Friday, July 13 – The Holy City of Tzfat and the Glorious Ruins of Beit Shaan

Mornings are beautiful on the banks of the Kinneret. Of course, 4:30 AM doesn’t really count as morning.

Maital screamed.

Jen pulled her into bed to nurse.

Quiet for a few minutes.

Maital being antsy.

Maital kicking me.

Maital starting to talk.

Maital pulling my hair.

I’m getting up . . .

pulling on sweats . . .

putting Maital in the stroller . . .

taking her outside.

Gifts from God come in many different forms, and at many different times. I would not have chosen to be awake so early, and certainly not to get out of the most comfortable bed I have slept in for weeks, but what a glorious sunrise over the Kinneret.

I sat on a deck overlooking the swimming pool and the Kinneret, and watched that amazing fireball of sunlight rise above the hills to the east. Stunning. Staggering. Awe-inspiring.

Oh yeah, in her stroller, Maital fell right back to sleep, but it was so gorgeous I couldn’t bring myself to go back inside for hours (literally). I sat there soaking it in with my eyes, and catching up on my written journal (upon which these webpages are based).

Finally, I went back in, found Jen and the kids awake, cleaned-up, and went downstairs to a wonderful Israeli breakfast. Aaaaahhhhh, now that’s the way to start the day!

We got an early start for a full day. Our guide, Ossi, was an amazing guide and a beautiful fellow. He was born in a concentration camp (1943) and smuggled out, where he lived in Romania for a year, and then came to Israel with his brother as an infant. It wasn’t until about 6 years later that his mother, who had also made aliyah after surviving the Shoah, found him.

He has lived on Kibbutz his whole life.

Had he not been our guide, we would have invited him to join us as a new friend.

We began the day by driving to Tsfat. The air is different in Tsfat. In Jerusalem, the air is permeated with a sense of Jewish history and God’s presence and majesty. In Tsfat, the air is permeated with a sense of the mystical, the unknowable, the desire, the beautiful. Every breath is a gift.

We made all the normal stops – the Ari-zal’s (Rabbi Isaac Luria) synagogue, Karo’s synagogues, views of Mount Meron, the famous synagogue, artists’ shops and the famous candle factory!

It became very clear to me, as Ossi led us around the crowded streets, that this was a tour guide’s tour as opposed to an historian’s tour. The stories he told, the explanations he gave, fascinating, engaging, entertaining but not all historically correct. I decided early on to hold my tongue – more important that everybody should have a wonderful day than they should have the correct information. And it was a wonderful day.

Ossi had intended for us to spend about an hour in Tsfat, we spent close to three. Being in such a cool place makes it difficult to keep to a schedule.

By the time we justify Tsfat, it was time for lunch. We drove back down to the Kinneret and had lunch overlooking the Kinneret, and then let the kids dip their feet in the Kinneret.

When traveling with children it is not possible to see or do nearly as much as with a group of only adults. But when it all works right, the infectious joy of engaged and excited children exponentially increases the thrill of being in these amazing places. Sometimes less is a whole lot more!

Reorganizing our schedule because it was already moving into the afternoon and we needed to return to Jerusalem for Shabbat, we decided to make one more stop – Beit Shaan.

Beit Shaan is my favorite archeological site in the world. I am amazed at how many groups do not make it to see the ancient city. My family was impressed by what they saw at Caesarea on Thursday. I told them: Wait until Beit Shaan.

And nobody was disappointed.

The ancient theater at Beit Shaan, besides being very cool, has the most incredible acoustics. A person can stand anywhere on the large stage, face any direction, and whisper, and be heard clearly anywhere in the theater! As opposed to our Sanctuary where a person on the Bimah can’t be heard in the third row, and the Social Hall where a person can’t hear the person sitting across the table!

We rushed our time through Beit Shaan, and it was hot, but it was still amazing. To walk down the colonnaded boulevard, through the bath house, to see the mosaics – a joyous hour.

And that still justify us just enough time to get ice cream before needing to head back to Jerusalem.

By the time we arrived in Jerusalem, about an hour before Shabbat, it was sad to say goodbye to Ossi! He invited us to visit him on the Kibbutz so our kids could play with his grandkids!

In the apartment, light candles, quick dinner, kids to bed, and, exhausted, the grown-ups sat down to a quiet evening of schmoozing and laughing.

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