Susan and I arrived in Sharona, the home of Yoav and Sharon Be-er, somewhere around 11:30 at night. We were so excited! I was looking forward to my first morning in Israel so I could hardly sleep!
Sharona is in the heart of a farming area known for its agriculture and livestock. Yoav’s father is a shepherd, he farms sheep and goats. All of the family homes are on the same property so he is not far away from where we are staying. It is all situated on the top of a glorious mountain. You can see by the photos that the landscape is lovely. There are a few buildings that can be seen from the back door of the home but generally there are lots and lots of fields. My first cup of coffee was enjoyed while I was sitting on the hitching rail.
The hitching rail is a very unique wood. Wood is not plentiful and has to be imported so most buildings have concrete walls. The coffee mugs are clear glass and one helps himself to a spoonful of coffee to which you add hot water. This peace and quiet was so lovely. I just breathed in the air and felt grateful for this opportunity.
In contrast to the quiet farm lands, there are sections of Israel that are bustling. Homes are being built and businesses are popping up and growing. The people are very diverse. Yoav’s father is an avid horseman who rides three to five times a week around his farm and village. He particularly enjoys evening rides which can be a little longer. He likes to ride Arabs, noting that he enjoys their stamina and athleticism. He is a skilled rider and watching him is like poetry.
Yoav, on the other hand, has his mule which he raised. His quarter horse mare was bred to a mammoth Jack from the US. The jack was purchased by a mule man and rancher named David (you will hear me talk more about David and his mammoth jack along with the awesome mules we trained). Yoav’s mule is very well “put together” and is a wonderful example of how good breeding makes for the right kind of mule. You have heard me say on many occasions that I have been disappointed in much of the breeding practice I have seen.
Yoav spent a lot of time with his mule right from birth. I believe he saw this animal as part of his “therapy” as he was wounded in the Lebanon war and lost his left leg from the knee down during a battle. He has found peace and joy in his mule.
As I observed and started my training sessions in Israel, I found many of the same “problem areas” that I have seen here at home and in other countries. Communication problems are at the top of the list. It is common for the training to center around working from the saddle down instead of from the feet up. Most folks want to hurry up and get in the saddle. The problem is that this practice can get you out of the saddle in the wrong way (aka “BUCKED OFF!”). It is so critical that we build a FOUNDATION for our mules and a foundation starts on the ground. Essential first steps include training your mule to come to you willingly seeing you as his leader and to pick up all four feet with ease. This is the start of solid communication. This is the start of building a foundation that will not let you down. If you establish good communication on the ground, the rest becomes so much easier.
It was clear to me immediately that Yoav’s mule liked spending time with him. The picture shows his kind eye and sense his good disposition. Disposition is everything. I was excited to start working with him and others.
We spent the first full day recuperating from our 20 hour flight and 5 hour drive. We enjoyed Yoav’s home. He built it himself and even had his own sawmill to cut Cypress for the exterior. The framework of the house is steel. Wood is very scarce and expensive. Interestingly, every new home or building in Israel must, by law, have a bomb shelter. Yoav’s home was no exception.
On our second day in Israel we went for a drive through the countryside. The views are not much different from a drive down any American road. Yoav was our “tour guide” and did most of the driving. We enjoyed the quiet countryside and then the busy areas where there were markets and businesses. We enjoyed seeing the markets that offered fresh vegetables, fish, and lamb. Many of the roads were cobblestone in the busier areas. We went to a restaurant on one occasion that was in a small Mediterranean Sea town called Arco. We could see the port, the water, and boats. There is a picture of Susan and Yoav on one of the cobblestone roads.
Yoav’s home was our “base camp” for all that we did in Israel. We enjoyed the family life and we wanted to see and experience “the real Israel”. As our visit went on, we visited a blacksmith shop, a knife shop, and spent time learning of a sharing system called “kibuts”. It was in the kibuts that we trained mules and people – so stay tuned for more articles on Israel. I will tell you all that I can about this incredible journey!