(Written in August 2004)
What is it that draws me to the sea? I wasn’t born near the sea, I’ve never lived by the sea, well not until I went to Israel anyway. I just have an immense love for seas, oceans and beaches. The constant waves soothe me, the sand under my bare feet massages my unsteady spirit, and the sun making its way over the water releases a feeling of utter freedom in my heart. If I stay away from the beach too long I miss it terribly, I dream of sitting on the sand watching the waves, of searching for shells along the edge of the water, of making gigantic sandcastles with walls and moats.
The first two months I was in Israel, I spent them in the middle of the desert. On a beautiful moshav literally in the middle of nowhere, a kilometre off the main road, bang in between Be’er Sheva and Eilat. Oh yes, I developed a love for the desert, miles and miles of sand, mountains looming in the distance, a dry bush or tree here and there and a pounding, relentless sun, but I missed the water and waves.
So when I went to the Kibbutz Programme Centre in Tel Aviv in the beginning of September (2003) I knew I wanted to go north. Preferably by the beach. That’s what I asked for, and after being told there was room on a kibbutz on the road to Jenin the lady brought out another folder and handed it to me with a little smile.
There was no choice to be made really. Evron is situated 1km or so south of Nahariya, right up north, a very short distance from the Mediterranean and the train could take me all the way there. An hour and a half from Tel Aviv, a ten-minute walk from Nahariya and the station, 6 hours from the moshav, but no need for endless bus rides. A short phone call and it was all arranged, I was off to Evron. And for 7 months I lived on a beautiful kibbutz 10 minutes by foot from the sea. When you’ve lived by the sea once, you just dream and dream of living by the sea again.
I worked in the Dining Room most days, and there was a special part on the path going from the Dining Room to the Volunteer House where the sea appears suddenly on the horizon. Every day, rain or shine, when I got to that part of the path my heart would suddenly lift and everything would seem so perfect, even if only for a moment.
The first time I went to the beach I went alone. I had arrived in Evron the evening before, worked in the kitchen on my first day and was ready to explore the area. I walked into Nahariya, along the main road (I love walking, I’ve never seen the point in using a car or bus for short distances) and strolled along the main street, knowing that it had to end up at the beach at some point. There is a “river” running through Nahariya to the sea. It runs right down the middle of the main street and it was never really more than a trickle if not completely dried up (it did overflow once during a flash flood though).
I walked along the beach for a while, kicking off my flip-flops and rubbing my feet into the hot, coarse sand. The sand in Nahariya is unlike sand on most beaches around the world, its grains are big and coarse and stick to your skin like glue. Many a time I would come back from the beach with it stuck all over me. Knowing my love for the sea it was pretty obvious after my first contact with the beach in Nahariya that I wasn’t going to want to leave very quickly.
The weather was hot all the way until November, and I made many trips to the beach. Often with other volunteers. On Yom Kippur Andrea, Erica, Lotti, Haun and I walked in the middle of the empty main road, even sitting in the middle of it at one point for a perfect photo moment, and spent the whole afternoon sunbathing, paddling and searching for shells. It was on the beach that Andrea and I really bonded, and we would often walk along the water edge, chatting away for hours, making these outings into our own special moments together. I have to say that the friendships I made in Evron are some of the most special friendships I had made that will always be a part of me, even if we never meet again.
During the short winter months I made less trips to the beach, but still often enough. After my trip to Egypt in January, Isabel arrived in Evron and I made it my job (and pleasurable it was too) to take her under my wing and show her all of the things I loved. When I learnt she had never been to Nahariya I rounded up Fernando and Helge and we took her into town, along the “river” that had risen so high it had flooded the pavements and left them full of mud. We walked all the way to the sea on the little walls so as not to get stuck in the mud. The sea was particularly rough that day; I’d never seen the Mediterranean like that before, waves crashing onto the beach, the wind roaring. We walked along the mini pier, getting splashed by the salty water and took a picture of ourselves with the lights of Haifa in the background.
Another time we were all sitting on the beach, and both Fernando and me remarked one after another, without having heard the other say it, that the sea was more like a lake, the waves pretty much non-existent, just slight ripples from the breeze. The fact that the water is so unpredictable, calm one day, rough the next is uplifting to me. Whereas I crave stability in some ways, I enjoy the instability of nature as I find it soothing. If nature is unpredictable then I can be so too without having to worry about conforming with the rest of society. I need to be free and water makes me feel as if I have the right to be.
The weather changed suddenly in February and we were faced with a heat wave that went on for a few weeks, into the beginning of March. One Friday Fernando and I decided to forego the usual Friday night partying and headed off to the beach instead. We got Isabel, Helge, Indy and Maor to go with us and set off wrapped up warm, with the radio and the narguila. Fernando and I spent the whole walk ahead of the others, talking and joking, and when we finally got there we installed ourselves near the edge of the water, smoked narguila and looked at the stars. Nowadays every time I look at the moon and the stars I often think of that moment on the beach, a moment in time that will always be part of me. We cranked up the volume of the radio and danced like idiots in the sand, play fighting, singing, relaxing. Not really a beach party, but a special evening nonetheless.
If you went a different way to the beach, past the Kanyon and the newer housing estates then you would come across an inlet I discovered with Erica, a little cove-like area protected by rocks that I proceeded to call “my beach”. It was quieter than the beach area in central Nahariya and there were many shells and slimy rocks to climb on. I would go there to read and to think, alone, with Isabel, once with Maor too. That’s the beach I miss the most. The sun setting over the endless looking water, casting coloured reflections everywhere. Images cloud my memory, sharp as it is, Fernando finding sea glass for me, Isabel and Helge making an intricate sandcastle, falling asleep with Erica under the sun, walking along the water edge with Andrea, collecting shells with Isabel…
Tel Aviv must have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You can walk all the way up the beach to Jaffa, look at all of the weird, beautiful, normal and downright crazy people chilling out. Strolling along there with Judith, Ella and Eden very early one Shabbat morning; sitting there on Christmas Day with a hangover with Nick, Kirsty and Lotti; Sunbathing with Fernando in May before going down to Eilat… If I close my eyes I’m there.
My dream is to live right by the beach, to be able to hear the noise of the waves every morning when I wake, every evening when I go to sleep. I would like to be able to look out my window and see sand and water. One day I will. You can take me away from the beach but you can’t take the beach away from me. One day hopefully. One day I will sit on my little porch and write stories in the sun, above the ocean.