…I believe I would have liked to have been like Haviva, a kindred spirit from Israel. Here is something she sent me last week that I wanted to share with you all. Especially those of you who have a soft spot in your heart for bovines…


By Haviva Ner-David

Just a fifteen-minute drive from our new home, Kibbutz Hannaton, lies Tel Yodfat, where Yosef ben Matityahu (also known as Josephus Flavius) and his rebellers held out under siege during the Great Rebellion of the Second Temple period, and Har Atzmon, where they were defeated in a bloody battle in 70 C.E. The timing of our hike (the fifth day of Chanukkah) made the history of the site all the more relevant.

As we descended the side of the Tel, it started to drizzle. But we kept going, bemoaning the fact that we had left behind us the caves where the rebellers hid and that could provide us shelter from the rain two-thousand years later. I was surprised that none of the kids asked to turn around and head back home. Usually we have at least one nay-sayer in the group on family activities—especially when they involve physical exertion and especially discomfort.

When we reached the top of the mountain, the rain had already stopped and we sat looking out at the breath-taking view that spanned Lake Kinneret in the West and the Mediterranean Sea in the East. Hallel (who just turned 9 on the 7th candle of Hanukkah) and Nachum ran down ahead of us so that they could be the “leaders,” which was fine with us. Until we heard Hallel scream from down below.

When we caught up with them, we discovered that Hallel had slipped and scraped her arm. But there was nothing to do but continue on. So I walked with Hallel by my side as she moaned and groaned about how she wanted to go home, and as I repeated to her that that was exactly what we were doing but that it would take time before we got back to the car. But she continued to whine, as I tried to distract her by pointing out the acorns and mushrooms on the path.

Hallel can certainly make more of a situation than is necessary in order to get attention, but I wondered if I was not being sympathetic enough. She was obviously hurt. On the other hand, what could I do? When you get hurt out in the wild with no way to get to civilization other than your own two feet, you have no choice but to continue on. Even if it hurts. This is a difficult yet important lesson to learn in life on so many levels—literal and metaphorical. So I continued to walk by her side but did not offer any solution or try to fix the problem. I left that up to her to work out.

It seemed that the hike would continue with Hallel crying to the end, until, suddenly, salvation came in the form of a family of brown and white cows grazing alongside the trail. I observed the mother, who stood by her calf calmly, obviously protecting her baby yet giving her distance and independence as well. This approach to parenting is one I myself attempt to emulate in my own relationship with my children. I try not to be overprotective, yet I also try to convey to my children that I care deeply and will be there for them should they get into trouble. I hope that this approach encourages them to go out into the world with confidence and a sense of security.

In fact, this approach of mine is being tested to the extreme this year, with my sixteen-year-old daughter Michal, who decided to stay back in Jerusalem to finish her last two years of high school. She lives in a rented room during the school week and spends Shabbat with us on Kibbutz. Letting her do this was a heart-wrenching decision for me, but as Michal pointed out to us, moving to the Galil was our dream, not hers. And she proved that she is independent enough to live on her own when she travelled alone to the U.S this past summer.

Still, knowing this did not make it easier for me to let go.

I looked into the mother cow’s eyes (a cow’s eyes are especially expressive I think) and gave her a knowing smile as I noticed Hallel coming out of her funk. Her aches and pains were quickly forgotten as she pointed out to me how adorable the baby cow looked. I wondered if Hallel connected with this calf the way I did with the mother cow. The calf seemed to feel safe grazing independently and did not look especially perturbed or frightened by our presence. Perhaps that sight gave Hallel the fortitude to decide to enjoy the rest of the hike, since the decision was hers alone to make.

When the cow family started to walk away from us, Hallel ran ahead to take her place once again among the “leaders.” The “climber” of the family (Hallel trains twice a week for and competes in the national climbing wall tournaments), Hallel lead us up the rocky side of the Tel when we lost our way for the final part of the hike and got off the marked trail. Then she lead the way with Michal through brush and thorns to the car. Hallel did not mention her bruises as she went straight to her Karate club when we got back to Kibbutz. And I did not cry when Michal left three days later to head back to Jerusalem after her Hanukkah vacation.

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