So, Monday we had a great class on the Tanya in the afternoon which was intense, but really challenging in a good way. Dinner was light, but good: salads with potatoes (sweet potatoes boiled in an oil based pepper sauce) and chicken. I went out after out last class of the night which was an impromptu class on balancing the good and bad intentions and urges we all have to become closer to G-D. I went walking first with another girl, and we did a circuit of the whole top of Tzfat, then I came back and reviewed notes with two of the other girls. We discussed some things from the weeks before I got here, so I learned a bit more background. After that I went out with 3 other girls and we hit the "foods street" and had some pizza (sauce was VERY sweet, but the cheese was soooo good) and just talked. I learned a lot about some of my classmates, and I had a good time opening up about my own past. We then stopped to get some ice cream (Parve for everyone not me, because I did not eat meat, so no need to wait on dairy!) and I tried a few flavours-all good- but settled on "Israeli Coffee" which was a mix of espresso and cardamom.
We did another long walk to help digest and burn some calories and ended
up checking out a little store (pretty much like a tiny Circle K) down
the block. Ran into some really... pushy/flirty Israeli guys, but
thankfully we just stayed in the store until they left. Nothing to worry
I ended up back at MA a bit after midnight, and only read until 2am or so. An early night for me!
(Tues) we were supposed to leave for a local tour at 9am, but our guide
was running late. So, we ended up actually heading out after 10. We
stopped by the grave of Rab. Y. Ben-Cairo and stayed to pray there. It was a moving experience for me. It was unlike any
other meditation I have ever had; I felt so still and so able to focus
my entire mind on just one prayer, one thought of Peace, and I felt so
quiet on the inside. I hope to repeat this again before I leave. From
there we went up a local mountain (really just a bit further up than the
main city of Tzfat) to Yavnit Mount. It was like being in Northern
Arizona. Pine forests. The smells up there were just so wonderful and
clear. There were flowers blooming, and birds, and so many butterflies
today! We took a long hike up to a few different vantage points and were
able to see the valley below Tzfat, the hill that borders the Sea of
Galilee, and the hazy south part of the Golan Heights where the Israel
border ends. Further on the walk we were able to see into Syria, a
portion of Lebanon, and just past a bit of mountain; Jordan.
We ended by visiting the graves of two local Tzaddeken who are buried in
a cave more than 2800 years old. There is still a portion of the
retaining wall left up from the Roman invasion in 70-74CE. (I have
plenty of photos I will send along, do not worry.) The cave was not
terrible deep or long, but very cool temperature wise, and was lightly
maintained by the Israeli Antiquities Department. It was a truly hard to
describe event. Standing in a place that people had visited to pray at
for almost 3000 years. Mind blowing.
We also saw the border guards' station (in front of the retaining wall
are the IDF barracks) which has been a defence outpost for almost 2000
years straight. Currently it is managing the "iron dome" which protects
the border and border cities like Tzfat from missiles. Our tour guide
told us about the bombing going on over the last 20-30 years: including
having a SCUD missile land in her backyard! Literally. Blew out parts of
the kitchen, left huge holes from shrapnel, and shattered 22 windows
and the frames. They had a shelter and her children were all playing in
the front yard, so no one got even a scratch. I cannot even imagine the
moments of terror that would produce.
The last class before lunch today was on the "Song of Songs" and how
even those who have just begun to study are blessed by G-D; it is the
fierceness of the heart to learn Torah, not just the actual studying.
Pretty interesting. We have another class on the same topic on Thursday.
For lunch today we had grilled eggplant/aubergine with a sweet
turnip/potato like vegetable. Also a salad of quinoa and mixed fresh
vegetables with a tasty vinegar based dressing. I went across the street
and also picked up a plum, nectarine, and mango to munch on for
today/tonight. The fruit seller is quite nice and knows all the "girls" at MA and is quick to speak English to those of us not fluent in Hebrew. The foods there are just so varied and amazing; it is like the Farmer's Market across the street from my home! They also have prickly pear cactus pads and fruit, but it is called "paddle cactus" here. No saguaro, of course. The fruits are all in season and grown in the country. I saw a bunch of fields as I was coming in to Tzfat at the end of last week: corn, sunflowers, wheat, and of course, lots and lots of grapes.
Classes this afternoon will be more Torah reading then another Tanya
class; which I am really loving so far. The same Rabbi who teaches us
Tanya also teaches one night in the evening at a local synagogue, so as
far as I know plans are for about 6 of us to go to the "extra" class he
teaches on Wed evening. It is very dense material, with so much meaning
in every single word, not just the overall sentences and stories, but I
find that type of challenge to be something my brain really feels good
about thinking on. Then after dinner tonight we have another Farbregin
(Jewish joke- we will Far-Bring-It-On!) which will go from about 8pm to
perhaps midnight or even later. I will likely call it an early night
though and try to get a bit more rest after doing so much physical work
in the last day and so.
I am sleeping very well, and I have 3 or more girls who are all
taking turns to help me learn to read and speak Hebrew. I plan to go
down to a store tomorrow on my break and get some "kid" workbooks to
help me practice. The food is good, and I am trying to eat something
new/different each day, and saying "yes" to one new thing each day too. I
am often getting out of my comfort zone, but that was a reason why I
came. I might be scared or nervous, but I am here to do and learn and
experience as much as I can in the time I have here. I am getting more
used to the schedule, which means it feels like the days are starting to
pass a bit faster. I am not sure yet if this is a good or bad or
I will be sending along photos from the hike today, and when I am
back I will go over them all in detail. I also took a short "panorama"
movie today too; the view was just too beautiful to leave to still