Tzfat and Tel Aviv (Israel: Part 5)

ABSTRACT: Leaving the north part of Israel, the Taglit trip continues with an “awwwwwesome” trip to Z’fat, a bus ride to Tel Aviv, shopping and history lessons, and several glitches.

The photo references are from Albums 1 and 2, which are here and here on my Facebook page, respectively.

Rishon + Sheni, 22-23 Tammuz / Saturday + Sunday, July 23-24

The bus came calling (figuratively), and we left the kibbutz for dinner.  The misparay barzel l’hitpakeid (i.e. numbering off) was done very slowly in half-English, half-Hebrew.  Leaving the kibbutz in the dark revealed a new perspective, but of course my photo attempts [161-170] were total failures.  We headed for Karmiel, and went to the BIG Mall.

Lots of stores were there, but I went with schwarma at an eponymous place.  The menu was entirely in Hebrew, but Nitzan bailed me out.  I figured that might happen… I am so glad that Israelis are with us on the whole trip!  I got the schwarma, which was a falafel sandwich, but instead of balls, turkey shreds.  I went ‘round the horn, enjoying the food & fellowship.  Again, I am behind, not to mention I don’t recall all the details.

Back at the kibbutz, a party was being prepared in Room 13.  I went to the restroom and then re-united with the group.  They had odd Israeli shots that smelled like licorice, and because my stomach felt a little iffy, I abided by my Rule #0 of Alcohol (that is, “If in doubt, don’t drink.”).  I can still have fun, and I did have that Kiddush wine earlier today.  This time, instead of going to bed, I followed the gang to the pub, leading the way with my head lamp, and forgot my camera back in the room.

The inside was wildly smoky, and I stayed outside.  The conversations were mundane, and I was quite tired, so I decided to stay until someone wanted to leave.  Obviously, Rule #0 stayed intact.  I left with Dina, and upon returning to the room, it was 100h.  Laila tov!

The phone buzzed and rang loudly to get me up at 650h.  I quickly equipped my blue “reeds” Hawai’i shirt, khaki shorts, and a belt.  I finished packing and joined the “Boker Tov” committee.  The people all came with bags, and the bus loaders were numbers one through eight [171-172].  I took a good look at the mountain [173], marveling in its beauty.  Inside the dining room, there was a picture at a crosswalk reminding me my crosswalk mischief of younger years [174-175].

Breakfast was French toast, watermelon, and miscellany.  The orange juice was disgustingly weak, and the food on the kibbutz is getting boring.  There wasn’t much conversation this time, but I suppose it burnt out yesterday (pun intended).  Before leaving, I took one more shot of the dining room [176].

The drive took us off this kibbutz for the last time, and we drove toward Z’fat, on a road we had already travelled.  I was still largely unaware of where we were.  My photos for this ride chronicle mostly road signs with several failures, and mountains, among other scenery-style pictures.  The ones on the left-hand side of the bus didn’t work out well, since I sat on the right. [176-190].  Sitting next to Dina, she wasn’t very conversational this time.

In Z’fat, the place was well-marked [191].  Walking up a steep hill, we entered the artists’ community.  At this point in the morning, most of the shops were not yet open for the day [193-202].  Past that, up a few steps, we sat on stone steps just east of the American Friends of Safed Synagogue.  We got some photos of Dan, Aaron, and Nitzan [204] and listened to a crash course on Kabbalah [205].  Key points include that Kabbalah is a connection of this world to “others.”  The most common representation is ten spheres with 22 links.  Most interesting is the numerology therein.

We proceeded back to the drag we were on, and headed toward Synagogue Ha’Ari Ashkenazi.  Dan & Nitzan explained how in Israel, all eyes point toward Jerusalem, in terms of where synagogue Arks face.  Naturally, the south walls in Z’fat are pointing toward Jerusalem.  The design of Sephardic synagogues, unlike Ashkenazic synagogues, have all seats facing a central bimah.  The namesake of this synagogue was born in Egypt, but then gave Kabbalah later to the world.  It was interesting looking at the shul, especially the crack on the bimah that came from rocket shrapnel back during WWII [206-218].

