Over the years I've had the pleasure of hosting some amazing people for Shabbat meals. Some of them are simply pleasant and enjoyable to have at my Shabbat table but others have fascinating stories. When I host, I can end up with a table of people with some very unusual "
"journeys." (my son calls them my "alternative friends").
There are weeks when I think "oh, not this week.....I'm too tired/I don't feel like cooking/I'm just going to curl up with a good book or do my jigsaw puzzle this week." (That usually happens when I have a puzzle or a good book on my shelf). And then, slowly, one person calls, and then another, and then I start doing some calling and meet people on the street and start inviting and before I know it, i'm preparing for a large group.
The "usuals" -- friends and neighbors -- have stories of their own but we have been living in this town for many years and pretty much know each other. Frequently I have outside guests -- either they're directed to call me or I meet them somewhere or they're guests who are staying in my guestroom. Shabbat lunch is a chance for me to get to know the people who are sleeping downstairs.
That happened this Shabbat -- my tzimmer guests, a Peruvian couple, joined a bunch of "locals" for a Shabbat lunch. Turns out that the wife (when I took the booking, I thought that they were a non-Jewish couple that was interested in Kabbalah) comes from a German Jewish family (mother's side) and when her mother came to Peru she just figured that since she was in a Catholic country, they'd be Catholic (well, not Jewish at any rate).
It reminded me of another pair of guests who visited a few years ago. A Polish mother and daughter, also not Jewish (or so I thought). During the meal the daughter told us their story -- the mother was raised by the grandmother in a small town in Nortnern Poland. They didn't hold to any religion and didn't have any family. The mother remembered that, in the '60s when there was a lot of anti-semitism in Poland, neighbors told the grandmother "don't worry -- if anything happens, we'll hide you again."
Another guest, from this summer, was a lady from Puerto Rico who is in the process of conversion. Her family's history is almost certainly Marrano, from Spain to Puerto Rico where remnants of their Judaism had to be hid for centuries. Now this woman is exploring her return.
I've always said that I want to write a book about what happens in Tzfat. Maybe collecting these stories will be what I do when I retire......
Considering a move or even a vacation to Israel? If you have time spent lounging on a beach on your mind or you prefer to hang out in the city or even find some quiet space in a suburban area, Israel is an ideal location, and one that has always been popular, for expats and tourists to head to when they have a little time off or want to relocate to a new and exciting country. The safest places to stay may be important to know, especially if you have never travelled to Israel before. If you must travel to some of the riskier areas, be sure to have proper security detail with you if possible to help ensure safety. Whether you want to enjoy a quaint mountain hike, visits to local synagogues or checking out local artwork and other things to do, here are a few of the safest, and most popular areas for tourists as well as those who already live in Israel.
Of course, we’ll mention Safed, also known in Hebrew as Tzfat, as it is considered one of the safest, as well as beautiful cities in all of Israel to visit or live in. Located in Northern Israel, Safed receives many thousands of visitors every year who want to take in the glorious mountain scenes, visit the synagogues and spend quiet days exploring the small towns alleyways and city streets where artwork is displayed and dining in small cafes with friends or family is easily done. The primary population is mostly Jewish, and more than half of the 32,000 residents are aged 29 and younger.
This small town boasts two distinct areas that visitors like to visit. The Old Jewish Quarter where historical synagogues can be explored and the Artists Quarter where once there was a large bohemian art group but today, you can find small galleries and brilliant displays of local art. The city offers religious, artistic and cultural attractions as well as festivals, local tours and nice accommodations that draw many people to plan extended visits or even look for homes to rent when relocating to Israel.
Safed is a safe area where residents and visitors feel safe while walking along the towns streets and taking hikes through the local mountainous area.
Situated on the Mediterranean coast, this busy city has long been one of the more popular destinations for fun enthusiasts as they visit Israel. As one of the largest English speaking areas in the country, Tel Aviv is a great place, as well as safe, to plan a vacation when considering a trip to Israel. The beach is of course one of the most popular attractions, but this great city has much, much more to offer residents as well as those who just happen to wander in for a short stay.
No matter what kind of music you enjoy, it isn’t difficult to find a concert venue to check out in Tel Aviv. You can also enjoy plenty of shopping, great places to dine out and even parties and meetups to gather with like-minded people who enjoy the same things you do. Meetups in Tel Aviv range from technology geeks to fitness buffs and many other topics of interest. You can also find a wide array of shopping venues from budget shops to high end, upscale boutiques and many other places to shop for virtually any item you may be in search of ranging from shoes and handbags to clothing, electronics and more.
Tel Aviv is safe for tourists and is a great place to rent a bicycle or take a walking tour of the city to see the sights a little closer than you would in a car or a taxi.
Known to locals as the Beverly Hills of Israel, Savyon is home to just under 4000 residents and is a city where luxury living is plentiful. Whether you enjoy quiet evenings spent in the hotel relaxing to soft music while enjoying a delicious meal, or you prefer to visit local museums, parks or even forest areas where hiking is always a great way to have fun, Savyon has so much to offer.
