It takes a village

Elana and Yakov have joined us for three days and it’s great to have them back.  We’ll be together over Shabbat in Tzfat which reminds all of us of a combination of our own little village of Mendocino and Berkeley.  Pretty easy going and seems as though people, no matter what their persuasion are sympatico to others around them. I’m especially drawn to the little children and the under 3 boys as traditionally they don’t get their first haircut until they are three years old.  You just want to cuddle with them unless they are having a tantrum on the street which also happens.  We had our first day of “weather” with a bit of rain and it’s fairly cold here (at altitude) but I think those of you in California would be craving the moisture and those of you in the rest of the country would probably say we were wimps to be cold at 48 degrees.

Since it was Thursday, when we first reconnected both Elana and Yakov were busy making arrangements for people to have Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem.  They are usually hosts themselves so they’ve had even more people to “place”. We are going to someone’s home for Shabbat dinner in Tzfat- will let you know more about that after Shabbat is over.

Something unique about the community they live in, is how much people help each other.  Elana and Yakov just moved into a new apartment and of course one needs boxes for moving so they went to a moving box gemach to borrow boxes and then returned them when they were finished.  A gemach is a service that one offers just because it’s something you have that you can share or a skill you have that you can share.  There is no money exchanged.  Some examples are the snake catcher (snakes get into people’s houses/apartments) who is an expert at catching them and you call him in when you have the problem, the chair gemach if you need extra chairs for a party or a dinner, the sea sickness gemach for a person who has expertise in that field.

When Elana and Yakov moved (the day before we arrived) a friend lent them their car, a few of Yakov’s study partners moved everything (for the price of some pizza) and the old neighbors sent their kids over to help when they got home from school.  They only moved down the street a block or two.

When we were at Friday night services at the Kotel (Western Wall) there was an American man who lives in Jerusalem who makes sure everyone who wants has a place to go for dinner.  Elana told us he finds dinners for 100 people every Friday night.  They are one of the places people often go.  He is wealthy enough that he also helps with scholarship money for people (like Elana) who want to come to study in Israel for short periods of time.  There is a rabbi who is also a physician who advises people where to seek help from specialists he knows have the expertise or would suit the patient.  He does this for no payment.

When we walked through the market in Tzfat we met a lovely young woman originally from Australia, working in one of the shops, wanted to be sure we had a place for Shabbat dinner and when she and Elana chatted they exchanged numbers in case Elana and Yakov want to come back to Tzfat or she wants to come to Jerusalem.

We are looking forward to our Shabbat experience here in Tzfat and are staying in a lovely inn in a converted house estimated to be about 200 years old.  The hosts are a couple from Montreal who moved here about a year ago with their two children.  They remind us of some of our neighbors and we feel very at home here.  They told us a bit about Tzfat and we’ll be taking a walking tour with them later this morning.  We are planning on going to the Carlebach shul for services this evening.

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