Friday afternoon. The world has already calmed down from the week’s hysteric leftovers and Johnny Cash puts me in a relaxed country atmosphere. I drive on a dirt road within agricultural fields near Bnei Zion which is in the Sharon region, and as befitting the professional off-road driver that I am, I do not miss any bump on the road. When I park my car at the Ronit landing strip, from which Dvir Paragliding’s Buckeyes take off, my car gives a sigh of relief and two large dogs jump at me with overfriendliness. The guard at the complex, the peace of whom I have disturbed, looks out from within an old wagon with blinking suspicious eyes, and I feel like I am in an old western movie. For a minute it seems that he is pointing a shotgun at me, but it is only his arm which points me in the direction of a parking lot in which there are a few tens of Buckeyes inside wagons. A Buckeye is a dual-seat aircraft driven by an ultra light engine and a parachute that serves as a wing. It does look modest and small, but do not let its appearance fool you. This little thing not only reaches the sky but it is also considered to be the safest aircraft in the world according to the American Federal Aviation Authority. No less. The Buckeye does not stall, and when talking about an aircraft this is a compliment. And the fact that the Buckeye moves slowly makes even the rare accidents that do happen with it not that bad. No one has died yet. Touch wood.
A strong wind blows and freezes my bones. It is true that they did tell me to come here dressed warmly, but the coldness of the open agricultural fields makes fun of me and the urban piece of cloth around me calling itself a coat. Next to a large table sit a few men and laugh in manly testosterone filled tones. These are the members of the Ronit landing strip pilots club, for whom Buckeye paragliding has become a routine hobby, a leisure culture if you will. They go on trips, enrichment and "team spirit" forging evenings together, they contribute flights to the community, such as flying IDF veterans etc., or just gather at the landing strip for fun, just like now for example.
I ruin in a second the manly comradeship and sit myself down next to them, all excited about the nearing flight. But one of these Buckeye paragliding experts cools down my enthusiasm and says in a tough voice: "If you came here to fly you can forget about it”. He pours me a hot cup of coffee from a finjan metal coffee pot at the stage in which my teeth start playing like castanets. "The wind is too strong. You can’t go up in such a weather”. Shock, bewilderment, dismay. The truth is that they did warn me in advance that when it comes to flying the weather is the king, but up until a few minutes ago it was such a beautiful day. It is one thing to have to consider rain, but why did the wind have to interfere right now? "We will see what Yosi says”, another one of the guys tells me with a bit more compassion. "He knows best when we can fly or not. He has his ways this guy. Have you seen the Horse Whisperer?” he asks. I nod. "So Yosi is the Paragliding Whisperer. When he comes here he will do some magic”.
Yosi Levy, who has been managing the Dvir Paragliding school since 1996, is the company’s main pilot and the senior guide of the Buckeye Paragliding school that Dvir Paragliding manages. In his resume there are thousands of flight hours and tens of pilots who have been certified by him. And indeed, when Yosi Levy arrives at the complex wearing a warm one piece snowsuit and hands me one to, I already feel a great improvement in the weather. A magician indeed. And a few minutes later it seems that the Paragliding Whisperer has managed to tame the winds. The light turns from red to green and I breathe with relief. There will be a flight today after all. Yosi drives the Buckeye to the field, connects the colorful parachute to it and turns on the engine. I climb up onto the Buckeye, put on my helmet and buckle up. "Can I go wild or are you afraid?” Yosi asks, and I, who has just spent time with a bunch of tough men, answer without any hesitation: "Feel free!” and spit aside an imaginary piece of chewing tobacco.
The Buckeye moves, the huge parachute spreads above us and within a few seconds, at the end of an especially short runway drive, devoid of any drama or special tensions, we take off to the air. I try to understand whether I am scared or not. Yosi begins to zigzag, turning the Buckeye to the right and to the left. And suddenly I realize: "hold on! I got it wrong!” I scream into the communicator that is attached to my helmet. "I actually do not want to go wild!” I scream, and Yosi smiles at me and raises his thumb up. He did not hear a thing. The wind is too loud.
We fly above the green area of the Sharon, while on our right are seen the tall buildings of the city of Netanya and on our left the Sharon Coastal Nature Reserve. It is always fun to see familiar landscapes from a different point of view. And from high up everything looks even better. Even the shopping centers and the traffic jams of the coastal road seem like a friendly and orderly pastorally from above. I relax a little and even allow myself a smile. Yosi goes a bit lower and then climbs up again and continues to the great big Mediterranean that spreads below us generously. I get a little apprehensive, but then I remember that I have my one piece snowsuit on so that if we fall down I may not get so wet. The tall limestone cliffs along the shore of Ga’ash become redder in the light of the setting sun and the view is breathtaking. But really breathtaking. I no longer breathe when we come close to the cliffs and look at their impressive crevices from really up close.
After approximately 20 minutes we go back to the landing strip. One of the dogs, who is really very happy to see me after the long separation takes our relationship one step forward and jumps on me with all four legs. The manly testosterone filled men say their goodbyes to me in relief when they realize that the area is about to be freed from the invasive estrogen. On the coastal road a long traffic jam spreads due to a road accident. If only I had a paragliding Buckeye right about now.
-The experiential flight takes 20 minutes, the cost is: 450 NIS
-For those who like to take control into their own hands, it is possible to book an introductory flight during which they will participate themselves in the flying of the Dvir Paragliding school’s Buckeye that is equipped with dual controls (excluding in the taking off and landing). Those of you who will fall in love with this experience can of course go for a flight permit – 16 lessons and you are on your own in the air.