Tsfat – another Jessica but mostly Rachel conglomeration—weekend of April 30-May 2
Shevet left Friday morning (4/30) at 9 in the morning. We were only like 15 (originally about 50, b/c of Marava) kids so they only sent a mini bus (sheirut) for us and no madrich. Dun dun duhhh….would we fight with each other without a watchful eye? No, of course not. We probably behaved better than usual. Rachel had a single seat and Jessica sat with Katie. The whole time people were passed out on top of each other. Rachel started reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns” from Kai, read about 200 pages. It was a 5 hour drive. We stopped once for a bathroom and rest where Jessica and Rachel got Magnum ice creams because it was two for 16 sheks instead of the usual 20 sheks. We then started driving again only to stop for lunch that Boaz had left for us at the previous station. Man, when we are only a couple of kids they treat us extra well. There were sandwiches, pastries, salads, and water bottles. We then drove some more and finally came to Tsfat. The driver didn’t know exactly where to go in Tsfat but we finally ended up at Ascent, the Chabad Hostel in Tsfat that we stayed at during Simchat Torah.
We got our room assignments (2 girls room, one boys room) saw Emma, who was joining us from Jerusalem and looked for Ami, who would be joining us from Bat Yam. Apparently Boaz likes Alex as a Madrich but not as a Shevet Madrich…really we just don’t like him, shhhh! Some of the Shalem girls had come up for the weekend and joined us so that was pretty cool to hang out with them. We put our bags down then Rochel, who was with us during Simchat Torah, took us for a tour to the big cemetery. She did seminary last year in Jerusalem and is now a madricha in Tsfat for a seminary. She talked about some of the Tsadikim that are buried here. We said the 20th Psalm and then went over to Chana’s grave and she told the story of Chana and her 7 sons. Rachel still thinks that Chana’s death is suicide even if the rabbis disagree. Some adults from New York kept asking Rochel for directions to different people’s graves, even for people who weren’t buried there. So we had walked down a big hill and a lot of steps to get to this cemetery—up we went. “Yam L’Yam no big deal, Tsfat is going to kill us though.”
We made it back to Ascent to change and make it to Rabbi Lieter’s talk only a little late. He really dislikes people coming in late, but there was nothing we could do about it. This was our first Lag B’Omer talk of the weekend, so it was still interesting. He told a couple of jokes, and the horse one that only responds to the Shema and Baruch Ha’Shem. Katie hates that joke. This was also our first introduction to a man that would stay with us through out the weekend and beyond—Iris, or Moshe. He asks many questions—interesting, but many questions nonetheless.
The girls then lit Shabbat Candles and then davened Kabbalat Shabbat. It was a nice service. We were split up into different groups to be taken to different Host Families for Shabbat Dinner. Katie and Naomi thought that they were going to go to the family that we all went to last time—that Rachel knows from home but it turns out that it was a different family. Rachel, Jessica, Julia and Emma went to the Freidmans. It was a nice dinner learning about the amazing adventure of how and when they came to Israel. They are a Chabad family. The Rebbe sent them to Tsfat with 10ish other families to rebuild the Jewish Community in Tsfat, 30ish years ago. When they first got here there was no running water or electricity. They were newlyweds with an infant. Now there are many synagogues, yeshivot, seminaries, and families. There is some crazy number of charadim people, tons of kabbalists and artists.
The four of us returned back to Ascent. Katie and Naomi had the key so we went to the Farbregen. We were the only girls till Anna and Masha joined us for a little bit. We were all really tired but they wouldn’t let us leave. Finally Julia left to see if the girls were here yet, but they weren’t so she came back. Iris was there along with many Aish and other boys. Everyone but the girls were pretty intoxicated. Iris kept going on about instead of getting married he got stuck with the rabbi. And how wine makes secrets come out—boy do they! The whole time Rachel was thinking that he is perfect for someone back home. How do I get his information for her? We were finally allowed to leave after much persuasion. The rabbi was disappointed, this was the first Shabbat in a long time that the Farbregen ended before two in the morning, and how a couple of weeks ago he didn’t go to bed at all.
We went back to the room and Naomi and Katie had just gotten back to the room. We all went to bed with plans to get up in the morning for services at 9ish.
Saturday (May 1) Katie, Julia and Jessica got up to go to services, Rachel and Naomi slept in to 10 when Katie had come back to the room to “wake us up.” We got dressed and went down for a light breakfast-coffee and cake later to be followed by kiddish of coffee and more cake. There was then another talk. Rochel sat with us and asked what we learned from the farbregen, when she heard that we were there. Rachel starts telling the story about the fisherman that Iris had told the night before but Iris is there so we just ask him to tell it again.
We then went to the cave for lunch. Boaz was at the head, and then Rachel and Ami were on either side with Jessica next to Rachel. We were all sitting down—Shevet at a single table for the first time like ever when Iris came over, asking no one in particular, if the table was full. He then introduces himself to Rachel and asks if she was sitting in the first row during the talk yesterday? Umm, maybe, middlish front I suppose. Ok great, nice meeting you. Boaz then makes a remarks: ohh Rachel that is how those yeshiva boys flirt: were you in the front (licking lips)? Jessica, Ami and Rachel are dying in hysterics. Like almost peed my pants, which isn’t funny b/c Rachel is always almost manic in Tsfat. We most definitely looked like fools. And then Boaz and Ami continued to refer to him as Rachel’s husband for the rest of the weekend…great, thanks guys. The chulent was good, but we didn’t eat that much. Because it was going to be such a late night, as in no sleeping, we all needed to go take naps. Jessica and Rachel left early, before benching, to go nap. On the way out a girl stopped us who just made Aliyah and is from San Diego. We continued walking out when Iris gets up to give a talk. Great, future husband giving a talk and we just walked out. We were standing outside the door so that we could still listen, we didn’t want to walk back in because that would just be weird. But Katie and Boaz were able to see us and kept making comments.
