A few people have asked me to write about Birthright. The recent ארץ נהדרת skit severely tempted me, and I might choose to do so in a more substantive way at some point, but in the meantime, I prefer to focus on the highlight of my trip to Israel: snails.
It all began with my introduction to the awkward snail. Like you, I was already familiar with the awkward turtle. I was also familiar with other members of his extended family: awkward giraffe, awkward starfish, awkward octopus, and so on. But I had yet to meet the awkward snail. The awkward snail, I learned, is objectively superior to any and all of the above.* And so the awkward snail took over my Birthright trip more thoroughly than Giant African Land Snails have taken over Florida (another reason never to go there).
*The awkward snail is difficult to describe in words. Feel free to use your imagination, or request a demonstration in person. Do not – I repeat, NOT – try to figure it out from Youtube. Any such attempt will end in certain disaster.
So it was that the awkward snail became the official mascot of the My Bus(/Best Bus/Drunk Bus). We snailed in the morning. We snailed in the evening. We snailed out danger. We snailed out warning. We snailed out love between our brothers and our sisters all over the Holy Land. We double-, and yes, even triple-snailed. We snailed so often that the awkward snail earned himself a position back and center* of our bus sweatshirt:
When it came time to say goodbye, there were hugs and snails all around, and I imagined that would be the end of it.
I was wrong.
*I’ll post a picture when I get the chance. He’s cute [Update, 2/3/12**: Amiright?]
**GIMP makes it remarkably difficult to rotate by any number of degrees not perfectly divisible by 90
Birthright ended Tuesday. On Wednesday, I ventured north from Tel Aviv to visit some friends in Zikhron Ya’akov. As I entered their home, the resident five year old-princess greeted me the news that ‘BERELEH ESCAPED!’ Bereleh, it seems, is(/was) the resident snail who once seemed perfectly content to live out his days in a shoebox on the window sill. And he had disappeared! Without a trace!*
*Which, I will note, is quite the feat for a snail.
After leaving Zikhron, my journeys took me north to Haifa, where I visited another friend studying at the Technion. As I dragged my suitcase from the bus stop to his apartment, I felt it periodically bounce as though it had run over something small and insignificant. After a few such jolts, my host pointed toward a section of sidewalk illuminated by a streetlight, and pointed out the profusion of snails lining our path. Whoops. At least they weren’t loose in anyone’s house.
The rest of my time in Israel passed uneventfully (from a snail perspective), and – aside from a brief hesitation when asked to fill out the blue form for US Customs:
– I am (We are) bringing disease agents, cell cultures, snails:
– snails were among the farthest things from my mind.
Until, that is, I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a year last Friday night. She is still at Penn primarily to finish up work on a research project that will allow her to graduate with a Master’s degree. I knew her project somehow involved tramping around the outdoors for hours at a time, but no further details. So I asked. And she answered: she’s investigating the recent discovery of an organism that had never before been detected so far north.
The organism in question, of course, is a species of snail.
For those concerned, Bereleh turned up five days after his escape, clinging to the bottom of a bowl of fruit. Amateur