I have officially moved out of Ashkelon and am now a two week program in Tzfat. Just like the word Hannukah, there are many ways to spell Tzfat in English [Tsfat, Safed, Zafed]. But however you choose to spell it there is one thing about Tzfat there is certain. It is such a beautiful and unique city. It is artsy, ancient, religious, earth-friendly, and just incredibly inspiring.
After a 3.5 hour bus ride from Ashkelon, thirteen of us Otzmanikim arrived in Tzfat. We were greeted by our madrichim and show our way to the Livnot campus. After introductions we were shown our rooms which are close to 700 years old! They have been restored many times, but have still maintained that ancient feel. Inside there is stone, stained glass windows, and complete gorgeousness.
After we settled in we were given a tour of the city that Madonna has a home in. At the end of the tour we walked to the highest point in the Golan to watch the sun set. It was so beautiful. It had made the sky such a bright, deep red, but unfortunately the reason for this is due to the recent fires. Since I am now in the northern part of the country I can see the direct effects. We were told that part of our volunteer work will be traveling to Haifa and doing what we can to help. I am so happy and fortunate to be able to help.
We ended the evening with candle lighting and song singing for Channukah and then a tasty dinner. All of our meals here are a communal effort. Every day two people sign up to cook and then everyone else chips in and sets the table and does the dishes. During cooking there is always an iPod playing some great musical jams, and if people are waiting for dinner they’re hanging out, drinking tea, and maybe playing some card games. Things can get competitive with so many rummy-500 know-it-all’s here.
Monday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and saw that it had RAINED! There was even a rainbow to prove it.
Soon we went on our first hike. At the beginning of the hike it was still raining. Although I hadn’t really dressed appropriately I didn’t care. It was raining! And it was cold! And some leaves were orange, brown, and red! And I was pretty sure that I was in heaven! During the hike we saw beautiful scenery, a dried-well, and those heart-shaped leaves that I love so much. I also got to taste a raw olive and the fruit of a cactus for the first time. At one point we took a break and our madreecha made some coffee. At that point I knew I was most certainly in heaven.
At the end we ate a picnic-style lunch and made our way back to the Livnot campus. We had some time to rest and shower and then we had a little “getting to know Tzfat and its people” activity. Afterwards we had another wonderful evening of celebrating Chanukkah and cooking and eating dinner. It is so nice to be able to celebrate Channukah here singing and dancing with people who have come to feel like my family. It’s unlike any other time I’ve ever celebrated the holiday and I can not wait to bring the new tradition home.
Tuesday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and then made our way to an olive grove. Our goal for the day was to pick half a ton of olives so that later we could bring them to the olive oil factory to have them pressed. A half a ton is equal to 500 pounds, we unfortunately we were only able to pick 35 kilos [77 pounds]. Oh well, it was still a lot of fun. Midway we took a break to have a snack and drink some coffee or tea. The coffee has been delicious, our madreecha soaks it in a cardemay spice. This is also the same spice used in chai tea, and let me tell you it adds so much flavor.
After some olive picking we went back for some lunch and then we split up into small groups and had a “My Judaism” discussion. After that we took a 40 minute (it ended up being a little bit longer due to us getting lost) bus ride to an olive oil factory. During olive season [from August – December] the men in the factory work long hours pressing olives and making olive oil. Because of the drought season they have been literally working around the clock. But since it had rained the day before [yay!] the man who showed us around had the day off from working because you can’t pick olives when it rains.
While there we learned some cool and interesting facts. One that may be helpful for you is that you should always try to buy the foggier colored olive oil because that means it is the newest. The longer the olive oil sits on the shelf, the worst off it is for you. You’d think that it’d be more like wine because they both come from olives but this is just not the case.
After we were given the grand tour we made our way back to the Livnot campus. We sang some Chanukah songs, ate a delicious dinner, and hung out. There are a few other Livnot volunteers here from the U.S. and it has been so nice meeting other people, plus they’re all great and interesting which is always nice.
There is so much to write about, I know I can’t possibly fit it all. Unfortunately free time is limited here, and I also don’t have a computer. But I hope you can enjoy these still. I also want to note that I am using my lovely friend Whitney’s computer and her pictures as well. If you want to read up on another persons viewpoint of this Livnot adventure and see more pictures you can go to her blog