Slip slidin’ away in the Jerusalem Hills

In this hike I nearly killed my husband. Not intentionally you understand. But we did get a bit more of an adventure than we had bargained for. We set out for Nahal Katlav, a hike near Bet Shemesh near the Jerusalem Hills, a circular hike of moderate difficulty, supposedly around 7km in length.No problem, we walked over 21km a day sometimes in Japan, easy peasy we thought. The trail starts next to the Bar Bakfar restaurant just near Bet Shemesh. As we parked we were worried that there were so many people in the car park it would be crowded. But it turns out this is the starting point for a number of trails, including some really easy ones for kids around American Independence Park . As soon as we got on our black marked trail we saw few people. All went well at first, a reasonably easy descent towards the wadi, slightly muddy and slippery in places, but we took it slowly. A red marked trail branched off to our left, but my instructions said to continue following the black path along the side of the valley. The views were spectacular, even though occasionally the path was rather narrow and the drop too close to me for comfort. All around were lots of wooded slopes, pine, oak and olive, and yes also the smooth red arbutus (Katlav) that gives the valley its name.

After about an hour or so we met up with the blue trail, as instructed. Here things got a little complicated. The trail got narrower and narrower, and in some places we had to scramble up and down rocks, which we did with the aid of our bottoms. WE got muddy. No matter. But then… at one point we scrambled up an almost vertical rock face, and … the trail markers disappeared. WE could not see where we were meant to continue! Straight on there seemed to be no path at all. On our right a sheer drop into the wadi. On our left a rock face. WE climbed gingerly up it but could see no path whatsoever. There was nothing for it but to go back. Having gone back a couple of metres, we did find a blue path leading down still further. But at this point we had a feeling that this was all taking longer than it should (our pace not being that of spring chickens) so we decided to go back the way we had come. We had been walking for more than two hours, meaning going back was probably going to take another two hours, and this being winter, it gets dark before 5pm.

So we retraced our steps, by which time my knee was aching. But the view was stunning, we were out in the fresh air, and no people in sight. We made it back to the car totally exhausted and very muddy. An exhilarating experience. We shall go back and do the other end of the trail another time.

A week left and counting..

We came back home to Jerusalem for a month over the semester break and it has been rather weird. Firstly of course it was great to see all our friends and family again,to eat our faviourite Israeli foods that are not available in China, and to sleep in our own (extremely soft) bed. It was great to go to Pilates classes again and tell people we are just here for a break and are living in China.But it was also odd that we very quickly found ourselves missing China, Xiamen and our life there. I miss the students, I miss getting up every day in Xiamen and not knowing who we are going to meet or what is going to happen.I miss the challenge of trying to make myself understood in Chinese.And I miss the surprises every time we order in a restaurant and have no clue what is going to appear on the table.

It was great to be met at the airport by our younger son,to hear what he has been up to,and to spend time with my Dad,and my brothers and see all the family together for my brother’s birthday.But now we feel that we are in the way.The boys have their own lives to lead,and really don’t need us around.My dad is doing fine and is okay with us going back.

Today is Chinese New Year, and although we planned not to be there during that festival I am a little disappointed now I see it all on the TV that we will be missing the festivities.So maybe we will stay put next year and see them for ourselves,wherever we are.

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We did have some fun here.We went to see a couple of movies and we are gong to a concert this week. But we kept checking the prices in the restaurants and shops and comparing to Chinese prices. We spent some time with friends of ours from Xiamen who came to visit, Steve and Viny, who are of the Bahai faith and came to Israel to go on a pilgimage to their temple in Haifa. We showed them around Jerusalem a bit,went with them to Yad Vashem,to Ein Karem,Abu Gosh and the Tayelet to see the views of the Old City.

We also had a coffee with Aliza and Shimon who will be joining us at XMUT next semester.So that was fun too.So roll on next Monday when we get on the plane and go back to Xiamen via Hong Kong,Macau and Shenzhen.

Steve and Viny visit Abu Gosh
Steve and Viny visit Abu Gosh

Where is Home?

So here we are back in Israel on a flying visit. We arrived January 22nd after a horrid flight, despite being well fed by Swissair, we had a 7 hour layover in Zurich where they wanted a ridiculous sum of money for Internet use (we didn’t use) and a ridiculous sum of money to buy a sandwich or coffee which we did even though we weren’t hungry. Also you pay them in Euro and they give you useless change in Swiss Francs. So we arrived back in Israel at 3.30am to be greeted by our lovely son who came to pick us up.So now we are here back in Jerusalem until February 9th,enough time to sort out various bureaucratic things and see a bit of friends and family,and we discover two weird things. One, most people are not REALLY interested in what we are doing, except perhaps for perfunctory questions about whether all Chinese look the same, and whether or not they eat dogs. Secondly,we are missing our home in Lin’an ,the campus , the students and of course the FOOD.So we are checking in on our friends there on Facebook and so on, and it all seems very far away. When we were in China we thought that 2.5 weeks here in Israel would not be enough to do stuff. But now we are here, we are happy that we will be going back soon. Apart from various material comforts (easy internet access,soft bed, central heating) our life in Lin’an is more varied, interesting and stimulating.And here we are BORED.So that’s it for today’s entry.We had a great weekend with family and such. Next weekend we have a barmitzva to go to and the following weekend we will be back in Shanghai-YAY!

Jerusalem-the touristy view
Jerusalem-the touristy view

Jerusalem Day


Yom Yerushalaim- what does that mean to me? Hmmm…. Well I have looked at a lot of other blogs ,and I can see mine looks pretty lame. I don’t have any cool pictures or videos on mine. So today I shall try and rectify that. I am still not sure why I am doing this or who is likely to read it ever (including me??) but anyway I will give it a try. So with the historic date in mind here goes.
If you google search for Jerusalem, you always find pictures with the Temple Mount slap bang in the middle. But that is not MY Jerusalem.I have memories of the city as it once was, cosmopolitan, fun, full of life,not as it is becoming, poor,dirty and neglected.And the more I think of leaving the more it makes me angry- why should I have to leave the city to the Haredim and the Arabs??That’s a rhetorical question, guys.