* Good to Be Back on the Israel Trail

Segment 24 – Even Sapir to Horvat Hanot 

On just a week’s notice, I gathered a small group of hiking friends, and took to the Israel Trail once again. We picked up the trail near Moshav Even Sapir, just outside Jerusalem, where we had finished a previous hike some two years ago.


The autumn day was crisp and comfortable for hiking, and provided clear vistas as we traversed the hills and valleys.


The first segment of our hike was along the Springs Trail in the Aminadav forest. We passed many springs and pools, some dry and others filled with water. Definitely a place to return to on a hot summer day for a refreshing dip.


A view of Hadassah Hospital (Ein Kerem) from the trail.



Playing peek-a-boo in the rock formations.



Upon reaching Horvat Saadim, a small nature reserve noted for its oak and carob trees, we found the site overrun with several busloads of Israeli Scouts from Jerusalem on an outing. No stopping here. We continued on the trail through the Honorary Consuls Grove of olive trees, and then descended steeply, but just briefly. We landed and continued on a wide and easily-hiked dirt road. But the trail soon turned off and took us down a long and very steep descent that I had not anticipated.


Descending with a view to the Refaim Valley.


At the bottom, we stopped for a breakfast break of sandwiches, fruit and nuts.

Moving along, we crossed Nahal Refaim, passed under the train tracks , and then began climbing our way back up, along Nahal Kobi.


Halfway up the climb, we stopped to catch our breath, and I finally got into a photo.


Almost at the top, near Ein Kobi, we chanced upon two swings hanging from the trees. Time for some fun!


More fooling around at Ein Kobi.


Ein Kobi.


Leaving Ein Kobi, the trail continued with easy hiking for a while in a pine forest, and then emerged onto the open agricultural fields north of Mevo Beitar.


We were a bit surprised to discover that the trail indicated on our map was not the same as the one marked by the actual trail blazes. It seems the local  farmers have gotten the trail modified to accommodate their vineyards and fruit groves.

After several attempts, we finally found a wild date tree whose fruit was ripe and edible.


Finally, we crossed Route 386 near Tzur Hadassah, and began the final stretch of the day’s hike.


Horvat Dorban ruins, north of Moshav Mata.


Descending from the ruins on the hill, we again encountered clusters of Israeli Scouts, and had to weave our way past them. We also had to weave our way through some interesting trees.


At the palm tree grove at the Mata spring we encountered more scores of Israeli Scouts, from Tel Aviv this time. Shlomo could not resist his natural inclination to play with the kids, and pulled out a magic trick.

Karen, you’re almost there!


The network of trails from the Mata spring up to Horvet Hanot were so full of hiking Scouts and families that we simply followed the crowds back to our waiting cars.

The hike was longer and a bit tougher than I had expected; I should have done my prep work more thoroughly. But all in all, it was a wonderful day out on the Israel Trail.

See the complete set of today’s photos  on my Flickr site.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!


* March in May on the Israel Trail

Segment 12 – Alon Hagalil to outskirts of Tivon

Rain in Israel on the last weekend in May?! Almost unheard of, but that’s the kind of weather we’ve been experiencing this year. Thunder and heavy rain had woken us at 5 a.m., just before the alarm clock. As we drove north, the rain continued on and off. The forecast was for scattered showers as well as sunshine and high temperatures. We expected the latter to prevail at this late spring date.

We met and began our hike on the Israel Trail at the entrance to Alon Hagalil. Just as we started, a wave of rain rolled in, and we scrambled back into our cars. Within a few minutes the downpour changed to a drizzle, and we started off again. As we hiked through the Alonim forest, the rain alternately got stronger and lighter. Those of us without rain gear were soaked – by rain and not sweat – within the first half-hour.

Having been off the trail for almost five months, we were a bit remiss about keeping alert for trail blazes, and missed this right turn onto a narrow path. We had actually seen the right-turn blaze, but mistaken turned onto a much wider trail 50 meters beyond. (Another excuse: one of the maps we were using for navigation was the 2010 rogaine orienteering map, which does not have this narrow path marked on it.)

