We read our horoscopes on the way to Haifa on Friday. We laughed at its advice. The general hint of the week was not to rely on our luck, use careful planning and do our homework. True, we were on a 3:30 train to Haifa instead of the 2:15 to Acco, and true we had missed that train because while we stood arguing with the guards to keep the doors open just one more minute our friend Danielle was upstairs at the ticket booth frantically trying to figure out whether to get a ticket and to where. But we felt lucky.
It was a lucky day. I'd worked till seven am and written some diatribe about war until nine and slept until one and now I was on a train up north. We bought a sandwich on the train and somebody offered us theirs uneaten. Bad idea? We figured we'd never do it on a New York subway but this was Israel. We got a ride in the Haifa train station parking lot and from there five more until we reached Tsfat. We knew we were camping, but we didn't know where. We were meeting 12 other people.
It turned out we were sleeping in a park on the peak of Tsfat next to a crusader fortress. We got there as the sun was setting. The tents were already set up. Pesach, an awesome guy who loves his friends and loves to be happy and wasn't even there for the weekend, had arranged us all meals in the old city. He'd set me and two others up at his friend Yonatan's house, which turned out to be an old stone split level building with a giant black llama outside the door and a great family inside. We came with an extra person. They gave us an exta sleeping bag.
We got back to the tents at different times and drifted in kind. I woke up at about 10. We moved onto a platform in the shade overlooking the city and covered it with blankets and sleeping bags. I'd bought vegetables, Tiferet cooked them with lentils, Jackie and Miriam also made salad and stew, and someone else had gotten 40 pitas, three loaves of bread and some wine. There was another stew there, from someone, and a bag of eggs that had made their way from somewhere else.
We sat around and ate and sat around and gave each other massages and sat around and talked, and people started thinking about going for a walk in the wadi. Danielle and I went for a shorter walk and when we came back, Jackie and Elisha were hanging in a tree. We'd met a guy and his dog, one of whom looked into the tree and said, "those people look like their going to fall."
I only saw Jackie's legs. I'd stubbed my toe before and it was bleeding and I was on my way to clean it when somebody said, "what happened," and everybody ran over to see.
Jackie was lying on the ground, half her body hidden in the bushes. She was dazed and her arm was twisted into a shape I've never seen before. At least not on Jackie. Ami went to get an ambulance and we tried to figure out how to move her while she said, "guys, I think it's serious," which we could see, and Max rubbed her head and I rubbed her stomach and someone else held her other hand.
The ambulance came and the paramedic put her arm on a styrofoam splint and joked around. Elisha and I helped her to the ambulance and someone handed me her bag. Her passport was in there. Nobody had any money. My phone and wallet were locked in someone's house.
None of us had ever been in an ambulance before. It was bumpy and narrow and Jackie looked like she was going to throw up, but gracefully. The paramedic forgot her name and asked Elisha whether he was her boyfriend. He didn't want to say. The paramedic wanted to know what Elisha did. We wanted to know how Jackie was.
The best day to get hurt in Israel is on a Saturday. The emergency room was empty. I took her passport and insurance information and tried to sort out the bill, but they wouldn't accept her insurance without a card and we had no way of paying. I signed a promissory note to pay the next morning and got another one from the ambulance.
The doctors forgot her arm hurt or didn't understand her pain because she doesn't speak any Hebrew and their English was worse. They jostled her arm and let us follow them around with Jackie to the x-ray room and into the "activity room" but they didn't give her any drugs until right before they snapped her wrist back into place and they made us wait outside while they did it. We heard her crying inside and laughing and shouting "arret" and then we went with her to get another x-ray. She walked with us this time.
The doctor was reluctant to write the diagnosis in clear English for her insurance company and told her she'd have to wear the cast for 6 weeks and get a follow-up once a week only after he'd already turned around and said goodbye and Jackie had gone out of her way to ask.
We got a ride from someone waiting for his mother which took us all the way back to Tzfat. We'd taken 10 steps on the pedestrian mall when we saw the cops. They said hello to us and saw Jackie's cast. They asked Elisha who he was. He said he'd lived there for four years and indicated that we were coming back from the hospital with our friend who had just broken her wrist. They took his I.D. number and searched his pockets and Jackie's bag, which he was carrying. The bad cop handed the tobacco over to his good partner in the car to smell and a bag of tea to the other partner. When Elisha handed him his rolling papers the cop smirked and lifted them up for his partners to see. Then he gave them back to Elisha and one of the cops in the car gave Jackie a lemon.
We'd thought we'd have a hard time deciding what to do now that sleeping on the beach made less sense, but when we got back to camp everybody was in a hurry to go home. We made havdalah on a giant cup of arak, two candles and some tea, and then everbody packed up and went to the bus station. Danielle stayed behind with me and Jackie and Elisha. So did the guy and his dog, who had come back. He offered us a place to stay but we still wanted to go back to the hospital to pay and knew that pizza and ice cream had to be had. Elisha went off to return equipment to friends around town, and I ordered a large pizza. By the time we finished eating it was past 12 so we decided to take up the offer of another friend who had invited us to stay with him.
Gavi's house was beautiful and clean and we each got a sheet and a blanket and a bed. We slept well and Jackie was comfortable and only woke up at 11:30. I'd gotten a text message the night before saying I was working at 8 pm. We got our stuff together and thanked Gavi for being so damn awesome and headed to the highway. A cab offered to take us to the hospital for 15 shekels and a guy in a red car offered to take us for free. He picked up his friend who worked at the hospital on the way.
It took a while to figure out the money situation and the insurance situation and the bureaucratic situation at the hospital, but we were on our way out by 3:30. We wanted to get to the train in Acco, but someone offered us a ride to Ma'alot where we could get a bus into Nahariya, so we got in. We drove north instead of south and looked at the mountains and listened to our forty-year-old driver's P.J. Harvey collection and got to Tel Aviv by seven. Marwan the hummus man gave us a free half kilo at the Nahariya station.
Jackie told me last night, when I came home from work at four and she was just waking up from a drowsy sleep, that she always pictured herself getting hurt. I asked her if she ever pictured any particular and she told me she usually saw herself being slammed by a truck mirror while riding her bike or being hit by a bus walking in the sreet.
I thought I was the only one who did that. Pictured my own limitations in vivid detail and worse-case scenarios. I asked her if she thought everybody did it. She said she didn't think so.
She's in a lot of pain now and feels helpless in her body. She's going to be in a cast for six weeks. She feels stupid for grabbing a branch that she didn't trust in the first place, but people fall out of trees. It could have been avoided but so could a lot of things or maybe nothing can. She pictured some injuries and got another, we picture some realities and get another, but it is what is and once you know that the rest makes a lot more sense.