Sukkot in Israel: Day 5, Rimon Winery in Northern Israel and Tzfat (Safed)


IMG_4084 (1)Sunday, October 8, 2017

Today was an awesome day compared to yesterday! We didn’t get up as early as we thought we were going to. I guess Derek had a hard time sleeping outside on the deck in our “sukkah” because of the noise of the neighbors. Bummer! But nevertheless we were glad he was here to spend another day of Sukkot with us!

The shower situation here at the cabin was a little awkward. The bathroom was small mostly because it had a very large jet rub taking up most of the room. The shower head was over the tub. Maggie ran a tub last night and turned on the jets. Immediately a ton of dirt and bugs blew into the water. She drained the tub and took a shower instead.

To take a shower you had to climb over the edge of the tub and stand in it and then turn on the water. That’s the smart way to do it. I’m not so smart. When I went to take a shower this morning I decided to stand on the side of the tub and reach up to turn the shower head away from me before I got in. I didn’t want to turn the water on and get wet before I had gotten into the shower. As I came down I fell. I fell on my der-i-air and twisted my ankle. Grr! Maggie has been struggling with the pain she incurred after being thrown off and being kicked by a horse the week before we came. Her ankle hurt. Her bum was bruised. Now I had the same pain. Okay, not quit so bad as hers and it won’t last as long, but it hurt enough that it made walking and sitting harder for a few days! Tomer brought me a bandage to wrap it with for the day. That was sweet of him.

Isaac asked me how he could make up for his rude comment last night at dinner. I said, “How about you make breakfast while I take a shower.” So he did. He made breakfast for us all: potatoes and scrambled eggs wrapped in tortillas. I didn’t realize that Friday I got sour cream (at least we think it was) instead of yogurt at the Arab Village. It was a small container and I thought it was individual yogurts. I think you should know Hebrew before coming over here. I couldn’t read Hebrew then. Still can’t. Never-the-less sour cream worked out well for this meal.

Isaac knew how hard it was to cook with only a hot plate (that doesn’t bring water to a boil) and very little accommodations and space for cooking. With a public apology he took back what he said last night. That was sweet. All’s well between mommy and daddy now. 🙂

Derek is volunteering as a history teacher in a Christian school in Bethlehem. When we rented our car they told us that we couldn’t take it into the West Bank (basically due to the stone throwing habits of a local demographic around here). That is one reason we couldn’t take him back and forth. Beth Lechem is Palestinian controlled and so it is not considered a safe area in Israel to be. Just as a side note, the reason the car rental company made us get more insurance than what we came with is probably because of the fact Israeli’s like to drive on top of each other. It’s kinda how they speak, walk and live –– they like to be close to each other, literally. Family. It’s a fine line between love and hate. They talk fast and aggressive and they drive fast and aggressive. Different than us. We like our space, like to take our time, strangers are not family where we come from and if you are aggressive you’re given medication to calm you down. They thrive on it.

But I diverge.

Isaac pulled his map out and asked Derek what he thought about driving across the West Bank to the Dead Sea. Was it safe? It is so hard being blind. We’ve grown up with perceptions that are not based in reality. We have been lied to for so long and about so many things. It is so clarifying to just get there, ask the locals, experience it and find out yourself what it is like. Wherever that “there” is.

Going to the Dead Sea was something we were going to do later on in the week. For months, during our planning, we’ve gone round and round whether or not to go across the West Bank. It’s only about 1.5 hours to Ein Gedi if you go across the West Bank. It’s about 5 hours if you try to go around it. So, we’ve really struggled. We’ve done research online and looked at what people say. It’s across the board. Some say it’s dangerous, some say it’s perfectly safe. The US Government’s website sets the rules for it’s employees traveling abroad. The site said they could go in, but only if they had good reason. Ugh! Derek tried to explain that the West Bank’s “boarders” keep changing and decreasing. So, he pulled up a map on the internet that showed where it was and where it is right now. It truly looks different that what I drew out on our map to stay out of. I don’t pretend to understand, but I can see that again, we’ve been lied to. The West Bank is now literally pockets of areas that are not connected making life and travel very hard and nearly impossible for those living in those pockets. I can see the struggle, the frustration. Derek feels called to minister to the kiddos there in one pocket: Beth Lecham.