After several hundred meters, a couple junctions, and no visible trail blazes, I halted the pack. Although Yuval had identified our location on the map, I insisted that we backtrack to the last-seen blaze. We found the path, and continued on our way.

As we emerged from the forest and headed into the open valley, the rains finally stopped. The skies were still cloudy and we enjoyed comfortable hiking conditions.

Our first water crossing of the day required a small hop. Upon reexamination of our hiking map, I see this stream is fed by a spring called Ein Um Hamid, and flows into Nahal Zippori.

Our hardest uphill climb of the day. Not very strenuous, and by time we got to the top, our wet clothes had dried out.

The trail bypasses the village of North Ka’abiye on the north bank of Nahal Zippori. Stunning views of the valley.

No, this next photo is not off-balance. The trail here was probably a mountain-goat path once.

I dried my socks while we took our breakfast (brunch) break.

The pool at Ein Ivka. Avner and Shlomo stepped in (with shoes and socks). The water is not clean enough for deeper dipping. This pool is an easy and popular destination for both hikers and 4X4 off-roaders, and we soon had lots of company.

Leaving the pool, we decided to continue hiking alongside Nahal Zippori, rather than diverting away from it on the Israel Trail route. Another water crossing.

And yet another water crossing. Having hiked here recently, Avner knew a place to cross the stream on a fallen tree trunk.

Shlomo was kind enough to wade into the stream and help most of us get across.

Avner R.


Shosh H.









Shlomo N.

Shlomo, our new hiking friend.

Shlomo and Avner once again testing the waters. We decided against this water crossing.

We reconnected with the Israel Trail at  the old Carmelite monks flour mill.  We continued hiking on the trail as it circumvents Keshet ridge (and the town of Nofit at the top).

Before the final leg of the hike, we stopped for our second snack break.

A hike on the Israel Trail  is never complete without some Israeli song and dance.

Unfortunately, I left my second camera battery at home in the charger, and photo-documentation of our hike ends here. Suffice to say the clouds had burned off and the temperature had gotten quite hot by midday. Legs and backs were beginning to ache, and we were all quite weary during the last hour and final kilometers.

* * * * * * * * * *

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).

Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

* Welcoming Winter on the Israel Trail

Segment 29 – Dvir(a) to Sansana

“The way you spend New Years is the way you’ll spend the rest of the year.”

A friend of mine posted that message on Facebook on New Year’s day. If that message is true, well then, I can expect to be doing a lot more hiking on the Israel Trail this year, and in the company of wonderful friends.

Despite last minute cancellations from my regular hiking companions, and the threat of rain, I did not want to postpone this hike a second time. As long as we had two cars, to park one at each end of the segment, we were good to go. Unlike our previous outing on the trail with 19 hikers, this time we were just five, and that was just fine! Yuval and I were joined by Cindy and newcomer Robin (who usually play tennis together on Saturday mornings but have decided to vary their routine) and Avner R (on his second hike with us).

While Yuval and Avner went to park the second car at the end of our route, we three ladies were graciously invited to wait inside the guard station at the main gate of Kibbutz Dvir. After a heavy rain overnight, the morning air was cool and gray, and we took up the offer.

We left Dvir and walked about a kilometer until we connected with the trail at the Teva/Dvira Forest. But instead of turning left (west) towards Pureh as we had done last spring, we turned right (east) towards Sansana.

The first path we took was familiar — an orienteering meet a few years ago had its start and finish here (Dvira).

Not only was this the first day of 2011, it was actually the first day of rain in the Negev this winter. Small puddles and muddy spots on the trail, together with the sweet scent of washed pine trees, were a pleasure to our senses.

Having crossed through Dvira/Teva Forest, the trail took us onto an old paved road for half a kilometer.

Then the trail took us up and down, and across the North Lahav Nature Reserve, which is an unforested area.

We crossed another road, and then climbed up into the forest of Mount Lahav.

Purple dots appeared alongside the Israel Trail blazes on this section. I’m still trying to find out what they’re all about.

It was drizzling now, but not cold. The trail turned onto a road again, which made the going easier for us. Suddenly I had a flashback, remembering this as the location of a control point on a mountain bike orienteering course last year. Yuval could not recall it. But later, at home, I retrieved the Lahav O-map and did indeed confirm my recollection.

