Northern Israel

After our time in Jerusalem and the Judaean Desert, we then went to Northern Israel.

January 11, 2023

After a good night’s sleep in the Kibbutz, we went to Tsfat, which is the highest city in Galilee. Tsfat achieved fame and a reputation as the “City of Kabbalah” during the 16th century when the rabbis, Kabbalistic scholars, and other Jews who were fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition made their home in the mountaintop. Kabbalah translates as “mysticism” and is a part of Jewish tradition that deals with the essence of God. Many people know of Kabbalah because, in the early 2000s, Madonna famously was one of many celebrities who admitted to studying Kabbalah in Tsfat.

After walking through the streets for a bit, we arrived at a 500 year old synagogue.

We sat here for a bit to listen to Lior explain the history of the Spanish-Arabic style synagogue, and then it was time for Rabbi Green to marry Gabby and Andrew!

Gabby and Andrew’s wedding was a team effort! Four taller people (i.e. neither of us) held up a tallit for their chuppah and Jesse played a beautiful song on the guitar for their first dance.

After this incredibly special wedding ceremony, we walked a few blocks to visit the Tzfat Gallery of Mystical Art. We were greeted by the founder, Avraham Loewenthal, who spent a few minutes explaining what Kabbalah is and how and why he creates the artwork in his gallery.

We ended up buying two books as well as two of his prints!

One of the prints we bought is called “Tshuv-Hey” which is about giving, receiving, and oneness. It depicts the two letters hey (ה) in the holy name of God (י-ה-ו-ה). Avraham explained that the upper ה represents our desire to give and the lower ה represents our desire to receive. Kabbalah explains that since our divine source is only giving and has no desire to receive, we experience our divine source to the extent that we desire to give.

The other print we bought is called “Shema Meditation,” which is made by sounding a shofar through software that analyses the sound. The Shema is a powerful meditation on oneness practiced since ancient times.

After leaving Avraham’s gallery, we grabbed a delicious Yemenite Lahuhe.

We spent some time meandering through the streets of Tsfat. After a good amount of searching, we finally found and bought a Kiddush cup that we love and cannot wait to use on Friday nights when we celebrate Shabbat!

As we bopped around, we realized we had not yet had falafel in Israel!! And so, we went to a falafel shop and had some incredible falafel!

After our time in Tsfat, we got back on the bus and drove through the Golan Heights close to the Israeli border with Syria. Before walking up to the lookout, Lior introduced us to a Druze who was selling some jam out of the trunk of his car. In Israel, the Druze people are a close-knit community, make up ~2% of the country’s population, and mainly live in the northern regions of the Galilee, Carmel, and the Golan Heights.

At the lookout point, Lior explained the conflict in the disputed territory of the Golan Heights. Israel seized the territory during the Six-Day War of 1967. Its strategic importance lies in its proximity to the Sea of Galilee, which was once Israel’s primary source of fresh water and has since become less important as Israel transitions to desalination of the Mediterranean Sea. The territory has been part of several peace talks and remains under Israel’s control today. And, with the Civil War in Syria beginning in 2011, not much progress has been made in several years.

As the sun set, we drove from the boarder and back to the Kibbutz to get ready for our HMI party! The party far exceeded expectations! The food was delicious and it felt like a wedding, inclusive of a Klezmer band!

We all had a ton of fun doing the hora with Lior and watching Jesse perform some of his music!

January 12, 2023

After a very late night, we enjoyed a morning walk along the Sea of Galilee with Madeleine & Michael.

We spent the rest of the morning at the Kibbutz and had our third HMI Conversation. During this time, the two of us found ourselves talking with couples about how to deal with and speak up about passive anti-semitism and also how to go about raising a family in an interfaith home.

We then packed up the bus and drove to Karmiel to volunteer at Pitchon-Lev, a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Israel.

During this experience we talked about Tikkun Olam, which directly translates to “repair of the world.” The term is understood in modern America as the idea that Jews are called upon to make the world more just, peaceful, tolerant, and equal, through acts of charity, kindness, and political action.

After our volunteering, we grabbed a quick lunch and then drove to our next and final destination, Tel Aviv!

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