It's Thursday night, and once again, like last time we went camping, we find that we are in a hole in figuring out logistics for the weekend. A couple of us spend lots of time surfing the net for good places to go camping, make some phone calls to other people for recommendations, and then we find a place that seems to be an ideal location on the map and a reasonable price and supposedly open year round, so we decide to try that. It turns out that I'll never be able to reach the beach to confirm it's open, so the best I can do is bet on the possibility that it will be open.
Friday morning I go to ShuferSal (what is generally known as SuperSol) to pick up food, and then we leave for the Central Bus Station – it's Shira, Haley, Sender, Adam G, and me. At first we somehow got on to the wrong bus to the bus station, so we get off near Ben Yehuda and finally catch the right one. This adds to a whole theme of being nervous until basically 2:45 that afternoon…
Once we get to the bus station, I confirm that Netanya is where we should go to reach Hof Yanai, and we buy our tickets, 45 shekel appx. Having not had breakfast, I was really hungry so I tried going to where I had usually gotten pizza there, but they did not have any cheese pizza ready, so we went downstairs to the food court and chowed down pizza quickly before the bus left. Once everyone was ready to hop onto the bus, though, it looked like we weren't going to be getting seats, so we waited for the next bus. That bus came late, though, and I kept getting even more nervous. It finally came, though, and Shira and I listened to a capella all the way to Netanya. To the extent that I can, I like looking out the windows to see the land as we drive through. One thing that caught my eye, that was sort of an "only in Israel" moment, was a huge sign advertising Mincha and Ma'ariv at a Beit Midrash up the road that meets 20 minutes before sunset. It also advertised four Shacharit times and another Mincha. Impatiently, I waited to get to Netanya, but we finally got there. After a little wandering we found taxi cabs that would take us to Hof Yanai for 70 shekel – not ideal but we took it.
Haley and I got there before the other three, and we walked down to investigate the area. We walked into the restaurant that was right by the entrance, and they told us that there's camping there. My impression of the camp site from the website had been that there was a "swimming area" during the summer, which I interpreted to be beach, and then a "nature area" not by the beach open year round. So I was confused. And it didn't look like actually a campsite so I was worried that it was "permitted" but not legitimate campground. But as we walked through we found an area that was prohibited for camping, and then proceeded to an open area where we found the exact campsite that I had looked up! So I was relieved.
Camping near the Kinneret was beautiful, but the beach by the Mediterranean Sea was beautiful taken to the next level. When we got there, it was a good temperature, the sand was perfectly smooth and normal, the water was completely blue, and the skies clear. And the beach itself was vast. We took lots of pictures, I collected some shells to give to friends, and I davened Mincha in a goood moment of seclusion by the water, with my jeans rolled up and my shoes off. Shabbat started shortly after I finished, and I put on some nicer Shabbat clothes. Before we did Kabbalat Shabbat, we watched the sun set. There could not have been a more perfect place – we could see the sun entirely, completely red, and it quickly descended upon the ocean. I could look down for 30 seconds and I missed it sink drastically. At one point, it looked as though it was in the water, that if I were to swim out I could touch it. But then it disappeared. And with bliss Shabbat was upon us.
We did Kabbalat Shabbat, and the beach was almost deserted by then. It was a mellow, low-key service as we faced Jerusalem with our backs to the sea. People were walking by and looked at us, but unlike last time, where we were probably the only religious people there, we were just plain the only people here, so it was quieter. Even though it was only 5:30 when we finished, we sat down to eat dinner – made kiddush, hamotzi, and ate a tasty meal and had a good time. I bought some packaged turkey with some honey something that I don't remember, but it was good fleishig considering no cooking required. Within an hour and a half, we were all tired, so we went to sleep. Oh, and I almost forgot – I left my sweatshirt in the cab, I believe, and once the sun set, I got very cold.
I managed to keep warm in the tent and found a way for getting comfortable. I slept solidly, I believe, from seven until a quarter to 11 (pm). I don't remember exactly what it was the woke me up, but from the time I fell back to sleep (not for a while) on we were disturbed by a dog that was barking right outside of our tent (though sometimes it moved back a little bit). It was really annoying, and it did not stop barking all night. At times when it wasn't barking, it was very soothing to hear the sound of the waves in tranquility, only to be interrupted by the dog. We had no idea what this dog was. I woke up completely at around 8, though, leaving me with the assumption that altogether I probably slept for 11-12 hours or so. Oh, and the dog was right outside when we woke up. A German Shepherd, my favorite.
By the time I davened, everyone was up, so I didn't spend too much time. When I thought about it, when one doesn't have repetitions, added singing, or Torah service, an individual t'fillah on Shabbat really doesn't require more than 45 minutes. I probably did half an hour, whatever. After this we ate breakfast. I had bought a doughnut for ShuferSal (haven't had doughnuts in ages), but all the frosting was stuck to the bag so that sucked. As we ate, we watched these old people doing a slow motion walk – some people backwards, others forward. For a second I thought reality had paused but they were just doing something strange. Then we spent some time by the water, walked up and down the beach; it was very relaxing and calming. Eventually we ate lunch, but I wasn't so hungry, so I just did kiddush and ate some challah and munched on stuff. While everyone was taking a nap, Shira and I took a walk that ended up lasting two hours, and we walked down the beach from one end to the other and then sat by some rocks, watching the bright yellow sun over the blue sea and enjoying the surroundings. But then we went back and we all watched the sun set, sang a little bit, and Shabbat departed as we did Havdalah.
I won't say much more than this: on the one hand, Jerusalem is a great place to be for Shabbat and there are things to be missed when I'm not there. I do, however, like travelling and seeing other parts of the land for Shabbat. So after having spent a few Shabbatot in Jerusalem, it was good to get out and be in nature and experiencing a bit of the coastline, which I have not done yet. Different pace for Shabbat – I liked.