Americans visiting Israel are often taken aback by Israelis' concept of personal space. While in America we go to great lengths to avoid actually touching each other while, say, waiting in line, Israeli crowds rely on survival of the stubbornest-- you must stand your ground (and push into those around you) to keep your spot.
Over Chol Hamoed Pesach, my husband and I decided to go camping in the Golan. (Actually, I wanted to, and my husband-- after much prodding-- agreed. But only if we went to a campground with bathrooms.) I've done a lot of backpacking and some camprground camping in the US. At US campgrounds, you pay for a specific numbered patch of ground-- usually about the size of my entire apartment, delineated by boards, and surrounded by trees to separate you from anyone nearby. You have your own picnic table, fire pit, and parking space (where you can pull in your RV and have all the comforts of trailer park life right by the campfire). While I prefer camping deep in the woods where the only sounds are howling wolves (really-- been there, done that), campground camping isn't too bad.
In the Golan, on the other hand, our campground was a fenced-in square of land maybe 100 meters by 100 meters. We paid to sleep overnight, not for any particular plot-- instead we simply found a nice spot near a small olive tree and pitched our tent. Camping in Israel seems to be most popular among groups of high-school or army-age kids who hitchhike up to campgrounds with just a few sleepingbags, a gas burner, and a frying pan. This being chol hamoed, the campground quickly grew more and more full. We barbecued hamburgers to eat on Matzo meal buns, lent matches to the group of woefully underprepared American gap year students nearby, and eventually, settled down for the night.
Just as we came back from the bathrooms, though, we discovered new neighbors. Three Israeli girls in skirts had pitched their sleeping bags about a foot from our tent-- when they moved, their feet kicked our tent side. And when they talked, and laughed, and sang, and shouted at each other, we heard every word.
We also noticed an interesting phenomenon. During the daytime, we heard mostly loud English voices in the campground. At night, exclusively loud Hebrew voices. The Israelis in the campground weren't trying to be rude, but they seemed to see no reason whatsoever to even attempt to whisper. After all, the night was still young! Why should they go around whispering like fryerim? (I suppose it could be worse. When I camped out by at "Lavnoon" on the Kinneret in college, an outdoor dance floor pounded music until about 4 AM.)
To be fair, the girls next to us did quiet down after a few hours when we told them we were trying to sleep. But by that point, I was totally awake, and like the Princess and the Pea, I could feel every lump through the layers of blankets we were trying to cushion ourselves with. At about 3 AM, wind started to beat against our tent and I got up and walked around the now-silent campground, lit by moonlight and lamps, sitting in the shadow of the Golan mountains.
Next time we go camping (if I can ever convince my husband again), we're bringing an air mattress and ear plugs!
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