In the early morning aftermath of our New Year’s Eve Party, everyone slowly emerged, none too happily at that. All of us with little sleep and bleary eyes. It was a hard time to be waking up at 6:30am when you didn’t go to bed until around 2am that morning. Regardless, we struggled out of bed and greeted the first day of the New Year with half-tempered smiles and curious minds for the day ahead.
We took the bus through Tiberias and wove our way up a mountain called Mt. Arbel.
The view from the top of this mountain was magnfiicent, though a little hazy, but still many things could be seen. The Sea of Galilee far below, our hotel in the distance, tiny towns speckling the hills, and lots of greenery. The wind blasting at our backs led us down to the way we would be following that would eventually take us to the ruins of an old fortress built into the mountainside.The descent was much more difficult than I had imagined and it felt like we were going down forever. We had to scramble down rocky cliff faces and at all times could see the countryside around us backed by the Sea of Galilee.
Eventually we made it though and came to a leveling out in our descent down Mt. Arbel where the cliffs now towered over us. Looking up at the cliffs you could see the ruins of what once had been windows, rooms, and a fortress in days long gone by.
Then we climbed up uneven stone stairs to enter into the old fortress that was crumbling but still grand. After going into the cliff dwellings, we descended the rest of the mountain. We all walked down the mountain in great contemplation, deciding not to talk with anyone, we all descended in utter silence except for the loud noise from the town below and the sound of the wind rushing past the mountainside. We went down the entire mountain until we reach the cities that just about an hour or so before hand had seemed tiny and extremely distant. It seemed remarkably to have come that far, to look back up at the whole mountain knowing I had been at the top of it. It felt like so much had been accomplished; and it was only 10am.
Next on our trip was the legendary cit of Tzfat, home to Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah. We wove through the streets of this old city, only stopping briefly before an old British Embassy building hat was riddled with bullet holes. It was in moments like this that Israel really did seem like an entirely different world. A world where it was casual to sit in the shade of a war torn building as if it was a wide shaded oak that we took a brief rest under in the bright afternoon.
Everywhere there are little moments where a single thing, a teapot, a doorway, or a bullet torn building that made this experience feel so surreal.
Tzfat is a city of alley ways, closed doors, and art. All fo the small corridors that people bustle down are lined with tables of jewelry, art, and all kinds of artisan creations. Every other doorway houses a gallery of beautiful art that often harkens back to Jewish mysticism.
After a long day of exploring the city streets of Tzfat, jumping between art galleries and trying out unique foods, we wandered through the market areas that tingled with the ideas of Jewish mysticism. After exploring a bit we found our way to the top of the mountain Tzfat is built upon. We stood in a park that held the ruins of an old citadel, long left to waste away under the pressure of time. It was here we learned about a Jewish idea, Tikkun Olam- repairing the world. Tikkun Olam is the idea that we all have a responsibility to try and fix the world we live in to make it a better place; whether that means doing community service, teaching, or any other form of helping the world, we have a responsibility We came to this place to take part in our responsibility in trying to restore this old citadel by trying to re-establish this place as a park for the people of Tzfat.
As the sun set over Tzfat we all got together and learned a couple of songs on the mandolin and learned what it felt like to belong in a Jewish community. It really was an amazing moment; bathed in shades of pink and yellow, we all felt like a family.
It was a long day, started early, hiked, worked, explored, but it was a truly a great day.