Not Picking Cherries
We set out today to join the popular cherry picking festival at Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion.
This is an attraction for visitors from all over the country – and has become more and more popular in recent years, particularly as the security situation has improved over-the-green-line. It has become a social gathering, as well as a fun family outing.
As a aside, I acknowledge the unknown fellow who first pioneered the concept of 'pick-your-own'. Whoever came up with the bright idea of replacing imported cheap agricultural labourers, with middle class fee-paying families-at-leisure, deserves to be inscribed in the Book of Commercial Genius.
The place was packed, yet we found a space in the large car park/field, and were about to join the crowd waiting for the shuttle bus to the cherry orchard, when my son-in-law Daniel Gilad suggested we skip the cherries, and go pick blackberries.
We piled back in the car, drove back down the road a few hundred yards in the direction of Beit Shemesh, took a right turn down a country road to the Chavat Eretz HaAyalim (literally The Deer-land Farm), following hand-scrawled signs for the blackberries/raspberries (“Pettel”).
There were less than a dozen cars at the site, and we were permitted to eat the succulent berries fresh off the bushes to our heart's content – and solely had to pay for entrance and the berries we took home.
In addition to the picking, there was also make-your-own pita bread, using a black metal hotplate, above a fire of twigs, assisted by a Genuine Bedouin from a nearby village, who was apparently born with asbestos fingers.
There was plenty of room to settle down for a picnic, schmooze, whatever. No-one was in a hurry.
The cost for our party of two kids (3-14), five ‘adults’, two babies, and four half-kilo boxes of blackberries & raspberries, was 200
For a fun few hours for the family, that was reasonable value. For a few boxes of berries, it was a rip-off. But who's counting?
It was an altogether more enjoyable experience for our off-the-beaten-track family than joining the throngs at the cherry orchard.
Does that make us anti-social, or what?