Where to even start…
The day began early with maneuvering the winding streets of Tzfat to head out of town for a day of adventure. We had no idea that this day would turn out to be a day neither of us will ever forget.
Along the way to Akko we stopped in Meron to visit Rabbi Shimon’s tomb. We weren’t originally going to stop but, Orna, a lovely shopkeeper in Tzfat, who we chatted with for sometime the day before, told us we couldn’t miss it. She was right. The intensity that surrounds the tomb is more than either of us could have expected. Although we were probably the only nonorthodox Jews there, the connection was profound and unexpected. We had to walk in separately and daven separately but each walked out with the same kind of experience. Orna told us, sometimes the mysticism hits you immediately and sometimes it takes days. For both of us it was sudden and dramatic.
We continued on our way with Michael at the wheel and myself with three maps in hand and successfully landed in Akko. We headed for the shouk and made a B line for the best humus ever! According to expert advice from Avi and Nurit we searched out Humus Said. There is no exact address, like many places in Israel, but you know you’re there by the crowd hanging around the door. No need for a menu, it’s humus, humus, and humus and warm pita. Really though, it’s all you need.
After wandering around the shouk, we then wandered though the Hospitaler’s Fortress exploring the ancient tunnels and halls. You can actually imagine what went on in those great cavernous walls so long ago.
On to the Ghetto Fighters Museum in Lohamei Hagata’ot. Any holocaust museum is difficult but one that contains actual artifacts, in this case from the local kibbutz residents, is especially gut wrenching. The display case with the worn yellow stars was particularly difficult. If we were born 70 years ago one of those could have been ours. It was important for Michael to see pictures of the types of things his grandparents had to do during the time they were Partisans. Although Michael can never really know what it was like, this helps to understand his story.
We also had a quick stop at Rosh HaNikra. Where we walked though the grottos, listened to the waves crashing and met the local furry inhabitants called hyrax. Which we were surprised to learn are related to elephants but look like guinea pigs on steroids.
Dinner was not only the highlight of the day, but of the trip so far. We checked our guide book for a recommendation and found a Kurdish restaurant in a Moshav near the border with Lebanon that sounded great. We had no idea what we were in store for. When we arrived in Shatula what we though was going to be a restaurant was actually Ora and her mother Sarah’s house. They greeted us at the front door and kindly asked us to have a seat on their back patio. We weren’t eating in a business, we were eating in their home. To start, the view with the sun setting, looked out onto Lebanon. It was quite literally their back yard. Music and singing could be heard from across the border and jackals called to each other as the sun went down.
Ora and Sarah are Kurdish Jews, their family is from a small area in Northern Iraq called Kurdistan. All the food was made from scratch by Sarah’s hands, using her mother and her grandmother’s recipes. It was some of the most fantastic food we have ever had. The fragrance, spices and the texture of the food were like nothing we have ever eaten. Not only was the food such an incredible treat, but the company of Ora and Sarah was the best part. We got to hear about their lives in Israel and Kurdistan and about the tremendous lives they have lead. Sarah, who was probably in her late 80’s traveled back to Kurdistan ten years ago, on her own, with an Israeli passport, to plead for the return of a Torah. She tracked down the man who she knew to have the Torah, the Muslim chief of the area, and requested its return. The locals believed the Torah provided them protection and wanted to keep it for more time. A fascinating thought when you consider the area is all Muslim. Although she was not successful in bringing the Torah home, her bravery is remarkable. By the end of the evening it was as if we were sitting and having dinner with old friends, and we were encouraged to come back the next day. We were both so honored to be asked to return for a Shabbat dinner at their family table the next time we were in Israel.
For us this is what Israel is about…the connections, the friendships and the love between Jews no matter where we come from. We promised them we would return for a Shabbat dinner and we intend to keep that promise.