(Photo by Margarita Korol)

One of my favorite Simpsons lines has the bartender Moe carrying an orca (long story) and remarking, “Aww, who woulda thought a whale would weigh so much?” A similar joke comes to mind when pondering the weather yesterday in the northern town of Tzfat: “Aww, who woulda thought Israel in June would be so hot?” But actually we are going through a heat wave in Israel, a hamsin, and by yesterday afternoon in Tzfat, even our unflappable tour educator Yoav was bemoaning the temperature; the group struggled to stay awake in the Yosef Caro Synagogue (literally half the group was asleep, and if you’ve been reading the blog, you know that Yoav is a very engaging guy!); and the soldiers’ departure combined with the heat to create a sort of delirium, which was only compounded when we realized we would be sleeping outdoors.

We knew that the original itinerary for today, day nine, had been nixed by Birthright Israel’s situation room (which, according to Yoav, tour educators call every night and every morning to see what is and is not permitted that day). It had been deemed too hot for a hike that would have taken us through a small waterfall. So, what was in the offing?

“We have been cleared for a different, six-hour hike,” Yoav told the group, assembled near the campground before dinner. “The problem is that we still also have Tel Aviv to do, so wake-up call will be 4:30.” Now, over the past week, I’ve realized that the prime constraint on each Birthright Israel day is the rule that the bus driver cannot be asked to drive 12 hours after he first begins driving; I quickly realized this cancelled out a 4:30 beginning.

But not all the group is so Type A, and therefore many believed Yoav for a few seconds, until he admitted he was joking and then came out with his perfectly phrased reveal:

“We are going to the Mediterranean!”

This morning (wake-up call: 6:30; it is still Birthright), we piled into the bus and set off for Caesarea, on Israel’s coastal plain between Tel Aviv and Haifa. We learned a bit about the town, and its harbor, and King Herod, and, um, that stuff. Then we swam for an hour. Now we are in a café in Tel Aviv. We’re fewer than 24 hours away from the end of this crazy thing, and we’re finally seeing how Israelis live, at least in our dream-world.