We also were wrong about what a settlement is. A Jewish “settlement” is only found in the “West Bank” not all around Israel. Most of the villages that we saw as we drove up to the North today were Arab villages that were clustered on and clung to hills. Between them was nothing. No sprawl. City and then no city. In most of those villages you could see mosques and those awful things like Ashereth poles that went way up into the sky. Poisoned land. We really were wondering where the Jews were. We encountered more Arabs during the first part of our trip than Jews (outside of our lodging hosts). At least that is what it seemed like to us.

Our destination today was Rimon Winery in the north Galilee. I told Tomar we had been told that it wasn’t safe to go that far north and be in the Golan Heights. I loved his reaction. In his Israeli accent and broken English he said “bullshit!” He’s a funny Israeli. He’s a country hippy who just moved to Tel Aviv. He grew up at Kibbutz Kadarim and he is now venturing out. He is the one responsible for the cottage rentals at the Kibbutz. They were broken down and abandoned. He saw potential and fixed them up and is now renting them out for a living. He said we could join his Kibbutz community! He liked us. Probably because we are North Idaho hippies. He explained to us that the Golan Heights was a very small strip of land on the border between Syria and Israel and not the huge piece of land I thought it was. Again, we’ve been lied to or mis-informed.

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Maggie outside of the Kadarim cottage in the Kibbutz

So we loaded in the car and all went North and had a great time! Tomer had told us there were a couple of forests we could visit. I think we drove through one of them. I think that because there were some really tall pine trees, a few shorter ones that looked like our fir trees and vineyards between them in the valleys. But so far the forests don’t look anything like where I come from. There’s no underbrush. And the trees have pretty thin foliage. I believe Israeli’s planted the trees in the wasteland and now there are forests growing and getting established. Derek mentioned how he has noticed that the sky in Israel is light blue. It never becomes a full blue like it does where we live. We agreed after our travel throughout the land. It’s weird. Light blue. Never darker.

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Some trees in the “forest” that looked familiar

We got a little lost as we drove through a forest with a vineyard running through it. We got lost in a Jewish neighborhood and saw some nice middle-class houses. Isaac wasn’t doing so good so I drove. I’m not sure what was wrong with him. We had to have a conversation and talk out some frustration between us before we went in to explore the winery. He had forgotten the credit card so that made things at the winery a little rough, especially because we only had American money. I don’t think that was the whole reason for the frustration. But thankfully the winery figured it out and were able to take our American money. Once we got to testing their wine things down. A little wine is good for the heart.


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Vineyard in the “forest”

This winery makes wine out of pomegranates. They claim that they are the only winery in the world doing it. But later on in our travels we found pomegranate wine from other places. Though I think Rimon’s wine seemed to be the best. We tasted four different wines. Some wines were aged in the sun up to 10 years. It was sweet and very potent. Almost like syrup. A thimbleful is enough. I’m not sure it’s my favorite. In fact, I know it’s not. But it sure was interesting to try. And it was very interesting to learn how they produce it.

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The family in a showcase cellar.

Here in Israel you can drink at 18 years old. So Maggie, just turned 18, got her first taste of wine here in Israel! She’s also been drinking Turkish coffee and cappuccino’s with daddy. This is a first. Up to now she’s only been allowed to drink green tea. I’m not big on letting my kids drink caffeine or sodas. But she’s 18 now so we’re giving her a little more freedom to explore stuff–as long as we are around. 🙂 Now that I think about it, I don’t recall seeing Israeli’s drinking a lot of sodas. There are no fat Israeli’s. They eat salad for breakfast for goodness sake. Okay, perhaps I saw a few large bubbies (grandmas and grandpas), but as general rule they are pretty fit.

Part of the wine tour was hearing a presentation in English and then watching a movie about the winery. A young girl gave us the presentation. When she struggled with a few English words we helped her out. It was fun.


Maggie tasting wine for the first time. Don’t worry. It was just a sip. 🙂

We bought one bottle of “Galilee” (Gali) that had been aged in the sun for a year and a half. Not sure how we’re getting this home. We’ll figure it out. I also bought a bottle of pomegranate oil that is good for many ailments and aging. It felt amazing on face. I think I will like it at night and perhaps it will magically make my wrinkles go away. We also got some chocolate there. They call them pralines. Maggie and Isaac saved their’s, but later they melted after being in the car. Bummer. I ate mine there. 🙂


The wine and oil we bought at Rimon Winery.

