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Day 4

Thursday, 12 January, 2012 - 6:59 pm

 Farewell Tiberias, the memories you gave us in the North were unforgettable, but Mayanot 389 is moving on and packing up. The early wake up call, due to the classic Tiberias Marathon left a looming feeling of a tiring and long day. As soon as we reached the city of Tzfat, that feeling disappeared into the mysticism ahead. As we reached the highest city in Israel, we looked out into a fog that induced a sense that we were entering a spiritual sanctuary. Eight brave men decided to experience Mikvah in order to perform a spiritual cleansing of sorts. A cold, naked bath in the mountain was all that we knew was ahead of us. The uncertainty left many behind to see glass blowing, but a few stragglers even decided to take this spiritual journey. We walked down the mountain, with a river of water guiding us down the steps. Coming back up though, we all felt that we had experienced an amazing religious tradition. The same Mikvah had been used by Jews for over 400 years, and will be used for generations to come. Since the majority was still busy, the small group was able to bond over a Yemenite meal well recommended by Mendel. How many people do you know that can recommend a restaurant in Tzfat? Soon enough though, we all reunited, and shared the experiences missed by our counterparts. 

Quickly we scurried past shops containing beautiful artwork in order to learn more about the Kaballah part of Judaism in an ancient synagogue that many of the founders used themselves. Walking in the footsteps of such spiritual Israelis left a feeling of awe in the hearts of the group. We learned to care for those who we do not like first in the choice of helping a friend. We quickly had to meet our guide to the Kaballah, Robert, who hails from the Detroit area. It goes to show you, that spirituality has no boundaries and is what you create of it within yourself. Robert told us of his personal qualms with spirituality at the same point of his life that we are currently at. He was able to embrace his name of Avraham, in order to find out his true self, and encouraged us to seek explanation of our lives by something as simple as a name. He was truly AWESOMEEEEEE.  Avraham continued the theme of passion in Israel for whatever it may be that the citizens truly love. He couldn’t get over how his life changed by coming to the spiritual center of Kaballah. Many purchased his artwork because of this fact, finding even in the brief time that we spent with him that we all have much more to learn about ourselves and this world. From there we went to a second synagogue where a few of us were able to experience Tefillin for the first time. Putting on the Tefillin and praying allowed us to connect the mind and heart to Judaism further than ever practiced in the states. 

We then were able to view the unmatched artwork and creations that Tzfat contains. We all went to a candle store, where the locals crafted incredible candles whether for scent, holidays or for simple aesthetic beauty.  I’m sure many reading will be able to see these treasures personally once we return home. Set free on the town after many enjoyed lunch were we were able to become closer with the group and able to delve ourselves into the unique foods of Israel. We had time to explore the city as far as our feet could take us. Looking beyond the city towards the mountains, through a thick fog and rain made some become blanketed in the richness that Tzfat holds. I had felt as if we had entered an entire different spiritual world that we were enclosed in by the landscape beyond. 

A quick bus ride up the mountain a bit further allowed us to find a small center where we learned of traditional scroll writing. Our minds were taken to the test by a short trivia competition, with the winner earning their Hebrew name written by a scribe. An appreciation for those who go through the process of being a scribe was gained as we struggled through writing Hebrew ourselves with only a quill, ink, and parchment. The precision needed to master this craft was surely not learned by our feeble attempts to write our names. As we departed murmurs of the magnificence of the city was heard between all of us on the trip. That is the point we are at now; again, on the bus, wondering what wonders lay ahead of us and holding on to all the memories we are creating in such a short time, in a place that is truly home. 

Besides solely describing the sites seen, the connections being made by all of the students on the trips continue to expand and grow. We continue to learn more about ourselves, each other and our country throughout the four short days that we have spent together. The soldiers who joined us on Taglit Birthright are even becoming more comfortable and open with us Americans and are able to share their views of the land. I catch myself and many others looking out the windows of the bus in between the light hearted chattering. The land itself provides us to reflect on the land and appreciate how much the sanctuary of Israel means to Jewish people all over the world. Whether being from Russia (as many people are on the trip), Uzbekistan, or the United States, all of us on the trip are able to form newfound grasp on the spirituality and beauty in a place that maybe one day, we will call home. 

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