Sunday, July 25, 2021

Angels and Tahina


The title of Tzippi Moss' book reflects two important things for hiking the Israel Trail: trail angels, who provide, food, water, accommodations and transportation; and tahina, a main staple of the "trail diet." But the subtitle, "18 Lessons from Hiking the Israel Trail," lets you know that her 2020 book (Goat Path Publishing) is about more than hiking. She calls it her "love letter to the country [of Israel]."

Moss hiked the entire 1000 kilometers (about 620 miles) of the Israel Trail with her husband Alan and her son Ezra. Besides the seeing the beautiful land of Israel and bonding as a family, they raised $40,000 for ALS research. Alan's mother had succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive nervous system disease, and the fund raising effort added purpose to the endeavor.

The book is not in chronological order; it is organized by lesson. The format succeeds for at least two reasons: there is a clear map at the front of the book, so the lessons can be put in context; and while she does refer back and forth, there is little repetition. 

Some of the lessons are common sense, which often is not so common. The beginning chapters about "Taking the First Step," "Commit to the Journey," and "Invest in Your Gear" detail the preparation for the hike, which included a trip to the US to get the right equipment, like hiking boots and walking poles. Other chapters discuss the importance of knowing when to eat and when to rest. Still others talk about going at your own pace and savoring the moment. Obviously, these lessons are not just for hiking, but for life as well. 

Tzippi's son at the trailhead in the North.
Photo by Tzippi Moss, used with permission.

As Moss reflects, "the challenge of finding and maintaining my own authentic, true pace, both as an individual and within our family unit, comprised, in a sense, a journey within our journey. Sometimes, constant, ridiculous comparisons with others and hectoring expectations of myself and my two men could impair me." She does not paint a picture that is totally rosy, candidly revealing frustrations (stolen food caches, flooding that forced them to walk long distances around the water), family tensions, and physical injuries. 

Tzippi and her husband on the trail.
Photo used with permission.

Tzippi was kind enough to answer some questions:

That quote from your book summed up a lot of things. How did you deal with this challenge on the trail?

It was hard and presented a constant challenge. Sometimes it was the simplest things that helped, like fatigue. That dropped me into my body and out of my thoughts.

How do you deal with this challenge now?

 A decade of growing older helped me to widen my perspective. So did the long drawn-out process of writing and editing the book. It demanded its own time. I could have published it much earlier but then it would have been a far different book- not necessarily "worse" but certainly something different. I realize that many important things take time and the times differ. I am more comfortable with those that need periods to "percolate," to ripen. I think COVID-19 presented many of us with the opportunity to slow down and forced us to accept a new reality. 

On the other side, for what things do you no longer have patience and tolerance?

Frankly, it's still hard for me to accept those that trash the trails. Folks don't understand that they are literally trashing our collective home, Mother Earth. I know it stems from a lack of awareness, so we need to do a better job of raising that awareness. Also, you may have noticed that the book is quite apolitical. I am not a political animal, but I would love our politicians to walk parts of the trail before they run for office so that they can better understand the beautiful diversity of both the land and people and so that they can better represent and protect all those different facets. 

Do you still hike, and which part(s) of the trail have you hiked again?

Absolutely, as often as I can. I have hiked parts of the coastal trail, parts of the first day in the north and the south, and quite often the areas just outside of Jerusalem.

What are your most favorite and least favorite section(s) of the Israel Trail?

That's like asking a parent, "Who's your favorite child?!" I can't do that. While I didn't relish the parts along the roads or highways, there are so many areas here that are beautiful and so very different in their beauty. The desert was the most challenging, but also the most profound for being so. 

What do you wish you knew before you hiked the trail?

That I would write a book. I was awful at taking notes on the trail, but if I had, I could have added more of the sensory experiences as well as captured more of the incredible dialogues I had with folks. But I was often just too exhausted to jot down my observations.

What are you glad you did NOT know before you hiked the trail?

How very smelly one's sock can get after a day of hiking. At the end of the day, when we removed our boots and all shared a tiny three-person tent, those odors could get quite overwhelming. Then again, that was an indelible part of the experience and one that makes me laugh, even to this day.  

Beautiful color photos in the book (taken by the family) enhance the text and make me wish I could take two months and hike the trail. Thank you Tzippi Moss for your wonderful book, and for taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more about Tzippi's experience at Hiking the Holyland.

And, the Real Cats of Israel has a new member. Please welcome Noga:

Happy Reading!

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