Continuing along that same drag, we saw a trinket store and Safed Candles.  Everything there, even the chess set and Noah’s Ark, were made of wax (unburnt, I presume).  I didn’t buy anything, but looking and taking pictures will still be a great souvenir [219-224].  After that, a few more alley walks [225-226] led to Synagogue Abohav.

Outside the temple, the story was about Rabbi Abohav, from the 1500s.  He wrote the “holiest Torah” and in one of his student’s dreams, he appeared and wanted the synagogue AND Torah to be transported from SPAIN to Z’fat.  This “holiest Torah” is used only on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Shavuot.  The ruins we were in were amazing, and the inside of the synagogue was also something else [227-234].

More alleys and going past our starting point [235-236], passing a day camp building, we ascended some stairs to the Z’fat Gallery of Mystical Art.  Sitting on carpets on the floor, Avraham Loewenthal told us his story.  He was born in Michigan and eventually moved to Israel, living in Z’fat.  His specialty is art relating to the Kabbalah.  Mysticism is inner spiritual teachings, and is “awwwwwesome!”  Some interesting things he mentioned: each call of the Shofar represents a different part of caring.  Several pieces of art, whether triangles or bars, explored this idea [237-240].  The other big thing: each person’s Hebrew name has plenty of spiritual meaning.  In short, a person’s Hebrew name is no co-incidence.  Awwwwwwesome!

Engaging speakers make listening more fun, every day!  Returning up the hill, we returned to the market [242-248].  I bought a poster that contains 75 of the Psalms within the brush-strokes, costing me 40 shekels from a pushy vendor.  Another person a few steps away welcomed me into his shop and wanted me to buy an increasing number of pieces of art, all for 50 shekels.  I turned it down, even though it was a much better deal than the first.  I guess I’ll live and learn from this!

Getting back on the bus, we left Z’fat and headed toward Tel Aviv.  It was a long ride, and I tried to journal while also taking some sign and landscape photos [249-253].  Near the mall, we got into a p’kak (traffic jam) and my zoom somewhat captured it [254].  Still 94 kilometers away from Tel Aviv [255], we stopped at the same mall as on Thursday [256-260].  I chose China House with Gleb, Aaron, Efrat, Dina, etc.  I got an egg roll, spicy chicken, lemon chicken, rice, and cabbage.  It was expensive at 36 shekels, and merely run-of-the-mill.  Neither Dina nor Gleb liked it.

En route to Tel Aviv!  Shortly after we stopped at the mall, the route we started on was largely re-traced, and we played “Pocket Litter” between the two rows, having to find someone with a called-for item, and passing it up, row-by-row, to the front.  Items ranged from journal entries to American money to many other items (I’m not going to list all of them! :p), but some risqué stuff was requested too… yeah.  I won’t go there!  Due to the nearly-dead battery of my camera, I didn’t take any pictures until we approached Tel Aviv, and one of them was a total failure [261].  Once in Tel Aviv, houses, graffiti, bike lanes, and street signs caught my fancy [262-268].  Heading toward the flea market, we passed the beach as well as a mosque and minaret [269-272,276].  The chanting was clearly audible… good timing!

Whoa!  It was HOT at the market!  Looking at the stuff, someone (sorry, I lost the name) said, “You might find a diamond in the rough,” which led me to imitate the Cave of Wonders from “Aladdin”.  Good timing anyway for it!  Basically, we went through one interior drag [273-275] in which mostly clothes were for sale, and a few other trinkets too.  I bought nothing, and was overheating, I think.  Some of the group, back at the reunion spot near the clock tower, was fretting over gifts for girlfriends/boyfriends and family, but we’re still really early in the trip!

