I am able to experience a taste of the thrill of flying by jumping off cliffs into water. For those of you that have been with me on the Jerusalem Road Trip you know about one particular jump that I love so. It is perhaps the most insane jump that I have done as well. It is on a hike up in the Golan in a place called Black Canyon, Nachal Zavitan. The hike runs along a stream deep in a canyon. At one point the trail comes to huge boulder step-like cliff with a pool of water at the bottom, followed by a waterfall into a small lake.
We used to do a zip-line down the waterfall splashing into the lake. After a few years the Park Rangers made it illegal to do a zip-line so from that time onwards we would rope climb down. Every year I would jump from the top of the steps into the pool prior to going down the waterfall. The height of the jump is about 40 feet but what makes it so insane are the big boulder steps jutting out. The moment I would leap into the air the first thought would be “I’m not going to make it!” As I fly through the air it is only at the last moment that I see that I will clear the rocks. It is an incredible rush.
I love a thrill but at a certain point in my life I stopped taking ridiculous risks just to see if I can. This cliff would probably have fit into that category. There is a back story how I ever came to making that jump.
In 2002 I set out to run a Jerusalem Road Trip for the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity. In the end only 5 brothers from Boulder Colorado came. It was just the six of us. It was an amazing trip. We went on the Black Canyon hike and came to the steps. I had still never jumped from the top.
The instructor had not set up the zip-line so we were hanging out on the top of the steps. While we were sitting there one of the brothers asked me; “Hey Rabbi, can we jump from here?”
I thought to myself ‘are you insane?’ There is no way you can jump from here. However, I didn’t want to be the fuddy-duddy rabbi and say no. I thought ‘I know, I’ll ask the instructor if they can jump and of course he’ll say no. This way I look like the cool rabbi and everyone gets to stay alive.
I yell down to the guide and ask him in hebrew “efshar l’kfotz mipo (is it possible to jump from here”
Incredulously he says yes!
I yell back pointing to my feet “from here?”
Again he says yes!
“Yes, but you have to go far”
“What do you mean far? Do you have to run?” There is no place to run from up there.
“No, you don’t need to run, you just have to take two big steps”
At this point I realize there is no way I can just turn around and say that he said no. We had a whole conversation. I figure I will tell them exactly what we said but over-emphasize the fact that he said you have to go far and really we shouldn’t.
“He said yes. But -“
And that was the last word I got out. As soon as I said “yes” wooosh! One of them was already gone.
What just happened?
Silence and then after what seemed like a very long time, SPLASH!
“That was awesome” was all we heard up top.
Woosh. Woosh! Two more. And then a fourth.
The fifth student did not look like he was going to be able to make this jump so I told him that he did not need to be embarrassed to climb down. There is no shame in being responsible. You should really not do this. After explaining this to him I did the only thing I could do at that moment.
Of course I jumped, why climb when I can fly? Why crawl through life when we soar? We all want to fly if we just knew how. If we can figure out what makes each one of us unique and special and live with that then that would truly be flying.
I’ve gone on and made that jump on thirteen AEPi Jerusalem Road Trips. I’ve told that story of flying through the air hundreds of times and often think back to that incredible trip with those five ZBT brothers.
Well the other day I did a bris at HUC in downtown LA. The uncle of the baby walks up to me and says “I went to Israel with you, there were five of us from ZBT. We’ve still talk about that trip!”