Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mo' Shekels, Mo' Heckles

By Emma Connolly '16, Travis Mager '14

Today was a magical day. No really, it was. We began the day with some divine intervention at the Arbel Cliffs just north of our kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee. While the views from the top of the cliffs were among our favorites, the real magic was due to the fact that none of us fell off/down the incredibly steep cliffs. It was a bumpy descent, but we all made it through in the highest of spirits.

Our sage tour guide, Shany, demanded that everyone have a hat for the hike. Those who didn't bring a hat or a makeshift fraternity flag babushka had to buy a hat at the top of the mountain. While we were initially skeptical of the options, we came to love our 17 shekel "Big Australian" sun hats (see below). To quote Emma, "it's my favorite forced-purchase EVER. I'm wearing it for Fling." Needless to say, the cliffs rocked our socks. Betches do love rocks after all. 

Next, we drove to one of the four holy cities of Israel - Tzfat - where we ate an unholy amount of falafel after our long hike. Each of these four cities is associated with a different element, and Tzfat's lofty element is, appropriately, air. While the air was fresh and abundant, the public bathrooms were not. After the group finally found one, we gathered around Shany to hear about Tzfat's role in the origins of Kabbala and Jewish mysticism. 

We then followed in Madonna's footsteps to further discover Kabbala's origins at the nearby Sephardic temple. The rabbi instructed us to not eat, drink, or sleep as there is no mezuzah on the temple's door. The struggle was real as we were there for a full ten minutes. We enjoyed the unique decorations of the synagogue (see below). 

Afterwards, we turned up the heat and made our way to a local glass blower's studio, which deepened our mystical experience in Tzfat. She flared our interest by giving us a live demonstration of glass blowing by creating one of her pomegranates, which brighten up her studio. While wielding her torch, she told us her story of making Aliyah from Colorado after she finished college and her enlightening experience of moving to Israel and becoming a glass blower. 

Finally, we visited the market to buy some lovely souvenirs for you folks at home. We haggled with the artists and possible con artists (100 shekels for a string Kabbala bracelet? REALLY?!) of Tzfat for some beautiful jewelry, art, and tchotchkes. We left Tzfat with lighter wallets but a heavier understanding of the origins of Kabbala and the spiritual components of Jewish mysticism.

When we returned to the kibbutz we were treated to an Israeli folk dancing lesson by our secretly talented bus driver, Moti. These intricate, lively dances put the hora to shame. We all enjoyed the cardio-on-cardio day of climbing and dancing after all of our carb-on-carb days here in Eretz Israel. This land was the topic of our discussion tonight as we reflected on our experiences thus far in the Jewish homeland. 

Tomorrow promises to bring more enlightenment to complement today's lessons, and at the very least, some buoyancy.

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