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The Path in the Valley

Path in the Tzofim Valley
Tzofim Valley Feb 2024

Bandy legs, arms bent at his side, pumping backwards and forwards like the pistons of a heavy truck, I see him wobbling up the hill, as I walk downwards. Starting on the downhill means a hard climb up. As they say what goes down comes up. I get a nod and return a wave. 


He wasn’t dressed for the weather. Sleeveless emerald green vest and shorts, goose bumps showing on his muscular shoulders. My fingers frozen numb, I stuck them into the pockets of my jeans.


Hearing aid with Bluetooth capabilities blare the words of the new book I’m listening to in my ears. It’s about jealousy leading to enmity between brothers, Written by Paul Theroux, The bad angel brothers. 


My jealous sibling, Raymond, also, deviously showed himself to all the family as my protector, earning praise for his kindness towards me, but cheating me out of my parent’s affection and praises.

Not as severe as the case described in the book I was listening to (writers often exagerate), I identified with the feelings and actions of the two characters in the story.

Other figures appear on the path in the valley, where I take my walk when Shaul is available for tea and cheese.

The nature loving gentleman called at 6:30, "I’ll be there", he announced. "So will I", went my reply.  


Money changers use his computer services. A faraway look that tells me that his mind isn’t on what I’m saying but on some problem he has with clients.

Bearded men in coverall coats as dark as pitch, walk in the path in the glen also.

They’re communicating with the creator of the universe, I think. We nod, acknowledging each other’s existence.

What they’re doing is foolish, I think to myself. There is no mystical power in heaven, but there’s hardly any point in me telling them my opinion.

Coal black hats, white beards reaching to their chests. Here and there chairs are set up among the trees. Nobody sits on them. They wait for occupants. These are religious mystics. They will recite verses from the holy books and this will fill their minds with thoughts about the meaning of life.

City cleaners enter the gorge to check for litter. They come in a little red buggy, dropping off laborers with brooms to clean things up.

Once rather than walk up the steep incline back to French Hill, one of them gave me a ride.

The other day the police drove along the nature path in a sedan. “Had a criminal taken refuge in my paradise?

Cyclists swoop passed me, others pedal strenuously up the mound.

My friend Shaul, prominent in his red helmet, gives a victory shout, "I'm on time". 


Flask empty, thirst quenched, cheese devoured, I climbed the steps, leading to the religious neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. 

With a sprightly spring in their steps, devout Jews rush past me. Dressed in clothes that make them appear like apparitions of darkness in the bright, shiny day.  

Satchels, stuffed with holy books, or tomes of the Talmud, are clutched under arms. “on route to the Yeshiva”, I imagine. "They can't be students. Probably these elderly men were teachers", I thought to myself. 


Then I remembered that many old men and even women studied in religious institutions all their lives. My father, a businessman all his life, planned to enter an educational institution where he could study Talmud in his retirement.


The 67 bus to town stops on the main road, where the stairway connects to the suburb. I’m on my way to the National Library. I’ll spend a few hours reading up more about William Faulkner, who’s writing I don’t understand but which intrigues me.

When I come early, before Shaul’s arrival, I sit at the stone slab, newspaper laid out. Flask of hot beverage, plastic bag with bread and cheese, I record thoughts on my telephone. I never listen to my book once I’m seated. I wait for shaul to arrive.


Pronouncements of dire events to befall us are on his lips, as he alights from his two wheeled transporter. The end of democracy, the end of the State of Israel, the orthodox are forcing their beliefs on us, the end of the world, and so on.


Two ladies greet me with friendly waves. Long dresses, red sweater. They look at me with pleasure, happy to find a person sitting by a table in the tranquil natural environment, drinking tea.

I’ve heard that walking is healthy for pregnant women. Many of those also can be seen walking. 6 offspring is the average per family among the ulra Orthodox.

The grannies who greeted me are beyond child bearing age.

A specter came crashing down the track leading from the buildings on the edge of the crevice. A boy in coattails, fringes waving in the wind, cavorts on two wheels down the steep, stony trail. He turns round and rides up again.

Another student of religion lifts himself on the exercise bar near the children’s swing. He does chin ups. Those things strengthen his arms. He’s very agile.


Downward flies his companion on an electric velocipede and greets us in a friendly way. We greet him back. We discuss the phenomenon of religious boys doing exercises in the playground in the valley.

Often crows visit us and we throw them titbits of cheese and bread. When they don’t come we ask “where are the rooks?’

Picnickers come into the valley but we never see them, we only know that they’ve been here by the mess they leave behind. The crows scatter their mess spreading it further afield.

Workmen are building something at the top end of the path. Over the last 3 or 4 years they’ve managed to build a parking garage for commuters on the light rail. I questioned a fellow in a protective helmet about what else is being built and he tells me it’s an electric power station.

It’s taking a long time and for a while some heavy drilling was going on boring deep heles into the ground then filling them with concrete.

Tons of earth has been moved by massive bulldozers, but that has stopped now.

Once I saw a white gazelle jumping away as I approached. They’re nervous creatures, well aware that their flesh is tasty and not willing to allow hunters to shoot them. They hide behind the trees and raise families of gazelles.

Heavy rainfall made a walk in the valley difficult. The riverbed overflowed with sewage and the smell was unbearable.

The water company soon fixed the leak, which I had pointed out to them.

More rains came and the smell was washed out of the valley.

One lady walks with her dog but I haven’t seen her there for a long time.

Benny, the cyclist has also been away for a long time. Now that I think about it, he might be in the army fighting the war in Gaza. I’ll call him to hear how he’s doing.


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Mar 20

Leon Hi, I now feel very sorry for you. You say you don't believe there is a G-d. but you also say you want to learn Amos and Zechariah. What makes you want to learn literature belonging to the Tanach which ties in with a deity that doesn't exist. Can you explain that? My father learned Gemara as you excitedly told me and you admired him for it. Maybe you have to rethink your ideas. Get back to me when you have some answers.

leon gork tour guide
leon gork tour guide
Mar 25
Replying to

Each person understands the expression "God" in his own way. I love the idea, as it says in our holy Torah "Thou shalt love (the idea of) God etc.

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