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Lost in Tsfat

Posted on 07/29/2010 @ 07:10 PM

Tags: PDI

PDI Israel

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by Rachel Heilbronner, Rocky Mountain Region Program Director

Most of us were eager to spend the better part of Thursday in Tsfat. After a morning learning session with Rabbi Dr. David Starr (aka ra-doc-starr), we boarded the bus and braced ourselves for a hilly and windy road, (Dramamine a necessity for some). We arrived safely after only one game of chicken with a cab, and Avi, our fearless bus driver and former tank commander, won that game fairly easily. A little bit of “rak b’yisrael” (only in Israel) morning entertainment for the rest of us…

Tsfat is the highest city in Israel, sitting at an altitude of 900 meters and providing its visitors and residents with stunning views of the valleys below. It has been known as one of Israel’s holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hebron. After the Spanish Inquisition Jews began to find their way there, including some of the important Kabbalists, and the city began to increase in significance. Since then, it has been the center of Kabbalah and mysticism.

These days, people mostly come to the city for a couple of hours, and we were certainly no exception, though we did stick around for most of the day. We joined throngs of Birthright participants in the twisted streets, trying to take in the sights and sounds, doing everything possible to escape the relentless sun. We started our day with some autonomy, after a quick learning session about basic history of the city, we split into small groups and took self-guided tours through a story that led us to different places of significance around the city. We were then able to enjoy a bit of free time and break for lunch before heading to a place where most visitors don’t go in the city, the museum of Hungarian Jewish Heritage. One of the things that came out of this visit was a discussion about the early youth movements in Israel. This kind of information is something that we can turn into programming with our teens, and it is likely a few of us will do that as part of putting this Israel experience into practice.

Our final stop in Tsfat, before having more free time to shop in the art, Judaica and jewelry stores, was a quick visit to an organization called Livnot U’Lehibanot, which translates to “To Build and To Be Built.” Livnot tries to bring unaffiliated Jews to Israel to give them meaningful Jewish experiences (sound familiar?). The director showed us the site of their new building, and then took us up to their current office, where he spoke to us a little bit about the organization, but did not go into as much depth as we would’ve hoped. We met with two former Livnot participants who are married and living in Israel now, both studying at different Yeshivas in Jerusalem.

Though we spent a number of hours in a very spiritual place, I think most of my colleagues would agree with me when I say that dinner was actually the most spiritual part of the day. We ate a place called Ein Kamonim, an organic dairy farm, which did not disappoint. We were able to try a variety of cheeses (paired with good wine!), multi-grain rolls straight out of the oven, different salads and spreads, yogurt, and baked apples and sorbet for dessert. Feeling satisfied, we split up into three groups for the rest of the evening. Some opted to go back to the hotel, some went on a night hike, and some went to the Carmiel International Folk Dance Festival. As our time in the northern part of Israel concluded-- five days that were rife with a variety of experiences--anticipation hung in the air for our second and final Shabbat in Jerusalem.

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