You will find several locations where live music is played in the evenings, or where you can catch a good theatre show or even take part in a local festival. Home to some of the wealthiest people in Israel, you can find beautiful homes for sale or even luxury villas for rent within the city. While the area is safe for those who live in Savyon as well as tourists, you will see some of the most sophisticated security gates and other security measures to keep the luxury homes safe from crime.
Things to Take Heed Of
While many areas of Israel are safe and pleasant for residents as well as those who visit the country, there are also areas that are deemed unsafe and that should be avoided when possible. These areas include cities that border Lebanon as this area has been known to have a heavy military presence and has had many conflicts over the years. It is not considered an area safe for travel or tourism.
Terrorist groups have been known to frequent the border between Israel and Egypt as well as Israel and Syria since war has been ongoing in recent years. Kidnappings, bombings and shootings have been reported near both borders and these are not safe areas of the country to visit.
When you avoid the unsafe areas, you will find that your time in Israel can be happy and free. Many people love this country and the residents who reside within and Israel is an ideal place to visit when you have time for a vacation or an extended break to check out the beauty of the world around you.
Yesterday at 2am on the main Jerusalem-TelAviv highway a couple on the way home from their wedding got stuck. The other cars in the traffic jam decided to celebrate! https://www.facebook.com/dancetolife/videos/10155831715109812/
Every morning, first thing, I switch on the computer and do check of the news. Rockets overnight? Soldiers hurt or worse? Secretary of State Kerry said anything else as ridiculous as his previous comments? Obama? Well, we lived through Kissinger and Nixon, so I guess that we'll live through this pair.
That's one thing about being Jewish -- you always know that it could be worse.
I should be getting more work done but I spend so much time jumping from my FB feed to the news stations that I'm falling behind. One of the most frustrating things is the amount of commentaries that appear on my screen, with introductory messages from friends that say things like "if you only read one thing about the conflict, read this" or "not to be missed" or the lure "you won't believe what _______ said/did/showed." I try to ignore most of them, just for my sanity, but I do get drawn in, way too much."
So here are my thoughts. Bear with me.
Hamas had dozens of tunnels that they'd dug well into Israeli territory, some of them right under Israeli kibbutzim and other border communities.
According to Israeli intelligence, Hamas planned to send thousands of their operatives into these tunnels on Rosh Hashana, to break into the communities and slaughter the residents as well as to take many of them hostage back into Gaza. Not only that, but we now know that Hamas has Israeli uniforms -- if they would have come through in uniform, it would have been unimaginable chaos.
Rosh Hashana is 2 months away. If Hamas has just sat tight for another 2 months, they would have gotten away with this massive attack. Israel evidently had no idea, and the army would have been ill-equipped to deal with the attack when it took place. So all they had to do was to wait quietly and -- 9/11 would have paled in comparison.
But in June three young boys were kidnapped by Hamas operatives in the West Bank. Israel clamped down on Hamas in the West Bank which encouraged Hamas in the Gaza Strip to start firing rockets. The ceaseless rocket firings caused Israel to enter Gaza, locate the tunnels and learn about the planned attack.
The kidnapping and murder of the three boys was terrible, but perhaps there was a different Plan from above. Perhaps, by sacrificing their lives, they saved the lives of thousands of Israelis.
If I hear another person talk about luck, in relation to the fact that over 800 rockets have fallen on Israel and, so far, only one person has died, I'm going to seriously question their sanity. How do you ignore so many miracles?
Zahals spokes man reported that to day at 4:30 am, a tunnel with 13 terrorists was was found just before they entered a Jewish Kibutz (Sufa). If Their plans would have been successful we would have woken up to a day of a massacre like we have not seen in years.
A rocket fell in a gas station with 35.000 liters of gasoline, which haven't exploded.
We wanted to cut them off from electricity, but the world stood up gaginst it, so Hashem had cut off 50.000 houses form electricity by their own rocket.
Kids were playing in a football court , and a rocket fell right there right after they left.
not far from there another rocket fell by a gas balloon and didn't explode.
A rocket fell in a kitchen right before the family went in. nothing happened.
the girls went out and a rocket fell in their room right after they left.
A rocket fell on a balcony of a family and did not explode.
A rocket "missed" a child by a split second.
A rocket fell on a pediatric clinic on the one day of the week when the dr. didn't see patients
A rocket fell on a high way full of cars - No One got hurt................
After a week of ceaseless rocket attacks on our population centers, the ground forces have been sent into Gaza. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight.
I'm full of worry for our soldiers and the civilians who are living in such terror. I feel horrible for the Gaza citizens, the innocent ones who never did anything except try to feed their families and live under Hamas. Yet Israel has no choice.
I'm bewildered and aghast at the people who blame Israel for this situation and feel that our government should ignore the people who are trying to destroy our country and refrain from responding to the rocket fire.
Most of all however, I can't help being grateful that I live in a place in which we have an army to defend us, a government that protects us and an entire infrastructure that will do everything possible to keep us safe and secure.
