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Pool at Nes Aminm
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Nes Amim
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Playing on Bomb Shelter. Nes of my son and Sarah Benarroch's son.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Garden. Nes Amim.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


By Rhonda Spivak, January 26, 2010

[Editor’s note: Since we don’t have a proper sports section in the Winnipeg Jewish Review, this piece never published before can count as a Sports article—a mild stretch. This event occurred in the summer of 2009]

AKK0, ISRAEL-It’s hot and I’m at a guest house in Nes Amim, near Akko in Northern Israel. I was here two years ago and loved it.  It advertises itself as a place with a “European” touch, and last time it did not disappoint. It is run by Christian volunteers from Belgium and Germany—all blonde, tall and polite.

The highlight of my last visit was spending a relaxing day by the large pool, an oasis of tranquility.

I look forward to spending another day at the pool, hoping to go for a long swim.

What I hadn’t realized is that in the interim, to maximize its profits in economically difficult times, Nes Amim decided to subcontract the running of its pool to a company that opens it to the public, for profit.  Guests like my self are still welcome to use the pool, but it’s not quite the same.

For starters, when I get there at 11:00 a.m. with my children, the pool is completely filled with about 100 or so  Israeli children who are part of a keitana summer  day camp, splashing about everywhere  as their counselors  supervise them.  I can’t find a  deck chair  to sit on.  I ask one of the counselors “How long will you be here for? He answers, “Oh, we’re only here for the next 45 minutes.  I am thinking that that sounds bearable.  Then he adds, “But, when we leave, the next group over there will be coming in.”

I turn around to see another 100 or so children lining up at the pool entrance starting to get into groups with their counselors, and am told that they’ll be done at 12:30.

In the meantime, several of the children are looking at me strangely, probably wondering why I’m not the only one  not wearing the same lime green camp  t-shirt that they all are.

I find a chair on the other side of the pool, next to the only other family that seems to be  there.  There are Israeli Arabs from Akko speaking a mixture of Arabic with some Hebrew words.  They aren’t at the guest house but have come for the day to swim.  They too, are sitting there, waiting for the camp children to vacate the pool before they go in.

The grandmother of the group, Sofia, tells me, that there are no public municipal pools in Akko. “In Akko, we have the sea, no pools. I don’t like swimming in the sea so we come here.” 

They’ve come prepared with a very large picnic- practically enough to feed the entire day camp had they wanted to.  There’s hummous and tchina and pickles and olives and pita  and meat and more pita, and so on and so forth and more pita.

Since we’re all waiting a round, Sofia offers me coffee and  when I agree, she offers me   some of her  daughter Salin’s cookies. “Home made” she says.  “With a machine,” Salin adds. And  when I say the cookie is good, I automatically get  offered another one , and  then Sofia pulls out  another  container of different cookies she made, which she assures me are even better than the last ones.  Who am I to refuse ?

So rather than getting exercise, I’ve just gotten cookies. (In the meantime, my husband is going on a two hour bike ride all the way to Rosh Hanikra, on the border with Lebanon and I’m thinking he’s due to return any  minute and what will I say when he asks me how  my workout was?)

My two children in the meantime have gone in to swim on the pool with all of the other camp children, since, unlike me, they aren’t intending to  swim laps.

Finally, the camp children leave and I’m about to get into the water when  the  Israeli lifeguard comes charging over and  screaming  near the baby pool.

He starts yelling at Salin and Sofia’s other daughter who have left their smaller children   (age 2 and under) in  the pool, while they remain in the grassy area having coffee.

“I’m not a baby sitter. You should be near your children. You can’t leave them unattended, because they could swallow water and choke or fall. I have to keep my eyes on everyone in the pool.  You must come in or take them out,” the lifeguard yells.

Salin and her  sister are upset and  in Arabic  they start suggesting to each other that  the lifeguard is picking on them because they are Arab and that he wouldn’t talk that way to Israeli Jews.  But then Sofia comes to his defense.  “He’s right. He’s being responsible, you shouldn’t leave the children alone,” she says, yelling out to her daughters.

In the meantime, the  children in the pool start bawling their eyes out  since they are  caught in the cross-fire  of the uproar and don’t know whether they should get in or out of the pool.

Sofia turns to me, to say, “The lifeguard is right. I was here before  when a little girl was found in the baby pool, unattended-she choked and  when the lifeguard got to her and picked her up she was already dead.”

After the commotion is sorted out, Sofia’s daughters and the lifeguard make amends and  then he comes over to bum a cigarette and they all start smoking- RIGHT NEAR ME! I can’t stand cigarette smoke.

My children have gotten out of the pool and are playing on the grassy area nearby. I’m about to get into the poool when I notice an Arab Israeli women completely clothed wearing a hijab swimming across the width of the pool, rather than the length, making it impossible for me to swim laps.

I finally get into the water. There are signs everywhere around the pool, that say “Listen to the Lifeguard”, No jumping,” No Running around the Pool,” Caution, Very Slippery,” and I start to wonder what other accidents might have occurred here.
I swim a few strokes—my eyes are burning. I realize the burning is  probably from all the chlorine that they must have dumped in the pool for when the camp children came.
Just as I begin getting a rhythm to my swim, my son calls out to me-“Mom, it’s hot out and we’re getting bored, can we go now? ”   
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.