June 15, 2010 | 8:55 am
Posted by Lara Berman
My second Shabbat in Israel was a total schmooze fest. First, I hopped to a Carlebach style shul in the neighborhood and then joined the Shabbat dinner my temporary flatmate threw. There was some ahem, interesting company, but the highlight was taking a walk afterwards with one of my dinner companions. This is basically how people date here, “let’s walk!” It’s so beautiful and picturesque here that it does make sense.
This dude is an Israeli lawyer, author and advocate who apparently used to work in the Israeli government. He’s traveled the world for enlightenment and work, representing Israel in peace discussions with Palestinians, Israeli Arabs – all the while preaching his brand of ‘let’s all get along.’ The conversation was interesting for two reasons: A) I never expected to be taught English words by a non-native speaker. And B) I found his ideas completely ridiculous for anyone, especially a representative of ours who purports to have our best interests at heart! With friends like that, who needs…Anyway! So I as a non-native, I took the liberty of educating him. Despite my disapproval of nearly every comment his brilliant mind concocted, he grew taken with me and has gone out of his way to look out for me since I’ve been here. You figure it out.
Next day after sleeping in, I hopped to Shabbat lunch and arrived glistening as it was quite hot. The folks there were awesome. Sof Sof! (Finally!) I found myself courted the entire afternoon by many a charming gent and had a blast chatting the day away until 6 in the afternoon. Off I went toward a third meal party and, as has happened often in the old, windy streets of Jlem, promptly got lost. So I wandered, never finding the way to the party but did enjoy the scenic walk home.
The week in ulpan flew! Wow, it’s incredible and hardly anything is review anymore. That means each day my head feels it will explode in the frenzy to conjugate the many verbs thrown at us into their numerous forms. But it’s exhilarating and so satisfying when something that was so overwhelming becomes second nature within about a day-and-a-half because of their genius sheeta (method). Now using my Hebrew on the street, I still get a little meboolbelet (confused), but le-at, le-at (slowly, slowly). Where as I used to just rattle off whatever I knew, now I’m slower and more careful so as not to practice bad habits and mistakes. What’s cool about Hebrew is that so many words are connected, there is logic and intelligence AND things sound like what they are. L’mashal (for example), CHok is a law, get the nice cccchhhhh in there and it sure sounds like one! Or, meh-loochlach, doesn’t that sound pretty dirty to you? Of course it does!
Tuesday was the hillula (death anniversary) of Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel (the channel for soulmates) so I headed to the Kotel (Western Wall) to have a heart-to-heart with the Guy upstairs. We talked about all of you! Wow, is He in love with you all. He told me He has our pictures on his refrigerator. So, of course, He said YES! You and I will all merit wonderful matches and soon, And those of you already with your besherts, oh, you’re only going to grow happier and happier together! Amen!
Thursday after class I just barely caught the bus to Tsfat for the weekend. For those of you who don’t know, there are four very holy cities in Israel: Tiveria (Tiberias), Hebron (which I may visit tomorrow!), Tsfat and THE most holy, Jerusalem. Each city is associated with a different energy. If Yerushalayim is fire, Tsfat is air and boy, can you feel it. One of the most mystical places on the planet, the place feels truly magical.
My girlfriends flaked, so I ended up going alone which allowed me to meet tons of folks. Thursday night with my new-found friends from Australia and South Africa, we watched a musical group I highly recommend called, “Simply Tzfat.” Who knew Chassids could rock like this? Apparently everyone there but me!
The next day, still in Tsfat, we hiked to see where Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel is buried because as it was the week of his yahrtzeit, it was the ideal time to tap into his energy. They say that whomever visits Rabbi Uziel and prays at his kever will merit his/her soulmate in this lifetime. He also helps to strengthen existing soulmate relationships. So baroor (obviously), I wanted to chat with him and did I earned my conversation with him, or what? I did that whole freakin’, 1-hour-plus hike in flip flops! I basically was picking burrs and thorns out of my footsies the entire time! But it was so gorgeous and special there, who the flip flop cared?
Once again, while I was visiting Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel, Hashem and I chatted about all of you. The married ones, just say amen to all the happy wishes we sent to you. The unmarried ones, get set, I put in such a good word for all of you!
Later, we hiked to another kever, where there were oodles of people praying as it was his hillula, Rosh Chodesh (the first of the month) AND erev Shabbat! Wowsers. In the not-too-far distance we could see the kever of the Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the author of the Etz HaChaim! If you’ve studied any Kabbalah, you know he’s one of the main characters in sharing the deepest meanings of life and the Universe. The energy was palpable.