I can't help but contrast our situation today with that of the Jews of Europe whose governments, armies and neighbors turned on them. As difficult as things are now, it can't even begin to compare with the terror that the Jews lived and died under. No one helped them with psychological help when they were terrorized, no one saw to their wounds, no one ensured that they would be compensated for damaged property.....
My daughter rolls her eyes when, after every fast, I mention that fast days remind me of the people who didn't have anything to eat after the fast. So I don't share these thoughts with anyone. But whatever happens, at least I live in my country that protects and defends
It's kind of how I feel -- on the edge. (Coincidently, the military operation is called "Defensive Edge.I live in Israel, but in a quiet area, where the Hamas rockets haven't yet reached.
It's surreal, cooking for Shabbat, and listening to the radio announcer break into the broadcast every few minutes to say "there's a siren in .......". Since I started cooking at 11:00a.m. I've heard announcements of dozens of alerts, all over the south and center of the country. I can hardly concentrate, so I can only wonder how the people who are in the midst of the situation are managing. I remember the drill from 2006, when the north was under rocket fire -- you try to concentrate, but can't.
Not much that I can do from here except to keep the people of the south in my thoughts and prayers. I did accept a last-minute group of 8 girls for Shabbat dinner, so I feel as though I did something. (Of course, that involved a revised cooking schedule, but we should be OK.)
Vegan Shabbat dinner:
vegetable rolls (in pastry dough)
rice with pesto
sweet potato kugel
Interesting Shabbat lunch. We had a local family of new immigrants join us -- their story would make a good book. (The father, originally from LA, lived all over the Far East for many years and has a daughter with an Indian woman who left when the girl was very young. The father met a Philippina woman online and went to live in the Philippines . They married and had 2 children and lived on a small island. They became more religiously observant via the local Chabad and right after the typhoon, they made aliyah. There's actually much more to the story than that, but suffice it to say that they are always interesting guests!) There was also an engaged couple -- the woman did Livnot many years ago and we were friendly then.....her fiance is a lovely guy and I appreciate his easy-going nature. We had 3 guests from Livnot who are in Tzfat for various periods of time and a neighbor who lives in the apartment below my house.
The "excitement" started when I asked the Livnoters to share any "Words of Wisdom" that they may have prepared at Livnot (it's kind of Livnot's answer to a Dvar Torah.....inspirational thoughts, but not necessarily related to the week's Portion of the Torah).
The young man shared his Words of Wisdom -- basically that, because of the high possibility that a gay Orthodox youth may attempt suicide (as born out by statistics), the mitzvah of preserving a life overrides the prohibition against homosexual behavior and the Orthodox community should adopt a more open and welcoming stance towards gays.
What a can of worms! Our neighbor kept insisting that, "the Torah says....." about the prohibition against homosexual activity while the rest of us tried to emphasize "live and let live."
Glad that I had a glass of wine in my stomach so that I could stay relatively mellow. Never boring a
My birthday was in March but I had promised to treat myself to a massage for my birthday so, here we are, 3 months later, and I finally did it. The whole process of gearing up to treat myself took a bit of doing but I booked an hour massage for myself with my neighbor this morning. What a treat! You just lay back and let her pamper you. Definitely my kind of a morning.
Before my massage I headed to a new bakery in the Old City, the Artisan Bakery. Bought a few fermented-dough rolls. It's so nice to see new and creative businesses (as opposed to the endless shoe shops, falaffel stands and pizza places that open here on a regular basis) opening up here. The rolls were incredible and i'll definitely be visiting the bakery again soon.
My final stop was at the local fruit and vegetable shop. Even though it was relatively early there were still some other customers there. The shop, more than any other place in Tzfat, reminds me of what a unique town this is.
First of all, standing almost shoulder to shoulder at the check-out counter were a Hassidic man and a woman who was wearing a sleeveless, low-cut top and tight pants. True, he didn't exactly look at her, but he didn't make any rude remarks either.
Then, a few seconds after a customer left, someone noticed that a bill (didn't see how much) had dropped out of his pocket to the floor. The finder gave the money to the check-out guy who ran out of the store after the customer who had dropped the money.
I, in the meantime, was picking out my produce. Since there's almost no place to stack your purchases while you're shopping, and since there's no room to wheel a shopping cart around the store, I just plop my purchases in my little push-cart as I'm doing my shopping. Then, when my turn comes at the counter, I pull my bags out of the cart and the counter guy weighs them before I put them back in my trolley for the trip home. The counter-guy never checks to see whether I've paid for everything that I put in my trolley while I was shopping...it would never occur to him that I'd take something without paying.
Same thing happens every week at the shuk (open-air market) -- with 20 people all filling up their bags at once, the stall owners have no way of monitoring who's paying and who isn't, but everyone proceeds on faith and trust. Customers who fill up their bags with produce far away from where the stall owner is standing with his scale bring everything to him to pay. They will certainly attempt to bargain, but not pay? I can't say that it never happens, but 99.9% of the transactions are based on trust, and it works.
Laurie has lived in Safed for almost 30 years. She's the mother of five kids, all of whom were born and raised in Safed.