Outside the clouds were forming in the sky. Heavy and dark. We had entered with sunshine. We left in a “storm.” As we drove away it rained. It poured for about one minute. That was the storm. I think I got video of it, but I may not have have because it was so quick. Big beautiful clouds were overhead off and on throughout the rest of the day. It was still warm out. I love this weather.


Sukkah’s in Tzfat. At least they weren’t plastic ones!

We found Tzfat (otherwise known as Safed). So we drove through it. This city had a round about nearly at every enter section. It was insane. As we drove through the old city a blue door and wide stone stairs attracted my eye. We stumbled upon free parking down the street and went exploring.

This truly was a beautiful place. The blue trimmed building that I had seen was closed for the holiday of Sukkot so we kept walking. Color on buildings was not the norm. Here, it seems everything is the color of sand and stone. They don’t paint anything like they do in Italy or Greece. It makes for sad buildings. So it was good to see color. Up stone steps past it we wound through very wonderful tight narrow cobblestone streets lined with stone buildings and shops. Most of them seemed closed. Others I wasn’t sure if we could venture into. But I think we could’ve explored the streets there for a long time. I kinda wished we would have stopped to find food to eat here. It would have been a lovely place to eat dinner.


A beautiful street in the old city of Tzfat

Fairly soon in our walk we came upon a door that was open. It intrigued me. So I went closer. A college-age and well spoken lady sat at a desk and a young hippy Jew with dreadlocks sat infant of her desk. He was kicked back, relaxing. They were advertising a free Sukkot activity. This was the entrance to a walk down and through tunnels they had excavated. Underground they had discovered an earlier city under the current city. The hippy dude explained, “We don’t learn. An earthquake happens the city is destroyed. But we just build another stone city on top of the rubble.” The city the had excuvated below was 500 years old.

The old city in Tzfat felt good for the heart. I figured out why that was. First it was clean––a big deal for my heart. But the dreadlocked hippy told us that Tzfat is the Kabbalah headquarters of the world. Wow! And one of my believer friends feels drawn to live in Tzfat. I wonder if she knows. Of course Isaac and I don’t practice nor believe in Kabbalah––for it is mysticism at it’s best, but now we understand the attraction to it better. It felt good here because they love. The girl at the desk was telling us about Kabbalahism. They are Jews who are concerned with the heart, with the person’s experience of life and the why of doing it. They are all about groovy love and it shows. I don’t know much about Kabbalah, but I do know that they are not concerned with obeying Yahweh nor do they accept his son, Yahshua. But in striking contrast to their attitude and outlook on life is the world of Orthodox Judiasm that we encountered in Jerusalem days later. Lots of religious activity with no heart. Neither is right. But it felt so much better in Tzfat than at the Wailing Wall for instance. I wonder if Yahshua was a happy hippy Hebrew. Pointing people to repent and return to the Father, to accept him and consider the heart at the same time. I like him. 🙂


Walking through the tunnels of 500 year old Tzfat

Walking through the tunnels was super fun. They were lit as if with torches and different rooms had artifacts in them and things on the wall to read. There was an ancient mikvah room lit up with blue lights with running water that went through it. The water meandered in a canal through the underground city. We were a little confused when we came up and out of the tunnels. It dumped us out somewhere that felt like someone’s backyard. Not a backyard like we think of, but it wasn’t back into the Main Street for sure.

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Behind me is the tunnel we just came up and out of

People’s homes were around, sukkah’s were high above us and below us. There was music playing. You could see out over the valley between the stone buildings. We walked the only way we could and I looked down to my right. There was a sukkah with palm branches for a roof. A man sat in it at a table. He made eye contact. Which is a serious thing to do over here. It engages people. I was caught, so I waved. He said something in Hebrew. I smiled and motioned that I didn’t understand. He got up and it looked like he went into his house. Not unusual. I’m sure many were tired of trying to talk to ignorant white girl tourist. But as we kept walking all of a sudden he was smiling in front of us with his hand out to shake. He said, “come and I’ll tell you a story.”


Leaving the tunnels towards the light


The Kabbalist who sang and told us a story.

