When I have people staying in my guestroom on Shabbat I like to invite them for a Shabbat meal. I usually have guests on Saturday, for lunch, and this Shabbat, once again, we were able to invite the family that was staying in my guestroom to join us. It doesn't always work -- sometimes I just don't feel up to hosting and sometimes the other people who are schedule to come don't mesh with visitors, but over the past few months we've been able to host several times and I'm usually happy at the outcome. (one notable exception -- two young women from Australia who were quite left-wing in their view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict ...they clashed with my right-wing guests and the meal ended tensely. I actually don't blame them, since they were simply expressing their opinions. But it wasn't pleasant to have the clash of personalities and strongly-held beliefs shattering the Shabbat peace).
There are always people with stories -- one memorable visit occured a few months ago when a mother and daughter came from Poland. I had assumed that they were Jewish, judging by the daughter's response when I told her about Shabbat in Tzfat, but when they arrived, it turned out that they were not Jewish. Or so we thought. During our lunch they told us that, in the mother's family, there were many indications that she was, quite possibly, the child of Polish survivors who hid their Judaism after the war. Looking back on her childhood -- no extended family, no observance of Catholicism, a vague memory of hearing villagers tell her mother, in 1968, that she shouldn't worry because "if it gets bad again, we'll hide you again"..... I believe that they're continuing their research and I'd love to hear the outcome if and when they finally determine their ancestry.
Last week we hosted a young Jewish couple. The wife was originally from Cuba (!) and the couple met in China where they had each gone to study Chinese. Today the couple is religious (kudos to Chabad in Beijing) but neither had much Jewish background beforehand and, to hear their story, you'd have to be a fool not to believe in miracles.
Another memorable Shabbat involved a Dutch couple with two girls. The family had found themselves in Tzfat on Friday afternoon and got to talking to a waitress at a local restaurant. Somehow the conversation moved to their "spiritual" search, especially revolving around the fact that they had never married (I guess that that's not unusual in Europe these days). Both partners were Jewish and the waitress called me to see if they could stay in my guestroom. She also arranged for them to have Friday night dinner with another local family and they had lunch with us. Within days the local community had arranged for them to have a "chuppah" (wedding ceremony) in the courtyard of the Ari Sepharadi synagogue --different community members volunteered to lead the service, cook the wedding dinner, take photos, etc. The girls quickly made friends with other English-speaking girls and the event was an amazing experience.
This Shabbat I had a family of "holy goyalach" staying in my guestroom. Neighbors invited them for Friday night dinner and we hosted them for Saturday lunch. The son is a historian and is very knowledgeable about many aspects of Jewish (and other) history. He specializes in alchemy (!) and was actually in Israel for a conference on the subject. The mother is a psychotherapist and the stepfather is a systems specialist. Again, they added so much to our Shabbat table and I enjoyed myself thoroughly (it's also nice to have people say nice things about your cooking!).
My guestroom is a source of income for me, but it's also become a source of friendships and wonderful experiences. Looking forward to more hosting adventures.