FOR EIGHT weeks the author, Aryeh Green, walked across the State of Israel, rain or shine..
(photo credit: ARYEH GREEN)
In an intensely personal new book called My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land, Aryeh Green, reeling from a devastating life-changing event, embarks on an arduous yet uniquely Jewish/Israeli journey – and takes us with him.
Weighed down by a 25-kg. pack and crushing personal issues, Green physically treks the length of Israel, from Eilat to Tel Dan, and in the process spiritually spans the gap from despair to redemption.
Inaugurated in 1995, Shvil Yisrael
, the Israel Trail – some 1,100 km. long – was named as one of the 20 best “epic hiking trails” in the world by National Geographic
, which praised it for delving “into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli” and connecting to “the sublime beauty of the wilderness of the Middle East.” It is a magnet for young, healthy nature lovers and Israel lovers.
Green, a thoughtful, gray-haired man in his 50s, shows that the wonders of the shvil are not just for the young. In florid and yet brutally honest language, Green shares what he sees and experiences, as well as what he thinks and learns.
Hiking the Israel Trail is no stroll in the park, as Green discovers the very first day of his hike. Just hours by foot north of Eilat, he finds himself in a precarious spot made even more dangerous following a sudden rainfall.
“I am sitting on the ground in despair. I am actually crying. Not quite ‘sitting’; crouching, precariously, with my pack still on, leaning against the rock wall of this mountain (Har Yehoram), looking straight down to the rocks about six meters below me. After the initial few hundred meters of intense boulder navigation and climbing up and down the large rocks on the path linking Har Shlomo and Har Yehoram, I find myself walking a path winding along the side of the mountain – and it becomes narrower and narrower...one step just a few centimeters to the left and I’ll fall into this crevice and break my neck.... I can’t take another step.”
More important than how Green extricates himself from this and other moments of extreme peril are the incremental and cumulative life lessons that he gleans from these experiences, as well as from the pain, exhaustion, loneliness and errors of judgment. Through the punishment and exhilaration of the journey, the tears and the shouts of joy, he goes through stages of despair, humility, recognition and acceptance of reality, appreciation, forgiveness – and in the end is imbued with a renewed sense of meaning, purpose and resolve.
All this comes across on each page of My Israel Trail
. Green connects well with the reader, just as he does with family and friends at certain points during the journey, as well as people he meets on the trail itself.
Beyond recounting the awesome and diverse beauty of our land and the logistics of the journey, the book also shifts gears, insightfully examining larger issues, such as religion, history and Arab-Israeli relations. Green draws insights from his rich life experiences in the hi-tech field; as an aide to Natan Sharansky; as founder and director of MediaCentral, a Jerusalem- based project of HonestReporting, interfacing with the global media; and as chief strategy officer at EnergiyaGlobal, a renewable energy platform helping to transform Africa.
Green, who is observant, shares his Shabbat experiences on the trail, such as a stay in Kfar Hashalom, home to the community of African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. His friendship with Prince Immanuel Ben-Yehuda, one of the group’s leaders, paves the way for an intimate view of the community and their customs.
Green also gives us insight into the little- known world of Trail Angels, the kind folks who open their homes (and hearts!) for free to shvilistim
(hikers) all along the trail.
The book makes extensive use of italics to indicate thoughts and feelings experienced while on the trail, distinguishing those from standard text used for description and discussion. This device can be helpful, pulling us in as we vicariously walk the path with Green, but some readers may find it to be a bit distracting. Also, the reader may not be familiar with many of the religious and cultural references throughout the book. But neither issue interferes with reading enjoyment.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed walking the Land of Israel with me,” Green concludes, “and I hope this might enable you to achieve peace within yourself, as well as with those around you.”
Closing the circle in an afterword, he relates how he implemented changes in his life as a direct result of the experiences on the trail.
If you can’t hike the Israel Trail yourself, this book might be the next best thing.