Rabbi Weitzman, Cantor Garfein, and almost 40 congregants have just landed in Israel for our biannual Israel Family Trip, and they’ve gotten off to an amazing start. Here is what Rabbi Weitzman has to say about their first 36 hours in Israel:
We are so excited to hear from our extended congregational family in Israel—and we can’t wait to hear more! Stay tuned for updates from Eretz Yisrael. In the meantime, check out these amazing pictures from Caesarea and Safed!
Wow, it has been an amazing day and a half in Israel. We were so excited to be greeted by our Puzzle Israel staff—Dany, our tour guide, Nitzan and Romi our Israel liasons, and Daniel our security guard. Thirty-nine of us quickly jumped off the bus after a quick bathroom break and sunscreen application—it is the desert after all! After being provided with some well-needed supplies—water, hats, and of course Israeli snacks—we headed to lunch at a local Israeli restaurant.
Many of us made the rookie mistake of assuming that all of the food on the table—the copious amounts of salads, breads, hummus, baba ganoush, etc.—was the meal. But no—then they brought out the meat. Delicious skewers of chicken, kebabs, and even liver!
With full bellies, we headed to Caesarea on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This ancient Roman site was once the location of the port for the great Israelite King Herod. A gigantic hippodrome stands at the site, as well as one of the greatest Roman theaters still in use today. It is amazing to think about the work that our ancient ancestors did to build these amazing structures.
Our evening continued with a stay at the Vered Hagalil Resort in the Galilee. This beautiful property, whose name literally means “Rose of the Galilee,” is perfectly situated high up on a mountain overlooking the largest natural body of water in the Middle East. With long and sweeping vistas, our bodies and minds were in much need of a great night of sleep.
Monday morning we woke up refreshed and ready for our first full day of touring. The morning was spent at the mystical city of Safed (Tzfat) in the Northern part of Israel. This city, which takes its name from the Hebrew word for “view” or “overlook” is currently a major center for the Kabbalah movement. A number of famous Rabbis found their home here, with the high elevation and mystical blue doors calling to them from the spiritual heights of Israel. It was here that the Kabbalists wrote a number of the piyuttim and poems that we still sing on Friday evening before Shabbat, such as “Lecha Dodi.”
Safed is also known for its artist colony, and so we fulfilled our American responsibility of purchasing art and souvenirs. Lunch was at a local Arab restaurant, Abu Salah, which is well known around the country for its schnitzel, and petting zoo that features ostriches.
Some of us were tired in the afternoon, but we pushed on a went kayaking on the Jordan River. To think that our people once stood on the banks of the Jordan ready and waiting to enter into the Promised Land, and that we are the descendants of those people, made us enjoy its cool waters and refreshing shade.
As if our day could not have gotten any better, our evening was spent outdoors watching the sun set over the Sea of Galilee as our tour provided us with chefs that cooked for us a delicious meal under the stars. For a special treat we were also joined by who are known as “Lone Soldiers,” members of the Israeli Defense Force who moved to the country to serve in the military and have no family in the land. It was a pleasure to have them as our guests and we are grateful for the sacrifices they have made for the Land of Israel.
It is amazing to think that it has only been 36 hours, but we are excited about what tomorrow will bring!
Rabbi Greg Weitzman, 2019