Photo op. Of course we had to take a picture next to the Israel Trail sign.

The trail leaves the paved road just as it reaches the Joe Alon Museum of Beduoin Culture. We detoured slightly to scout it out.  Although none of us had ever visited the museum, we were not inclined to interrupt our hike for a museum tour. A coffee break, on the other hand, was a great idea. The cashier at the entrance waived the 25 shekel museum fee, and allowed us access to the coffee shop just inside the gate. Although the sign says “Coffee Ron”, we thought the place should be more aptly named “Coffee Joe”. Hussein the barrista made us cappucinos, and had no objection to our eating the snack foods in our backpacks.  

Time to get back to the trail. We continue east around Kibbutz Lahav. Misty  and muddy.

The last leg of the hike. The trail crosses this road to Sansana and heads to the left. So no, we did not have to ford this huge puddle.

One of the day’s highlights was this tributary of a nahal (not sure which one), where rain had fallen and filled the crevices with pools of water. Within a day or two all these puddles will be dry, making this a rarely seen sight.

Rain on the pine needles.

Sansana forest on a winter day.

Two snails getting it on in the rain.

The final ascent, through the forest, and to the waiting car.

Cindy’s new shoes. Guess they’re worn in now.

Apologies for a rather sketchy hiking report. In the few days since our hike, I’ve traveled across the Atlantic and am currently in Boynton Beach, Florida. USA. An afternoon rainshower afforded me the perfect opportunity and atmosphere to complete this blog posting.  

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

* Israel Trail 2009-2010 Recap

Despite a 2-month suspension of hiking due to my retinal detachment in November, we completed 10 hikes on the Israel National Trail this (academic) year for a total of about 140 kilometers. It’s hard to be exact on the distance measurement. I activate the GPS recording when we commence walking, and stop it when we reach the end of the hike. Sometimes our hikes include a kilometer or more on a “connector” trail to the point where we pick up the Israel Trail. I’ve also accidentally paused recording a few times, and have had to estimate the length of the unrecorded segment. It’s really not critical. Eventually we will have bragging rights to 940 kilometers – the official distance of the trail. So far, we’ve done about 200.

The Trail is For Me!

The Trail is For Me!

Three of our regular hiker couples went off — independently of each other — to discover New Zealand this year. First were Saraleh and Avner Halachmi – check out Avner’s travel blog (in Hebrew). Then Ilan and Miri Berman took off – check out their gorgeous set of photos. Finally, David and Ruty Aloush made the journey. Varda also missed a couple hikes. As a result, Yuval and I are the only ones with a perfect attendance record.

Our group has coalesced very nicely, and I am no longer adding new names to the distribution/ invitation list, with one exception. We have a handful of unattached and hiking-without-husband women in the group, and I’d be happy if a similar number of men-on-their-own would join us and provide some gender balance.

Every hike this year was a pleasurable and memorable experience — with weather, terrain and social mix creating a different flavor each time.

You can take a look at our journeys through my collection of photos from the Israel National Trail.

Next year I intend to hike a couple 2-day segments south of Arad, which will probably entail hiring logistical assistance. I’m soliciting recommendations and advice — if you have suggestions, please post a comment or send me an email.

* Celebrations on the Israel Trail

Segment 23 – Shaar Hagai to Sho’evah (Shoresh)

We should have celebrated an anniversary on the trail yesterday, but I didn’t realize it until last night. Exactly one year ago (May 2, 2009) I began my journey on the Israel National Trail. Over the year, my hiking group has evolved and established a pace and rhythm that suits our personalities and physical abilities. It has been such a pleasure and a success! May our adventures continue!

After checking the weather forecast and the route topography, Yuval and I planned a “standard” 15-kilometer route on the Israel Trail for our hiking group, from Sho’evah (Shoresh) to Shaar Hagai. We also decided to formally adopt the philosophy of hiking each segment in the direction that is easiest on the hikers, rather than conforming strictly to a north-to-south progression. That meant today’s hike was mostly downhill, although it did include one long tough climb.