We got back to our room and got into bed. Then others came back in and we all tried to nap but that didn’t really happen.
Rachel, Naomi, Katie, and some of the Shalem girls got up to go for the Mystical tour of Tsfat while Julia and Jessica continued to sleep. And yes, Iris was there then too. Rabbi Lieter’s wife gave the tour—some of it was a repeat from last time that we were there but some of it was different. Iris was making small talk with Rachel about Israel and Tsfat, Katie is keeping out a watchful eye and keeps trying to get me away from him. Eventually we fall behind and he starts talking to Joe and they become good friends. At one point, Katie had her arm around Rachel’s shoulder and then my back, and it might have graved her tush when some guys were like no, no, no, with a waggle of the finger. We crack up and then Katie makes conversation with them. We went to a secret cave thing where there was a burial. There was a question posed by the Rebbatsin as to what was learnt here—Rachel got it right, the Noachide Laws—by Noach’s sons. Hmm? And then Kabbalah. She explained that not everyone is listed in the Torah that lived then, only the people that knew the secrets of Kabbalah are listed—Noach’s sons being some of them. Katie and Rachel made a friend from Norway who is traveling around Israel because he feels a pull to this country. He isn’t positive that he is Jewish but Rachel thinks he is. Not everyone feels that magnetic pull. We all went to a couple of different synagogues. One of them Rachel got yelled at for her top—there was no cleavege, just a little collarbone and chest. I never get yelled at! I just wanted to pull it down lower! But I didn’t.
We finally made it back to Ascent. We missed Mincha but then had seudah shlishit it was okay. Again the Rebbatsin gave a talk, she wanted it to be a Q&A/Talk thing. And Joel decided to ask “if it is idolatry to pray to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and practically worship, b/c that is how it looks.” Others peoples questions were a lot more simpler. She starts talking and eventually talks about how its not idolatry, on this very long tangent. But Joel had already left. She kept asking Simon, Joel’s twin, if she had answered his question. Yeah, that was enough. Needless to say we all wanted to kill Joel. We all went back to our rooms to just rest up and go to sleep before Havdallah, instead of the Q&A with the Rabbi.
Havdallah was amazing with singing, dancing, and good spirits. We then went back to bed to get up at 10 pm for pizza. Jessica ate 6 slices. Rachel ate 3 slices. And head out eventually for Har Meron. See we did climb Har Meron, just a week after Yam L’Yam! It was packed beyond belief. It took forever for the bus to get there. Shevet had it’s mini bus but others from the hostel got in it so we had to wait for a normal bus. Shevet was singing songs, not necessarily Jewish ones but we were united in our efforts.
We pulled up and all got off. There were people giving away free drinks and food so we all got shock, the chocolate milk in the bags, and continued to the entrance where we ran into BRITTY! Jessica, Katie, and Rachel all practically jumped her! It was great seeing her. She was there with a friend and looking for another, so we had to part our ways. We started walking up the mountain. It was packed. It was like a carnival with people dancing at different music centers and what not.
We finally got to the grave building. The women and men sides are separate. To enter you have to push and shove, not very nice and it is hellish inside. We didn’t push or shove, we just let those behind you push you which in turn is you pushing someone else. It is a domino affect that is beyond claustrophobic. Katie, Naomi, and Julia got to the front and were able to touch the fence. Rachel just wanted to just get out and made way for the exit. Jessica got really close to the fence. Its not like you can touch the actual grave and it is weird touching graves. Jessica and Rachel finally got out and waited for the others by a big yellow sign, where we again ran into Britty. We got to catch up a little bit and then they tried to enter the craziness. Julia, Naomi, and Katie finally made it out of there and we started for down the mountain. We ran into everyone else, after finding free rugulas, of course. Where are my friends? By the food of course. We figured out how to get to the buses back to tsfat. We needed to pee. But didn’t want to go in the port-o-potties so Jessica Katie and Rachel did it in the nature. We rejoined and waited for a bus. Most people got on one but then it was full so we got on the second one. We kept falling down b/c it was a windy road and we were standing…people probably thought that we were drunk—we hadn’t had a drop to drink. We made it to the CBS in Tsfat and walked back to Ascent. Rachel showered, we all got ready for bed and went to sleep.
On the way to the buses we were all talking about what we expected and how different it was from what we thought it would be—some thought that it there would be these huge bonfires with people dancing around them, others thought that it would a mountain like in the nature instead of a paved road and the grave would be at the top and people would be on top of each other trying to get there. People were on top of each other but it was in a building. We weren’t really shocked by the pushiness of people, we have been to other graves on busy days and the Kotel during Birchat H’Cohanim but this was something else. Lag B’Omer is a holiday where we are supposed to be happy but being in the building just made Jessica and Rachel angry.
On Sunday (5/2) we got to sleep into like 10ish, 11 was breakfast, well lunch with chicken and other stuff for before we hit the road. We all talked about the previous night and filled out evaluation forms for Ascent. Iris came in and told us how much he enjoyed our company and that if we were ever in Jerusalem to find him. Joe and him became pretty close, and they didn’t come back to like 4 in the morning. Joe’s stories of the night were pretty cool and scary…almost suffocated from the mass of people. As we were leaving more people were coming.
We left Ascent and started on the 5 hour drive back to Arad. Rachel read another 200 pages…
This wasn’t our favorite weekend but it was definitely an experience