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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

After a wonderful night celebrating New Year's in Israel, we ventured off to Mt. Arbel for our first major hike of the trip.  Mt. Arbel sits on a rock canyon overlooking a Bedouin village and is filled with a lot of history.  It was originally built by the Hasmonians, later to be occupied by the Romans until their empire fell and the Ottomans turned it into a military fortress.

Once we made it down the mountain we went an hour north to the ancient city of Tzfat, which is known as the city of jewish mysticism or Kabbalah. In 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition, the resident jews living in Spain were given the option by the king and queen to convert to christianity or be excommunicated. Those that opted to flee relocated to Tzfat which is how it came to prominence in the jewish community.
Today in Tzfat was the group's first opportunity to try authentic Mediterranean cuisine, with lots of small kiosks serving falafel and shwarma.  These small restaurants lined the cobblestone walkways of Tzfat, and were accompanied by tiny shuks where people purchased homemade jewelry and mezuzahs.  Also featured on this street were sports memorabilia stores selling jerseys of famous Israeli athletes and art galleries featuring beautiful oil paintings done by the locals.  We got to visit the famous Safed candle factory and purchased a Havdallah candle for our group to use this coming Shabbat in Jerusalem. We sat in awe of the rustic, ancient Ha'Ari synagogue which was built by Rabbi Itzhak Guetah in the 18th century. Unfortunately we were not able to go inside because the synagogue was closed earlier than predicted.  

Tomorrow we will be meeting our soldiers and spending the day and night Bedouin village learning about Bedouin culture. We will also go on a camel ride and eat a traditional family style meal on the floor of the Israeli desert.  Stay tuned for more updates from Bus 1120!
-Danny Fanaroff Bus 1120