Close to home, it was easy to convene at an earlier hour, and our group of 16 began hiking before 8 a.m. Everyone was relaxed and in great spirits. It was Ruthy K’s birthday. Indeed, we seemed to be in a party mood throughout the day.

We left our cars, and began the descent from Sho’evah to Nahal Kislon. We soon reached the Israel Trail.

For the benefit of other day trippers, here’s my tip for parking cars and accessing the Israel Trail from Shoeva (see map). Upon exiting Highway 1 at the Shoresh interchange, go past the gas station, and at the rotary turn onto HaDolev Street. Make a left onto HaAlon Street and park where the asphalt road ends and a dirt trail begins. Commence hiking! At the first junction in the trail, turn right onto the black-blaze trail. A the next junction turn left onto green-blaze trail, and follow it until it connects with the red-blaze trail/Israel Trail in Nahal Kislon. This connector segment is about 1.5 km, an easy downhill if you’re starting from this point.

The first part of the trail hike was a long, easy walk along Nahal Kislon. The sky was clear blue. The air was cool and fresh. The meadow grasses were still green. The wildflowers were still in blossom. Here, in the foothills of Jerusalem, it’s still springtime.

I love the wide trails. They are ideal for walking-and-talking. But, since I frequently stop to take photos, I often get dropped, temporarily, from the peleton (main pack). I’m also not in many photos. But every now and then, I keep up with the pace and the conversation, and even get into a photo or two. (That’s me on the left, thank you Ruthy A.)

Throughout the day we shared the trail with numerous cylists and a few 4×4 vehicles. We also crossed paths with many hikers, among them a pair of young men thru-hiking the Israel Trail from north to south. In his inimitable style, Shlomo struck up a conversation and treated everyone to some great laughs.

I did not ask their names, but gave them my business card and promised to put their photo on my blog. So, if you are these fellows, or recognize them, please post a comment on this blog (in Hebrew or English). Hope to hear you’ve reached Eilat safe and sound in a few weeks.

Continuing down the trail alongside Nahal Kislon, through the Kedoshim Forest, full of eucalyptus and pine trees.  The trees in this forest were planted in memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust.

After a brief rest stop at the Bnei Brit cave, we crossed the dry stream of Nahal Kislon, and began the climb up Mount Carmila (blue-blaze trail). Scaling this wall was just a hint of the physical efforts that lay ahead.

We began the climb. At first it was not too difficult, and we simply had to duck under or step over the fallen tree trunks. The trail got steeper. At one point it was blocked by downed trees, and we ploughed upward and around until we reconnected with the trail.

We took a short break to catch our breath and enjoy the gorgeous vista. And then we made our final attack. The ascent is so steep that the trail has switchbacks to make the climb (or descent) possible.

But we made it! We reached the top near Beit Meir. Birthday girl Ruthy celebrates with husband Micky.

We crossed Route 3955 (road connecting Sho’evah to Beit Meir) and stopped at a roadside picnic area in the Masrake Nature Reserve for a snack and rest break. Bad choice. It was full of litter, even though there was a trash receptacle on the site. It would have been wiser for us to continue a few hundred more meters along the trail, and stop at a camp site deeper within the reserve. Those sites are much cleaner. The sign explains why: “No trash collection here. Take your garbage with you. Thanks. Keren Kayemet”. 

We still had a bit more climbing to do, though not at all difficult. We passed through the Independence War memorial at Outpost 16.

The strategic importance of the outposts along this range is easy to grasp. The views from the top were magnificent. Avner and Saraleh overlooking Highway 1 towards Jerusalem.

We passed through Outpost 21 at the top of the peak. And then we began the second and final descent of the day.

Yuval and the gang overlooking Shaar Hagai interchange on Highway 1 towards Tel Aviv.

This descent was steep and difficult in places — but thank goodness we were doing it at the end of the hike and not the beginning. Climbing this segment would have exhausted us. Instead, we reached the pinnacle of the hike, both physically and metaphorically, at just the right time.

We improvised our own personal switchbacks as we descended.

Avner and Saraleh made coffee for the gals while the guys went to retrieve the cars.

We capped off the day with an amicable game of bocce|petanque|boule (choose your prefered name).

