After Wednesday’s lunch experience, I took a bit more food with us on Thursday, including a big salad. We had lots of pitot (pl. pitah) and several buns left over from the b-b-q, and lots of snacks, so I felt fairly confident that we would be ok. Good thing, too, because the beach did not have a restaurant! Not even a non-kosher one.
We spent the day at Hof Almog (Coral Beach), which is one of Israel’s National Parks Nature Reserves. Entrance is free for members of the National Parks Association (“matmon”). We also received a discount of rental equipment. I ended up renting masks and snorkels for all three of our kids, though I could have managed with just two sets. In the end, my son and youngest daughter did not go in at the same time, but I did not know that in advance. I also did not realize that we could have returned one of the sets right away, and gotten a refund. Oh well. At least the money goes to a good cause (park preservation).
Moshe had worried about being too hot and not finding a comfortable location. But right next to the entrance, was a dug out square area, with a picnic table and stone seats, It was quite cool and breezy. In fact, even on the beach, the weather was cool and breezy. Throughout much of the day, the kids and I were cold!
Moshe made himself comfortable with a book. We dumped all our bags on the table, next to him, and headed for the water. Need I mention that the water was COLD!?!
Originally, I rented two sets of masks and snorkels. I had a new set for myself (that I had bought on my previous trip to Eilat) and my youngest had volunteered to use another mask and snorkel that we brought with us (just before we left our home, my eldest had found my old snorkeling equipment, that had been “lost” in our storage area). The buckle for adjusting my old mask had rusted, so it was difficult to adjust.
As soon as we entered the water, my youngest daughter had a rough time. Her mask did not seal well. Both her mask and snorkel filled with water. She ended up swallowing a lot of water and getting water in her face. The salty water burned her throat and eyes.
This was not the experience I wanted her to have!
I immediately sent her, with my eldest daughter, to go rent another mask and snorkel set from the front desk. My snorkel was an older model, with a straight tube. The rented snorkels curved over the head, making it more difficult for water to enter the snorkel.
Meanwhile, my son, who had entered the water for only a few minutes, was ready to get out. Besides being cold, the salt-water burned his nose, which was sore from allergies. He got out of the water before we even began.
He left, just as my youngest came back with her newly rented mask and snorkel. My eldest dove right in, but my youngest was suddenly afraid. She did not want to enter the water. I realized that she was really traumatized from her earlier experience. Even though the "new" mask fit her well, with a tight seal that prevented the water from seaping in, she was afraid to put her face in the water.
Earlier, before any of us had entered the water, I tried to give my kids guidance about how to use the snorkeling equipment. No one had patience to listen to me.
Now, my youngest was ready to listen, but she really needed to be coaxed into the water. I gently guided her until she felt comfortable breathing through the snorkel. Then I helped her to breath in the water, and then to swim while breathing through the snorkel.
Once she agreed to try, it did not take her more than ten minutes to catch on. We swam out together, holding hands, but it was not long before she let go, eager to explore on her own.
At one point, she headed back to the Northern dock, from where we started. She had not indicated that she was going and, as soon as I noticed she was missing, I signaled my eldest. We spotted her swimming back to the dock and followed after her.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, when we caught up, concerned that she was still scared.
“Nothing,” she answered, laughing. She just wanted to adjust something.
The next time she mysteriously headed back to the dock, we waited until she adjusted whatever needed adjusting and swam back to us. Then we added a few additional hand-signals to ease our underwater communication, and headed along the reef to the Southern dock.
We saw lots of cool coral and fish, including this large, shimmering, light green and purple fish. We also saw schools of Zebra fish (I don't have the patience to look up their real name) and several other species.
Several times, my kids were excited to spot “that thing we should be careful not to step on!”
When I was in Israel for the year, one of the girls on my program stepped on a black, spiky anemone and was in agony for days. Ironically, it is one of my strongest memories from that year.
When Moshe was here for the year, he also mistakenly put his hand down on one of the black, spiky anemones. He still vividly remembers the searing pain.
So we warned our kids. And they paid attention.
I would have liked to spend more time exploring, but it was not clear to me where we were allowed to swim. And we were cold.
When we got out, I found out that we missed the nicest reef, just off of the Southern dock.
The water was so cold. Once we got out, there was no way we were going back in.
We dried off in the sun. The kids warmed up before I did and they were hungry. I was still chilled to the bone. So, I remained in the sun while they ate. I did not mind. I was not hungry anyway.
After lunch, Moshe went off to check out what was playing at the IMAX theatre.
The kids played in the sand, and I took pictures of them. It was fun and carefree!!
After about an hour, I had enough. We packed up our stuff. Moshe was already outside, waiting for us.
It turns out, there was nothing really exciting showing at the IMAX. Moshe and I were bummed, but figured it would be good for us to start heading home.
We made the mistake of consulting the kids first. They were REALLY DISAPPOINTED.
They would have gone anyway, or done something else. But I was exhausted, as was Moshe.
The kids were trying to be creative and “find a solution” (read: an alternate plan). They did not want to accept that we would just be going home. Moshe would have been happy to take them out to dinner, which probably would have appeased them. But I was already nauseous, and I did not want to smell any more food.
Furthermore, I was quite anxious to get on our way.
Once I did the math, I realized we would not get home before nine or ten, at the earliest! Both Moshe and I were very tired. I did not know if he would be able to drive the whole way home, and I did not want to spend another night driving when I should be sleeping.
Finally, we just cut the conversation off and directed the kids to help pack the car, so we could go. There was a bit of tension, but that ended about ten minutes into the drive, when we noticed that all three kids were fast asleep. A few minutes later, so was I.
We almost stopped at Yotvata, for Moshe to pick up something to eat, but the kids started stirring, so we continued on our way. About an hour later, we stopped at a Burger Ranch, but it was not Kosher. I ran around the car a few times, to get my circulation going; then we continued on our way. We did not stop again, until we got to Ein Gedi, for another pit-stop. The kids all had a snack. And, once again, we were on our way.
The drive back took an hour longer than the drive down. We got home, just before midnight.
We unloaded the car, dumped all our bags in the living room, and I do not know what happened after that.
I went straight to my room, got under my covers, and, within seconds, was fast asleep.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,
When a Jew Dies Far from Home
11 hours ago