Tzfat: Chapter 2

Thursday (December 9) morning I arose at the wonderful time of 6:15 a.m. I love the mornings here when the sun has just risen, the air is crisp and cool, and the coloring in the sky and of the mountains is stunning. I would love to be able to have my morning coffee and read the newspaper here every morning.

Yesterday was our second day of participating in community service. We made our way
to the top of the city and into the Citadel, a park that is in the middle of being built and is hoped to one day be one of the most beautiful parks in the world. It was our job to help re-build stonewalls there. The labor was physical, and the ants attacked, but in the end I was able to look at a wall that I, along with only a few others, helped build. Whenever I come to Israel I can now go to that wall and see tangible evidence of work I’ve done.

Afterwards we walked back to the Livnot campus and had a delicious lunch of soup, toast, and vegetable cous-cous. Then we had some free time where I was able to relax and read my book – The Glass House by Jeannette Walls. I recently finished it and highly recommend it. It’s a memoir written by a woman who grew up poor and made her way to success, very intense but it’s one of those books you cannot put down.

The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast and watched the news. The mornings hot
topic was on the Israel/Palestine relationship and U.S. involvement in it. It was very
interesting to watch from the Israeli view, and I have found a similar pattern since being
here – Israeli’s are not overly supportive of President Barack Obama. I don’t want to
delve too much into politics though. At one point the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem
Post was interviewed and asked his opinion and insight on the matter. He was someone
who spoke with us during one of our education days in Jerusalem so we all got excited tosee him on the ‘big screen.’

Last night and into this morning I cooked, braided, and baked challah for the first time.
I learned that cooking challah is one of the holiest acts one is given. Before you start
making it you are to release the tension from the past week, realize that Shabbat and
relaxation are on its way, and pray to G-d for anything you may want. While you are
making it, and especially while kneading the dough, you are to have loving thoughts and
continue to pray if you desire to. I felt honored to partake in the activity and I have never cooked something that I felt was made with 100% love. I hope I can continue to bake it and one day all of you can have some Lauren-love-filled challah. Holla!

The next day we set the room up to braid the challah after the dough had risen from the night before. We were given different things we could put inside our personal challah and I made two. One had raisins inside it (my favorite) with some cinnamon and strawberry seeds sprinkled on top. The other I made with Jen. We put some coffee grinds, chocolate powder, and cinnamon on it and rolled it so it looked like a cinnamon bun. Delicious!

After we made our way into town to meet two Tzfat artists. The first was a potter and
we walked into his studio where he makes gorgeous dishes, sinks, mugs, tea kettles, and other beautiful pieces of art. He spoke with us about his life, his work, and was just very inspiring. He stressed the importance of not being afraid of failure, how we naturally would be frustrated and disappointed if we were creating a bowl and had accidentally cracked it. But when this happens to him he takes those moments and learns his lessons from it. One thing that particularly resonated with me was when he said, (this is from memory, not a direct quote, but my best attempt) “If you live in the present you’ll have a perfect balance and everything will eventually fall into place.” He also spoke of an inner quiet and peace which is something I’d like to strive to one day get to.

The second artist we met with is a very hippie-styled, Kabbalah-spirited man from
Detroit who moved to Israel, and specifically Tzfat, about fifteen years ago. He was very
into the yoga-meditation world and was trying to figure out where he fit in it. Thinking
he was going to soon be headed to India, a friend of his gave him the book “Jewish
Meditation” to read by Aryel Kaphan and it changed his life. He read another book
by the same author, and said soon after he found himself living in Israel meditating in
a Jewish manner. His artwork was canvas paintings and had symbols and geometric
signs with much meaning behind them. Equally just as beautiful but he wasn’t quite as
inspiring.

Ariel, Jen, and I then walked around and had a delicious lunch at a natural foods
vegetarian café. It was such a cute place, the inside of it was literally the women’s
kitchen. She is from England and kept calling us darling. This past Shabbat we were sent to people’s home for lunch. When Jen and I arrived I looked at our guests and realized this British woman was also eating there because her husband was in Jerusalem for the weekend so she came to her friends. Another funny story, the home we were in was of a Kaballah artist. Jen has had a painting hanging in her living room her whole life, never knowing where it was from. After the meal we walked into his gallery, and that original painting was hanging up, he was the artist!!! Such a fun, small world we live in!

I just love Tzfat more and more every day. I feel that Jerusalem gets all the attention shone on it for being the ‘holiest place in the world’ and Tzfat was somehow lost. But I love that it was lost. Here I feel more spiritual, rejuvenated, and open than I have anywhere else in the world. I think I have officially found my gem.

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