Final note: Uphills totaled about 350 meters, downhills about 560 meters. The total distance hiked was about 17.5 kilometers.

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

Congratulations to Shimon Shomrony, who provided the spark that ignited my adventure. He and the group he assembled five years ago finally reached Eilat, and the end of their journey on the Israel Trail, this past weekend!

* Farewell to Spring on the Israel Trail

Segments 6-7 – Lower Nahal Amud to Migdal

Only two weeks had elapsed since our last hike on the Israel National Trail. But we took to the trail again to catch the springtime greenery and blossoms before they dry and fade away for the summer. Once again it was a hot day, but the 9 hearty hikers who showed up were ready and eager for another adventure.

After leaving one car at the gas station in Migdal, we drove to the gas station at Kedarim, where we parked our other cars, enjoyed a good cup of Segafredo coffee, and then headed for the trail.

Note: I plan the hiking route and prepare the maps, which I put in Yuval’s hands. Yuval is responsible for keeping us on course since I take photos continuously during the hikes and am liable to miss a blaze or turn on the trail.

So, with Yuval leading, we bypass Kedarim junction on a 4×4 trail that is nearly hidden by waist-high wildlowers and meadowgrasses. I had intended to hook up with the Israel Trail from Highway 85, but Yuval takes us on longer route down to the trail.

Dashed pink line shows the intended “connector” route to the start of the day’s hike. The yellow line shows where we actually went.

We’re almost there. As long as we were heading downhill, no one seemed to mind the extra steps.

Ahh!  Finally we reached Nahal Amud. Still green and lush. It was especially exciting to find spots of water. Feeling like agile youngsters, Yuval and Alon jumped across the stream. Most of us carefully stepped across the stones to reach the other side. 

Indeed, for most of us, the scenery stirred up memories of youth group hikes and high school trips. Interestingly, none of us could remember actually ever having been in this part of Nahal Amud.

The steep canyon walls.

Tall grasses and prickles of late spring. Those of us who wore long pants definitely had better wardrobe function. Fortunately it was only guys who were wearing shorts, and their non-depilated legs afforded them some protection.

The trail frequently criss-crossed the stream bed. Oleander bushes with their pink flowers decorated the trail.

We reached the “stairwell” of the National Water Carrier.

What is it about government bureaus in this country that they are incapable of getting a competent English writer to compose and/or proofread the text on public signage?

We encountered a number of these creatures along the trail. Some of them were moving quite swiftly, and made us wonder if it wasn’t the same tortoise passing us by each time.

Nearing the end of the canyon.

Just after passing the massive stone pillar that gives Nahal Amud its name, we reached the Amud spring. Cool, clear water flowing into a pond. So refreshing. A delightful surprise.

I was ready to take off my shoes and hang out here for an hour or two. But the morning was getting late, and we still had some distance to cover.

Emerging from the canyon into the Ginossar valley. More exposed to the sun and heat here, the flowers have faded and the grasses have turned brown.

Oops. We were getting tired and a bit careless. We missed the right turn where the Israel Trail breaks away from the heavily marked black trail  (which continues down Nahal Amud toward the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).

As we approached the power lines, we should have been on the lookout for the split in the trails. I promised to give half-a-kilometer credit to those who were ahead of me and had to turn around and come back (see dotted line).

Back on track. By now we were happy to have a paved track, which helped us pick up our pace.

Nearing the end of the route. Mount Arbel looms in the distance. We pondered whether we should ascend or descend it when we do that segment of the Israel Trail.

We ended our day with a delicious lunch at a Druze restaurant called Al Haruba, named for the carob tree in its front yard. The restaurant is located on a hilltop at the edge M’rar (next to Moshav Hazon), and has a stunning view of the Galilee and Kinneret. The owners of the restaurant are the two brothers of Affu (sitting at right), who is an army buddy of Ilan (second from right).

Final note: I’d promised a mostly downhill hike, and I kept my word. Our uphills totaled 236 meters, while the downhills totaled 493 meters. Both Ruthy and I logged 16 kilometers on our GPSes.

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

And, please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers.

