Day 7: Tzfat, the Hulah Valley and Basket Weaving

We often speak of mysticism and spirituality but do people really know what mysticism really is?

Many Jews that were expelled from Spain, in 1492, settled in the city of Tzfat. Which is one of the four religious cities in Israel (Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias and Tzfat) where Jews lived.  Tzfat is nestled in the mountains of the Galilee which made it easy to feel the spirituality around us when we were walking from the settlement and found ourselves between God and the mountains.

The simple meaning of mysticism is somewhat of an enigma.  Intellectually we understand that God no longer communicates with people and the communications with Moses and the prophets have long passed.  However, human beings always had an inner craving to communicate with God in their present time.  That desire to communicate with God can be understood as mysticism.

Tzfat was a city where mysticism thrived.  The people could not accept that Shabbat simply took place every Friday, therefore they created the pre-Shabbat, Friday evening, service called Kabbalat Shabbat.  Tzfat was also the city where the famous Friday evening poem was composed by Shlomo Halevy Alkabetz, called Lecha Dodi.

During our time in Tzfat we visited the synagogue where the poem was composed and we also sang it in the same location.  When we visited the synagogue we were able to examine some of its mystical features.

We had a very meaningful conversation with a mystical artist, David Friedman, who took his time to explain the art and the influence of this mystical synagogue.  Many of us bought heartfelt pieces of art here.

After lunch, we travelled to the Hulah Valley.  During the early years of the state, the water ponds were thought to be the serious cause for disease.  The ponds were dried out to prevent malaria; however, in time we learned that they had made a huge mistake and the ecological damage was substantial.  Within a few years, the Hulah was purposely flooded with water and the ecological system flourished while the valley became a sanctuary for birds.

It turns out that the Hulah Valley lies on the Syrian African Rift and is a bird migration route that supports an annual migration of 500 million birds travelling between Europe and Africa.

It is not yet migration season, however, we were fortunate enough to have seen 51,000 cranes fly away, which was an awesome experience.  We also went for bike rides, drove the golf carts and we loved every minute of it.

Upon our return to the hotel, we assisted a seminar on basket weaving with an artist who taught the children “to make something out of nothing.”

It was another great day of learning filled with fun.

Tomorrow we are heading down south to Jerusalem.  On the way, we will stop at the Atlit Cladestine Immigration centre where Jews snuck into Israel without the British knowing.  We will also visit another clandestine operation in which the Jewish settlers manufactured bullets without the British soldiers finding out.

We will conduct Friday evening services at the Kotel and visit the Israel Museum on Shabbat.