During my Passover holiday break from work, my mom and I spent 5 days adventuring around northern Israel and hanging out on the kibbutz. Harpatka’ah means adventure in Hebrew, but you try saying it five times fast and the adventure will be over by the time you spit it out.
We left Jerusalem by bus on Tuesday night, headed towards the kibbutz with no preparation or planning other than knowing that we had a car waiting for us to borrow for our 2-day road trip up north. Things already started to get suspenseful when first my uncle, then a cousin wouldn’t be able to pick us up from the junction where the bus would drop us, still a 10-15 minute drive from the kibbutz. It’s rural, what can I say. Anyhow luckily my family is large and they all adore my mom, so we were able to avert that disaster by finding another of the numerous cousins who would be able to come. We arrived at the the kibbutz finally and without incident. Everything was exactly as before – the quiet, the smells and the loving welcome we received from the couple I stayed with when I first got to Israel over a year ago.
The cousin who picked us up from the bus also lent us a road map and gave us instructions for how to get to Tzfat (Safed, as it is called in English-language media) and the other places we wanted to visit. So armed with those, we set out first thing Wednesday morning after showering, getting our things together, and having a coffee with the woman we were staying with, who is one of my mom’s best friends and like an aunt/grandmother to me. And stopping at my grandfather’s grave, just to say hi. And putting gas in the car and running into the supermarket for a couple essentials. First thing. We were off.
Sort of. There were bucketwads of traffic, near accidents observed and experienced, and more time on winding country roads than I ever knew I needed or wanted.
Over the hills and through the woods, round the mountain and up into the north we went. We finally arrived in Tzfat at some point in the afternoon (after leaving first thing and having been promised a nice, easy drive, remember), ravenous because there had been no place to stop besides a McDonald’s every so often, and I will never be that desperate. Tzfat was like a Jewish Desperado – totally empty and deserted. The Old City there is absolutely picturesque, truly ancient and sitting on a mountain so you see into the green valleys surrounding the city on all sides. But empty like my tummy isn’t ideal. We saw a woman selling finger puppets, who told us that we came at the worst time of the year: all the Tzfat residents leave during this particular holiday (except for the superreligious ones, yay), so everything is closed and there is nothing but the superreligious and a few [foolish] tourists. Us.
Luckily we are good Israelis so we didn’t listen to her and soldiered on farther into the city. And at Cafe Baghdad (a kosher non-meat restaurant meeting the highest Jewish dietary restrictions) we filled our bellies with a wonderful lunch overlooking a georgeous view – although the fries were a bit soggy. Galleries were open in the Artists’ Quarter, so we wandered around and politely listened to various artists go on and on about their art. We also went to this synagogue that we used to always visit when I was little with my grandfather, who would sit and visit with old and new friends and tell stories.
Finally we left, to find the house of some friends of my mom, in a remote spiritual community off a country road off a country road. After a few wrong turns and corrective u-turns in the dark we arrived. It was all black so I could only assume it was beautiful. You know how spiritual people like beautiful places. The house was beautiful, and the people were nice. If, a bit, you know… spiritual. ish.
Anyhow the next morning we saw that it really was an amazing place. And very spiritual. We left midday, and my mom – being the smart lady that she is – suggested that we stop for lunch. We ended up at a felafel- and shwarma- place in an Arab village, eating delicious food while not knowing if it was better to be speaking English or Hebrew. I solved the problem by keeping my mouth full. After that we made it to Acco, an old, old port city north of Haifa. We went to their Old City, had some Arabic coffee, and walked out to the water and sat on the rocks overlooking the sea.
Finally it was time to get back to the kibbutz, so we hit the road.
The next day, Friday, the family had a memorial service for my grandfather – he died three years ago. He was an amazing man, and really the only one, it seems, who can get the whole family together. We all love him and look up to him, and it felt good to be together, saying the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead and drinking vodka like the good Russians we are. Even the kids (including babies) were offered. You know, to start training them properly.
We stayed on the kibbutz another few days, eating pounds and pounds of fresh avocados and lemons and fruits and veggies straight from the fields, with bread (even though you’re not supposed to during Passover, so like good kibbutznikim that’s exactly what we did). And visiting with family and etc. And watching TV – I don’t have one, so I had to get a fix.
It was a great vacation, full of action and adventure and rest and relaxation and family and friends and all that stuff. It was wonderful. I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow.