My Dark Dances with Danger
When I was younger, there was something about a boy carrying a flashlight for me on a dark night that would always invite me to take a dance with danger.
A stroll in the evening can be peaceful, even romantic. But dangerous? Well, it might be if you are a 19-year-old volunteer breaking curfew to take a mile walk through the wilderness of Israel’s upper Galilee region with a bunch of soldiers just to get to a party.
I am a pretty cautious person. I don’t speed when I drive. I’m afraid of heights so that rules out roller coasters, sky diving, hang gliding or even trapeze flying to get a thrill. So this story of my walks through darkness may be tame in comparison to other risky ways to have fun.
My earliest memories also find me sneaking out into the dark for adventure. I was five or six. I must have been that young because my brother, four years my junior, was still in a playpen.
My family was on vacation at the Bay of Fundy in Canada. My parents had a knack for making fast friends with other families on vacation, and it happened that one such family invited us for dessert in their big Winnebago Camper one night. It was the kind of camper that kids drool over at R&V shows at the mall: complete with a kitchen and a loft perched over the driver’s cab. My parents and this other couple were sitting having coffee outside the camper, I had bunked down with the kids of this family in the loft, and my baby brother was sleeping in the playpen.
All of a sudden, the family’s oldest, a boy of about 10, said we should go for a walk in the dark because not too far away, there was an outdoor amphitheater playing a movie. And, according to this boy, my parents had given me permission to go with him.
There are reasons why you shouldn’t talk to strangers.
I remember bits of what happened next. I remember the kid, his sister and I leaving the camper, He carried a flashlight to light the way, and at one point he shined it on the ground so I could tie my flower-patterned Keds.
To get to the amphitheater, we had to cross a four lane road with a grass median. A road with trucks on it. And not a crosswalk to be seen. No lying. Now, I remember this kid stepped into the middle of the road and held out his hand to stop the traffic. Miraculously, the traffic stopped both ways, to let three kids under 10 cross the street.
I can’t remember what movie they were showing in the amphitheater, or what happened afterwards. I think I remember a part where I was crying to my parents explaining to them that they said it was okay if I went wandering in the dark to go see an outdoor movie.
Sure, any parent of a six year old would say that!
But, getting back to Israel….
The summer I was 19, I picked myself up from my comfortable American surroundings and volunteered on a collective farm or a kibbutz for a month. It was a great way to meet kids from all over Europe and to better understand Israeli culture. All on 5 shekels, or about 1 dollar a day. Plus free room and board.
In addition to the volunteers and the residents of the kibbutz, there were also a group of Israeli soldiers who did part of their military service by providing free labor to the kibbutz. They were called the Garin.
One night, some of the Garin told me and some of the other girls in my volunteer barrack that they knew of a party taking place at a nearby kibbutz. But, we would have to break our curfew and walk through some brushy wilderness to get there.
There was no real path. There had to be snakes, scorpions and other lovely things along the way, not to mention that we were right on the border with Syria and Jordan. I tried not to think about any of those things. I was with trained soldiers after all, and in addition to the flashlights to guide our way, soldiers also carried guns.
So, we walked guided by those soldiers, just kids like us really, the light of the flashlights and a thousand visible stars. We got to the party and danced with lots of other kids to songs from the Pet Shop Boys and Ska music by Madness and an Israeli Madness wannabe band called Machina.
My British barrack mates, in true British form, got very “pissed” drunk and could barely get up the next morning for our 4:30 a.m. wake up call to work the fields.
Was it dangerous? Maybe. Was it fun and would I do it all again? Definitely.