* Family History on the Israel Trail

Segment 3 – Yesha Fortress to Nahal Dishon (Alma Bridge)

Our eleventh hike on the Israel National Trail began at the Yesha Fortress (also called Metzudat Ko’ah) overlooking the Hulah Valley. In the early days of Israel’s War of Independence, April-May 1948, the Palmach 3rd Regiment waged three battles with the Arabs before gaining control of the fortress.

The weather forecast predicted high temperatures, and indeed it was a hot day. But that did not stop 17 hikers from showing up for today’s trail adventure. Our group this time included three couples of friends from Maccabim who had not yet hiked the trail with us. One of our newcomer friends was Alon Friedman, who was about to see something he was probably not expecting.

Moments after starting the hike, we crossed Route 899 and entered the grounds of Nebi Yusha, a mosque and shrine for the prophet Joshua dating to the late 18th centuary. As we came down a slope alongside a small cave, Alon peeked in and spotted 5 memorial candles and a hand-lettered sign with 5 names on it, apparently placed there just days ago to mark the anniversary of their death. The fifth name was Filon Friedman. “That’s my uncle. I was named for him.” Alon said, stunning us all.

Cave with memorial for Filon Friedman and other Hagana soldiers

We gathered around Alon to hear a brief recounting of his namesake Filon, the commander of one of the three companies engaged in the operation. Unsuccessful in the attack, and with many soldiers wounded, the troops were ordered to retreat. Some were severely injured, and could not be evacuated. Filon ordered his company to continue retreating and he himself remained with the wounded men.

At Nebi Yusha. Alon tells us the heroic tale of his uncle and namesake Filon Friedman

When the Arabs came out of the fortress, they attacked and killed all the wounded men who remained in the area. When Hagana troops returned the day after the battle to retrieve the dead, they found Filon’s body with a single shot in the forehead, an act of suicide. His refusal to abandon his wounded troops (“Commander Filon’s Dilemma”) and his legacy are studied in schools, youth movements and the IDF. I later found a comprehensive website (in Hebrew only) about Filon Friedman.

Who could have imagined that a chance encounter with a makeshift memorial on the Israel Trail would have such significance to a member of our group. For me this was the highlight of the day’s hike. But we had only just begun.


Unlike most all of our previous hikes, we had to walk in single file much of the time. In addition to the trail being a “single” lane, the meadow grasses have grown high, and the wildflowers are still in full bloom.


The major theme, if it can be called that, of today’s hike were the purple thistles — grown tall and thick, and so abundant in places it appears they are being cultivated by the local farmers!


One of the hikers, who really prefers cycling, later commented that he very much enjoyed the hike because it was one he could not have done on his bicycle.


From Nebi Yeshua we headed up to Keren Naftali hilltop overlooking the Hulah Valley. The climb was somewhat steep, but made easier by the shade of the forest.


We stopped at the top for a  well-deserved breakfast break. Unfortunately, the sky was hazy and the vista was not as brilliant as we would have hoped. We could not even see the snow-capped Mount Hermon.

Then we headed down the other side of Keren Naftali.


Soon thereafter, Irit, one of a newcomer hikers suffered a major setback when the sole of her hiking shoe fell off. Despite the best efforts of the engineers in our group, Irit and her husband had to bail out (fortunately we were very close to the main road), and managed to walk the 3 kilometers back to the car.


Sometimes we encounter fences and other obstacles on the Israel Trail.


The single-file path eventually became a dirt trail, which allowed us to pick up the pace, and chat with more than just the person in front of or behind us.

Thanks to Hadar for taking my photo; otherwise who would know that I, too, hiked the trail. (I’m not walking backwards; I just turned around to face the camera.)


Before reaching Nahal Dishon, we had to do one more climb, and tread through more thistles.


And look back at where we’d been, and more thistles.


We paused at the top for the group to reassemble as we had gotten rather spread out due to various physical ailments that were slowing some of us down.

A steep, but quick descent into Nahal Dishon.


The stream bed was mostly dry, so out went any plans for dipping our toes into some cool refreshing water. The heat had indeed made this hike a bit more difficult than anticipated. But it was most enjoyable in every other respect.


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