That afternoon I chatted with a soldier for about 2 hours in Hebrew! Well, Heblish, but more on the Hebrew side! A group of IDF soldiers who were being promoted were with us for Shabbat and I befriended one, Ori. We talked about Israel’s stance in the world, G-d and whether He exists, the religious versus the secular, the challenges Israel faces, and a couple of heavier topics like YouTube and the bubbles in Coke.
Later, I wandered around the old, curving streets of Tsfat, speaking Hebrew with the few artists in the Artist’s Colony who hadn’t yet packed up for Shabbat. “At Isha Maksima” (you’re a lovely lady) they told me before I left, very happy about our conversation and my Hebrew efforts. Soon, Shabbat was coming in so I got ready, wearing my long, white skirt that makes me feel like a princess.
I, along with the other women in my program, lit candles with the soldiers and I have to tell you, this was so moving for me. Let me go back: When I see IDF soldiers, I start to kvell. It’s emotional. I just feel maleh, maleh (full, full) of respect and pride. My chest swells, my eyes tear, it’s very profound and special. So when I gathered around the candles with the lady soldiers in uniform to light candles, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude…and nearly snapped a photo like a koo koo tourist. But I didn’t! Ok? I resisted! This experience coupled with the feelings that came up for me walking in the Old City of Tsfat during Shabbat truly solidified to me that I MUST have been an active Zionists and/or a little religious girl in past lives right here in Israel.
See, there’s been an uninterrupted presence of Jewish people in Tsfat for over 2000 years, so when you’re here you know that people have been walking on these very streets, living in these very buildings, celebrating Shabbat right here for ages and ages; you walk around and know everyone you see is family. The world becomes quiet, peaceful and light; one feels transported. I felt in a storybook, walking those streets; as though I was living in a time of kings and queens. I floated down the streets, so appreciative to have the opportunity to live in this magical place for a time. Take the cars away and we’d be back 1000 ago, again.
Shabbat dinner was a blast. The teenagers in the family I joined spoke little English and they teased me like crazy as I insisted we chat non-stop all night, regardless of all my mistakes. I had so much fun! By the end we’d created a business plan to become professional challah braiders. We’d let others make the challah dough and we’d make the real dough (hehe!) by dropping in to mold dough into beautiful and silly shapes. Surely there’s a market for that. We’re planning to franchise.
It was a lovely dinner but Tsfat is on a mountain and so it was yet another hike to get back. It’s all good. By the time I got home, I felt no guilt whatsoever about the awesome ice cream cake we ate for dessert. Needless to say, after 3 serious treks that day and then some, I pooped out and immediately headed to my room to dream and snore.
I awoke at 11:15a, heard a shiur (lesson) and had lunch. Then, Ori and I met again to chat about every corner of life. We chatted in Heblish for another few hours. He, like me, loves Israel with a very sweet love, so we felt kindred spirits since so many are jaded or blinded by the media’s bullshit.
Schwartzie, a local LA rabbi was in town and he was hysterical. He passed along great dating wisdom to me and, havdallah (the end of Shabbat) made for an awesome party where I sang and danced with my new Tsfat friends and the soldiers until the room shook! It was so awesome! “Am Israel Chai! (The people of Israel are alive!) Od Avinu Chai (We are still alive!) Am Yisrael, Am Yisrael, Am Yisrael Chai! (The land/people of Israel are alive!),” we sang and sang.
I was sorry to tear myself away from the singing and dancing, but had to catch the first bus back to Jlem. And so I did, befriending another Israeli along the way, Mordechai. Again, I got to practice Hebrew and in true Israeli fashion, he ended up using my shoulder as a pillow. Hey, we’re all family here.
Not wanting to miss a moment, I hopped to Tel Aviv to see a visiting friend and also met up with the famous Odi, aka: Madame Pompidoo. We ate awesome Haloumi salad and schnitzel by the ocean while digging our toes into the sand on Banana Beach in Tel Aviv.
I crashed on Odi’s futon that night and headed back from Tel Aviv bright and early for my 8am ulpan class in Jlem. Odi packed me a sack lunch of yummy fruits, Israeli chocolates and even put a note inside! “Motek, Nesiah tova v’lehitraot b’karov. ♥, Giveret Pompidoo” (Sweetie, safe travels and see you soon. ♥, Miss Pompidoo). Odi~Your kids will be so lucky to have you as an Ema (Mom)!
And now, sof sof (finally)! We’re up to date!
Another sparkly week awaits.
B’ahava (with love),
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