Friday, June 19, 2009

Sun Sets on Another Week

        I currently find myself in a town that escapes description but begs to be experienced, every back alley way, every person, every shop and artistic community begging to be explored.  The town is called Tzfat.  It's a quaint semi-magical (that's an understatement) town where almost everything is made of limestone.  The people operate on a different level of consciousness, quite blatantly and unabashedly.  There is no rush, there is no hurry, anyone will stop and talk and deep spirituality is at the core of almost everything here.  We've met with potters, kabbalists artists, painters, Middle Eastern scholars, Arab Israelis and we've listened.  Every day is filled with so much information, so much sensory stimulation, so much to think about that Shabbat could not come soon enough.  The town is now completely silent as Shabbat is only hours away.  All the shops closed hours ago, people wishing one another a good Shabbos, and a calm peace has swept over the entire town.  I'm sitting on the balcony of an ancient building looking over the slopes of the Galilee, watching the sun draw nearer to the hills and I can't help but think how much "better" this feels than the alternative.  The rush, the distraction, the plans and expectations.  People here are fully here.  Many have left their homes in America and other parts of the world to live on this holy ground.  They speak with deep sincerity, listen with honest interest, and live with a highly cultivated sense of self awareness.  As I said when I started writing this... this place escape description, but begs to be experienced.
      I will leave Tzfat on Sunday, but only temporarily.  I have two friends that I have made on this Livnot trip that are going to Egypt with me.  We head to Tel Aviv on Sunday, get our visas for Egypt, and head down to Cairo, Giza and the Nile Valley for two weeks.  From there I am tentatively planning on doing some camping in a few Bedouin villages in Sinai, climbing Mount Sinai, and then meeting another friend I made on this trip, a commander in the Israeli army in Ber' Sheeba for a few days.  I have no idea what will follow that, but I plan to come back to Tzfat and work with Livnot, the community organization that brought me here, to do some work.  The excavate old ruins, teach english to kids, and many other community building programs.  The people are so inspiring, so steady in their pursuits that I'm sure it can only be a positive thing to spend more time here.  
      A brief summary of other things I've done, since internet has been a bit elusive.  We've hiked Masada (Herod's famous desert palace where the Jews had their last stand with the Romans), we've swam the Dead Sea, which is such a bizarre place, reeking of sulfur we bathed in mud and floated in minerals, we hiked Gamla, a historic Jewish village that was destroyed in 67 CE by the Romans in defense of Jerusalem, we hiked the Golan Heights swimming in fresh water springs and pools, we spent two days in the desert where I was one of the few who caught a violent stomach bug and spent the better part of a night getting painfully sick, we went to several Arab Israeli villages with a Middle East educator promoting co-existence and all the while learning so much history, music, dance, and general spirituality that I now find myself slightly exhausted and reeling from two weeks that have been like none other.  
     So this is the update.  I apologize that it doesn't read so light and humorous, but intensity is a bit more prominent at the moment as we reflect on the last two weeks.  I'm looking forward to this Shabbat in Tzfat and then on to Egypt.  Until then....

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