This is an excerpt from “Angels & Tahina: 18 Lessons From Hiking the Israel Trail,” by Tzippi Moss.
Savor the Moment
“You have to wake up a virgin each morning.” Jean-Louis Barrault
Oh, I appreciated many wonderful moments on the Israel Trail that were easy to enjoy. And, at the other end of the spectrum, when faced with really difficult situations, or tremendous exhaustion, I was in a sense forced into awareness of the moment, and some were branded within me.
But in all that in-between time of slogging along, day after day? It was tough for me to just be. I was either projecting forward—how much longer to our next destination?—or calculating the time burned from the day’s starting point to our current position…
…even while focusing on savoring and fully experiencing the immense canvas of particular, sensual moments on the Israel Trail, an earlier incident, at another desert campsite, had shown me that there was another doorway, one Inever expected. Boredom. Boredom can be a great guru for increasing awareness.
We’d arrived at this desert campsite at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, as we were headed east from Mitzpe Ramontoward the community of Sapir in the Arava, where we would be staying for Shabbat. Though it was time to take a break, I didn’t want to stop at this sun-blasted, flat, hot spot of desert dullness. We put up the tent for shade and protection from the flies that swarmed us. Inside, the sweat trickled off of me. Outside, I baked in the sun, the flies dotting my flesh like raisin pudding. I was uncomfortable, unhappy, and bored stiff.
Suddenly an enormous explosion shook the ground. It rattled the tent, as well as Ezra. He wondered whether the faded campsite sign was outdated, and whether we’d accidentally entered a firing zone. He set off for a nearby mountaintop to get phone reception and check whether everything was alright. He was gone so long that now we were worried too, fearful that Ezra, who was wearing crocs, had slipped off a cliff or broken or sprained a limb.
Finally he returned. The army had informed him that we were very close to a firing area, but that our campsite was safe. We should have felt relieved, but the dire scenarios we had just imagined had not yet worked through our systems. A brief argument ensued. Ezra was upset that we weren’t more trusting. We said it had nothing to do with trust, that this was the desert where there are snakes, scorpions, and slippery slopes, and he was wearing open shoes with no support. We were upset that he couldn’t understand why we’d be upset. After calming down, we discussed whether to hike 15 kilometers to reach the next official campsite or stay put. Allan suggested that it might be good for us to have a long rest, as we hadn’t done much of that on the trail.
As the afternoon progressed, the air cooled slightly and the flies disappeared. Ezra climbed a steep hill and sat for the longest time watching the sun set. I wandered to a nearby shallow ravine and stared at rocks and sand formations. Allan caught up with writing notes about the trail.
We made supper earlier than usual, then sat luxuriously observing first a lingering sunset, then the stars, finally going to bed as the full moon rose, casting a bright light on the plain. Time stretched out like it did when I was a kid on summer vacation. That dull, boring campground also led to one of our most amazing hiking moments on the trail.
We awoke early and started walking at around 5 a.m., mostly in silence. The full moon set over some western hills before the sun rose over some eastern ones, so the sky grew even darker, accompanied by a deep, intense quiet. Under a black sky and barely visible hills we ate breakfast by a tumbled-down 2nd-century fortress and way station for Nabatean caravans. The guys sat inside the walls while I rested near the edge of the path, looking at the snaking wadi below that was filled with shrubs and acacia trees. Without warning, the darkness slipped away, as the sun insistently began its daily rise over the eastern hills. I was fully in the moment, filled with the miracle of another day beginning.
Q & A: Author Tzippi Moss
Wisconsin native Tzippi Moss wrote “Angels & Tahina: 18 Lessons From Hiking the Israel Trail, published in 2020.
The book was listed as one of 11 books that can change your life by Israel 21c and was a finalist in the category of travel memoirs by the International Book Awards.
Here is our brief chat with Moss.
What is your relationship with Milwaukee?
Milwaukee will always be my home. I was born at St. Joe’s and lived in Milwaukee until I moved to Israel in my twenties. I returned to attend grad school at UWM and countless summers (and sometimes winters!). I flew back to be with my family. Thankfully, I still have two brothers living there which gives me a good reason to return and enjoy precious time with loved ones, bike rides along Lake Michigan, beautiful fall colors, and incredible snows.
What inspired you to write “Angels & Tahina: 18 Lessons From Hiking the Israel Trail”?
Hiking a long-distance trail was both a huge challenge and gift. My appreciation for my family, the land of Israel and the people we met grew tremendously. When I returned home, I started jotting down my thoughts. Those evolved into 18 life lessons that I hoped my grandchildren would one day appreciate. Then when Corona hit, I realized these same lessons were especially relevant now. How do we find hope and resilience and inner strength while dealing with fear, doubts, and the loss of control? How do we grow our gratitude for everyday things?
What have you heard from readers about the book?
As a therapist and life-coach, I’ve seen people navigate despair, pain, and hopelessness with grace. I stumbled my way through ups and downs not only on the trail but also through the ten long years it took me to write this book. So, the response I most loved hearing from readers is that in sharing my vulnerability and weakness, they found their own strength. That touched me deeply. As a self-published writer, I especially treasure readers’ reactions. So, please be in touch!
What’s next for you?
I’ve been enjoying taking others — congregations, communities — on virtual tours of the Israel Trail. Sharing why it’s so unique, what I discovered along the way, and then using that as a springboard for mining the gold in challenges they’ve faced. In fact, I’ll be giving one in Milwaukee, in the spring. My husband and I are always on the lookout for another epic journey. For now , that entails both of us at home, working on books. That, too, is an adventure.