Amuka is a small and dangerous Moshav in the north of Israel, that sits high on the hills overlooking the Galilee. Small because only fifty families are willing to make the treacherous daily journey high up into the pine forest, and dangerous because the steep and narrow road is buffered from the sheer drop of the cliff face by a ludicrously narrow edge of soft dirt. This being Israel, no driver - not even our mild mannered Australian one - was likely to slow down to allow the enemy (other driver) safe passage. It was going to be an interesting weekend. We were ten women in a tent. Actually we were nine because one dropped out at the last minute, as one always does in missions of this kind.
The enemy: a five year old boy, a scorpion and a dog.
Our mission was delayed on account of preparations at our destined tent, albeit a gorgeous decorated Moroccan one, complete with lounging pillows and an indoor Jacuzzi. So we stopped on the way at an old Yekev where we were surprisingly welcomed, given that this is Israel and it was late Friday afternoon. The owner opened up his musty storehouse of wines and olive oils and showed us around. He invited us to sample home-made green olives and wine which we guzzled down on the roof of the Yekev where we picnicked on wooden tables under the shade.
Then he appeared, our first challenge: the boy. We had left behind us a total of twenty four children between us, and no five year old child would break our agreement that this was strictly a child free zone. We bribed him with offerings of chips and tried to engage him in pleasant conversation, but he simply refused to sit quietly in a corner and be still, forcing our commander in chief to take action. She barked something in a foreign language and the child tucked his tail between his little legs and scampered off into the forest, never to be seen again. One of our team observed this behavior to be quite foreign to the native Israeli mother who seemed to show a fondness and tolerance for children we Anglo''s seemed to lack.
The tent itself was lovely and large, equipped with a little kitchenette, an adjoining shower and toilet, hammock, fireplace, a full moon and two dangerous sniffer dogs. One half blind and the other a noisy little fox terrier who would break the magical silence of the long still night, between the rolling sounds of snoring from an as of yet unidentified source. We unpacked our equipment and rested for the afternoon knowing that by nightfall we would be called to the task of feeding ourselves - a challenge at the best of times, given our limited food supplies. The bravest amongst us was set to the task of starting the fire and cooking the meat, while the others prepared and presented their findings on the terrible habits of Israeli drivers, men and children.
The almost full moon provided us with enough light under which to eat and relax for a short while before our commander in chief sat us all down and warned us about the dangers of scorpions, having recently survived an attack herself, and it wasn’t long after that we suspiciously found amongst our tea-cups a live scorpion, no doubt planted by either the child, the dog or the command in chief herself? Yet we remained calm at all times, self medicating where necessary to remain stable and alert. The threat having been abated, it was almost time to pack it in for the night in preparation for the long day ahead but for the sake of security we left the admiral outside the tent still chewing on her T- bone steak growling at the half blind dog who fearlessly risked all to approach.
The next morning we separated into groups of ''walkers'' and groups of ''talkers'' before being gathered for the serious mission of eating breakfast on the deck. Beyond the forest, views down the valley called to us to dream about staying in the hills, abandoning the chaos of our very ordinary lives for the stillness of more solitary ones. It seemed Amuka had won its way into all of our hearts, scorpions, children, barking dogs and all. We came to conquer Amukah, but Amukah conquered us. Late in the day we conceded defeat. We waited till well after nightfall before we packed up to leave with some resistance. With melancholy in our hearts we sat in traffic pining for a different life, where traffic flows and children obey. Still we braved the night and made our way home, mission accomplished. We fought like men and we ate and drank like men, but our hearts were touched, and we loved and laughed like women.