Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Of Celestial Slopes

two weeks ago, following the snowfall in jerusalem, my friend from school, assaf, sent me a text message saying: "snow up north. we're going skiing on tuesday." not having a blackberry, or even the more traditional calendar, i made a mental 'save the date.' by the next monday i had forgotten that i was meant to be going skiing the following day. thankfully, assaf reminded me on monday, which sent me into a tizzy, scrambling for ski clothes and gear. he added a critical detail: "we're leaving at 3:30am."
since i had plans for monday night, i didn't have time to nap before the early morning departure time. it took all the energy i could muster to leave my warm apartment and brave the chilly night. i hopped into assaf's car at 3:30am. i had to stay awake until we got to tel aviv, where we picked up assaf's friend. from tel aviv to the kinneret, i slept for about an hour and a half. somehow, i suddenly woke up right when we hit the kinneret, only to witness the most magnificent sunrise. i made the boys pull over so that i could capture it on film. from the kinneret until we reached the hermon the scenery was too beautiful to miss and i forced myself to eschew sleep in favor of the gorgeous views.

finally, around 8am, we arrived at the hermon. the highest summit of the hermon is on the border between lebanon and syria, and under syrian control. the southern slopes have been in israeli control since 1967.
when we hit the slopes the conditions were optimal. it had snowed just a few days prior, it wasn't very crowded, the weather was pristine, and the views were simply spectacular. skiing is a frightful sport; for the relative novice, at least, it can engender feelings of utter recklessness and sheer exhiliration all at once. i hadn't been skiing in several years and didn't have high expectations for my skills or performance. shockingly, after a few practice runs i managed to improve markedly, hitting up even the black diamond slopes. the views were glorious and breathtaking. i'm pretty sure i now understand the etymology of the phrase "on top of the world" (-- some wise israeli, skiing on the highest slopes of the hermon--).
we ended the day by skiing down a slope nestled in the 'other' side of the mountain, two chairlifts away from the main slopes. it was quiet, isolated and all of my senses were alert. i couldn't help feeling there was something ethereal about the experience. we returned to the car feeling exhausted, but buoyed by our incredible day. we retraced our path down the loopy roads of the golan, witnessing a gorgeous sunset, to match the sunrise we saw on our way up.
(overlooking the golan, with miscellaneous snow gear)

(becky, tal, assaf on top of mt. hermon)

(view of the golan)

(tal, becky, assaf in one piece at the end of the day)

(sunset in the golan)