more money to spend plus the inconvenience. The fact is that every Jewish holiday celebrated outside the Land of Israel requires two days instead of one with the exception of Rosh HaShana. The Talmud (Beitza4b) comments on the fact that the two-day festival was a custom of our forefathers that cannot be changed. Tshuvot Hageonim (166:29) states that two days of a festival outside the Land of Israel was planned from the outset by HaShem. My husband says it’s like having to go to summer-school because you didn’t apply yourself to the subject matter i.e., Jewish History and Bible history. We were given the Land of Israel to live in and if we don’t, we pay a price one way or another.
The real truth for me personally is that I feel sad that my fellow Jews do not get to experience the parks, people and pleasure of touring Israel during the Intermediate days of the Passover Holiday and the rest of the year as well. This year the weather was perfect; mostly sunny and warm with cooler nights. The country is ablaze with fragrant garden flowers, bushes dripping with blooms, gorgeous flowering trees and exquisite wildflowers but the best sight of all is our fellow Jews and their families savoring the country and its Jewish holiday.
According to a Jerusalem Post article several million hikers, picnickers and campers took to the National Parks throughout Israel during the holiday of Passover. During the week of the holiday, the KKL-JNF was offering free entry to all its forests along with free walking tours and events for children and families. The National Parks Authority planned numerous activities around the country including sand sculpture contests at beaches and several festivals with music. Where else can you get free access to G-ds beloved gift of nature in all its beauty, plus planned activities for children…..all in honor of the Passover holiday?
One of the best features of life in Israel is free camping at parks and beach areas. During the intermediate days of the holiday, the entire areas are completely covered with pitched tents and lots of children running around with glee. There is no reservation system and no fees. Camping sites in national parks in America are $20.00 per site per night but they are booked months in advance and are difficult to come by. Entrance fees in most National Parks in America are $25.00 per vehicle.
The north is THE PRIMARY LOCATION for National parks in Israel and there are plenty to choose from. Additionally living in the north, as we do, we are also very close to the Mediterranean Sea. During the intermediate days, we visited Nahariya in the Western Galilee. It was established in 1934 by German Jews fleeing the Nazi’s. It is a popular seaside resort town with beautiful beaches. The entire city is very flat which makes it perfect for both biking and walking along its lovely Seaside promenade. After meandering along the promenade, we dined in a lively restaurant with yummy food. Outside the Land of Israel, it is rare to find a Kosher restaurant set up for Passover meals.
After lunch, we drove five miles North to the gorgeous, dramatic white cliffs situated above the azure blue Mediterranean, to view the Rosh Hanikra grottoes. Rosh Hanikra is in the northwestern corner of Israel on the border of Lebanon. According to the Virtual Israel Experience web site, in ancient times Rosh Hanikra was along the trade route between the northern civilizations in Lebanon and Syria and the southern ones in Palestine, Egypt and North Africa. The place was then known as “The Ladders of Tyre.” It has been a gateway in and out of Israel since ancient times. In 1934, the British dug a tunnel for a railway to run between Haifa and Beirut to enable supplies to go from Egypt to the North. It was blown up in 1948 to prevent the Lebanese army from crossing into Israel.
The entire area of the Park was packed with carloads of holy Jews enjoying the sights. There is a two-minute cable car ride down to the shore with access to the caves that lie beneath the cliffs. The caves or grottoes have been carved out by the pounding of relentless waves. Today huge bursts of seawater surge at your feet and footpaths inside the cliffs lead from one cave to another where one can hear the echo of waves crashing against the walls. Another great feature of this gem of a destination is the restaurant perched atop the cliff with a spectacular view of the Med and the coastline. My friends and I drank in the beauty and movement of the shimmering water like thirsty wanderers in the desert. We had a difficult time saying good-bye to this gorgeous natural wonder but our next adventure awaited us.
We decided to continue with our beach theme and drive to Akko, an ancient port city, whose history begins 4,000 years ago. Fodor’s Tour book describes Akko as the walled Old City located in the modern town of Akko. It is an enchanting mix of mosques, ancient markets selling anything and everything, museums, vaulted Crusader ruins, Turkish Inns and lots of fish restaurants. Akko is a city with a fascinating history that includes battles fought against Napoleon’s army in 1799. In ancient times its strategic position on the coastal road that linked Egypt and Phoenicia made it the principal port on the eastern Mediterranean. Alexander the Great set up a mint in the city in the 3rd century and was operational for six centuries. One can spend several hours touring the fascinating Old City with its old world charm. We mingled with the crowds, enjoyed the attractions and savored watching the children in the rental boats on the Sea. The port was filled with pretty boats of various sizes and locals were swimming in the chilly waters. The day was coming to an end and it was time to head home. We had truly felt the Pleasure of being one with the Nation of Israel in its beautiful Parks and Cities in its Biblical Home Land. The Passover message rang out loud and clear through our travel adventures as we felt the Freedom of Being a Proud Jew in The Sovereign country of Israel. People, Parks and Pleasure all wrapped Into One Big Package of Joy during the Intermediate Days of The Festival of our Freedom. WHAT COULD BE BETTER?