I guess the tour wasn’t over. He led us over the running water into another part of the ancient city. To our right stairs led down into a community area where they were baking in a 500-year-old oven. Maggie, the foodie that she is went there with Hadassah while Isaac and I followed the man into a little nook. I took a seat on a stone ledge and Isaac sat in a chair facing the “stage.” Natural light came in through windows. There was some blue color to the room. The arched stone room made for perfect acoustics. The musician in a robe sat down among his instruments. Drums, guitars and things I didn’t recognize. He played them and sang us a song. It was soothing to our somewhat rattled hearts. Then he began to tell us a story while he rested his arms on his guitar. Every once-in-a-while he would pause to close his eyes and play and then he would continue the story. In the middle of his story a little blond-haired boy came in. I guess that was his son who would sing later. But the little one ran away. Isaac really enjoyed sitting there listening to the Kabbalist who took his time telling the story. It probably felt like a vacation to Isaac. Everything to this point has been fast and changing every minute. This story took probably 30 minutes and gave Isaac time to look around and just chill out. I must admit though I don’t buy into Kabbalah, it was peaceful to be there. Perhaps that is the pull. The true part of the lie.


The singer / storyteller was sitting in this sukkah


Our family in the community kitchen area

After the story and song we turned back towards the way we had come and went down the stairs to the left which led us into the open area where our girls were noshing on rolls and where the baking bread smell was coming from. This was still part of the excavation area. Tall stone ceilings, several rooms and a large wooden door that went out onto the street. The girls in the bakery were friendly and told us all about the area. This used to be the community kitchen and place to bake your bread. They had just gotten finished with baking a basket full of bread rolls made with a touch of cinnamon to give away, but for me they re-lit the 500-year old oven so I could see how it worked. I love baking bread. I want a kitchen / restaurant someday.


The 500 year old oven our rolls were baked in

Perhaps I’ll make it like this. My whole family loved this room and didn’t want to leave. We stayed and talked with the Hebrew girls there and ate as many rolls as we dared. We bought some iced coffee from them and then made our way out to find Derek, whom we lost right at the start of our decent into the tunnels. He ended up staying above ground to talk with the front desk girl and hippy about his beliefs while we explored. He was stoked that he got to share the Messiah with them. We were stoked to have some bread in our pockets.

Unfortunately, it was time to go. We could have stayed there longer exploring the streets, shops, restaurants and talking to the hippies, but we had to get Derek to the bus station in Tiberius so he could get home tonight. We’ll just remember that would be a good place to stay in the future.


We dropped the girls back at the cabin in the kibbutz and the 3 of us headed down to Tiberius to take Derek to the bus station. The bus station was crazy. I had to park on the sidewalk across from it, but no one seem to mind. Isaac walked with him across the street to the bus station to pay his bus fare. We gave him a little money so he could come back in a few days to be with us in Jerusalem for the end of the Feast.


Trying to figure out where an ATM was before the light left.

After we dropped him off Isaac and I began to locate an ATM. We were out of shekels. We felt it was best to local transactions as much as we could with shekels and not with the credit card. We used the credit card for lodging and places that looked more modern. Trying to find an ATM in Tiberius at night was a tad bit nerve-racking. I’m not sure why it was a little scary. I think it was just that we were in downtown Tiberius! Crazy. There were so many people out, ladies of children pushing strollers, orthodox Jews, Arabs and secular people all mixed in together. One wrong step and you’d be hit by a bus. But no one seemed worried about that. Perhaps I felt the way I did because they just do things different. I must admit, I’m not a city girl in America either. I don’t do city. I do country. I do mountains. I do small town. So, Tiberius, New York, Spokane – it’s all the same to me. I hate the city and like normal I wanted to leave Tiberius as fast as we could. Neither of the banks we walked to had ATM machines that we could either read or would except our card. Frustrating, but at least we didn’t have the girls. So I held onto Isaac’s hand and we decided to give up and deal with that tomorrow.

Driving back to the Kibbutz from Tiberius was a nice drive. With the warm wind blowing in through our open windows Isaac and I got to debrief alone for the first time since we got here. While we drove Isaac and I filmed how we felt about the trip so far. It is such a mixture of feelings. Conflicted.


About Lady Rebekah

The Happy Hippy Hebrew Girl :-)
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