Next stop: the Independence Museum.  On the street, tents were erected in protest [277-278], and some of us crossed the street and held some discarded signs, mimicking the protestors.  We then entered the museum [279] and went to the right.  A fourteen-minute (oops.  Let me change that to a “short 20 minutes” in the Shorashim tradition) video gave a short history of Israel’s path to independence, and the story of the beginnings of Tel Aviv.  It included a clip of the UN vote, which I vividly remember from Exodus… and Becky Harris’s summary “every g–d–n country”.  One snippet from the bus ride that I forgot to mention: The name “Tel Aviv” has “Tel” which means archaeological hill, a la “The Tell” from my favourite (cough) book “The Source.”  The word “Aviv” means the spring season. (How do you like that? Two references from Block class, back in 10th grade.)

Then, we entered the back room, which contained a replica of the declaration of independence, and the actual stage from May 14, 1948 [280-282].  It was intended as a private event with an invitation [283], but word spread fast about it, even though Facebook, e-mail, etc. didn’t exist back then!  The Jewish world is quite small, but very well connected!  The state was given to Israel in a mostly-fair way as I see it, but of course, the nearby Arabs didn’t like it at all [284-285].  The tour closed with an audio transcript of the declaration of independence and the following playing of Hatikvah from the band on the upper floor, as the nation’s new national anthem.  Although I don’t know all the words to the song by heart, it moved me and beautifully brought tears to my eyes.

Driving to the hotel, the Marina, was quick and uneventful.  One other thing from the flea market: Dan had his shirt pooped on by a bird, so I said, “Dan, you’re a perch. Look out for Brooke!”  The bus cracked up… I know something about effective reincorporation for laughs. Thanks, SPG!  Ever since yesterday, the misparay barzel l’hitpakeid has been in English.  Come on now—Hebrew numbers aren’t that difficult!  At the hotel, we unloaded the bus, put luggage in the entry way, and went upstairs for dinner.

The view of the harbour and beach as the sun began to set were great [288-289]!  Dinner was boring… although the chicken was different from the kibbutz, the veggies and side items were nearly identical.  The different eating schedules is wreaking havoc on some of the group members’ systems, likely with hunger- and/or heat-induced anorexia.  I ate a bit, but somehow wasn’t particularly hungry either.

Plans had changed.  The time was 2015h, and a party was on the rooftop, scheduled for 2100h.  This was in lieu of the night out on the town that was originally planned.  Going up to the third floor after retrieving my bag, I felt a hot draft exiting the elevator.  We’re in a hallway with a view to the outside (well, somewhat) [290-292]!  My room (with Jared H and Ariel) was in 327.  It was much smaller than the room in the kibbutz, and the air conditioning didn’t work well.  Great upgrade from the kibbutz (NOT)!  Despite the sweat, I didn’t take a shower because it looked disgusting.  Charging my camera battery, I also journaled a little bit.  We were, shortly after 2100h, called to the lobby for a meeting.  The plan was to reinstate Plan A.  I was already ready, but others had to scramble to get ready, and there was a fair amount of grousing.  The way I see it: it was just a delay on the original plan!  Flexibility is the key.

I took my partially-charged camera with me, and snapped photos of some people in the lobby [293-296].  We walked to the “outside part” of the second floor, and emerged looking at a tall building [299-300].  Down a bike/walk boulevard [301] with sand in the middle, we walked the left lane.  I was chipper like usual.  Turning southbound at Ben Gurion Street, most of us sought out a nightclub.  The night scene didn’t appear to be that crazy, but it was neat to see the sights [302-303].  We found Hemingway and went there for the fun [304-306].

I’ll summarize the pub and rest of the night quickly since I’m way behind and more.  The “music” was mostly American garbage, there was no dance floor, but some of the conversations were fun.  I did make some dance moves anyway, but again, the aural cues were not very effective in moving me.  The place wasn’t very busy… I wonder when the “big” bar nights are in Israel.  En route to the hotel, we all walked under a “London Bridge” in lieu of misparay barzel l’hitpakeid.  Once back, I hung around the lobby for a couple of minutes before calling it a night around 0045h.

>> TO BE CONTINUED…

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