December 4, 2013
On Friday morning we arrived in the holiest city of all of Israel, the quaint, beautiful village that is Tsfat. This city is just north of Jerusalem, best known for its scrumptious shwarma and beautiful market that are situated on top of one of the largest hills in Israel, overlooking the extensive mountain ranges that encompass Tsfat. We began our day at Otzar Hastum, the place where the mysterious rabbanim that write the Siffrei Torah, Mezuzot and Teffilin were uncovered. We learnt about the intricate care that is required to hand-write every letter of the Torah with every line and angle detailed to perfection. A strenuous process that can take more than a year!
Afterwards we made our way to the beautiful ancient city of Tsfat and learnt about two characters that were influential in Tsfat’s history, Safta Yocheved and Rabbi Zaida Heller. First we met an old lady named Safta Yocheved (who was actually Miriam..) who was known throughout Tsfat as she sat everyday by the narrow ally way which if you look down it you can see a sliver of the beautiful scenery that surrounds the village. This small pathway is known to be the alley by which the Moshiach would ride through when he enters the state of Israel and announce his arrival. Miriam explained to us Safta Yoceved’s influence on the people and tourists of Tsfat as she would tell her story to passers by with two cups of coffee and tea by her side, one for herself and the other for the Moshiach in perfect faith. She would plead with locals and tourists both, to chase their aspirations, and follow what they believe in, passionate in her belief and diligence in the arrival in of Moshiach she became a pinnacle of the spirit of Tsfat.
We then went onto meeting Rabbi Zaida Heller who was Head Rabbi in 1948, who despite the immense disagreements made the decision to build fortifications around Tsfat even though it was Shabbat thus saving the Jews of Tsfat- a decision we realised we were today, in modern day society as still extremely grateful for as we are now able to explore the dense history that is embedded within the narrow streets of Tsfat.After exploring Tsfat’s rich cultural wonderland, we were left to venture around the ancient cobble stone markets filled to the brim with typically Israeli jewelry, souvenirs, mezuzot and awe inspiring artworks that lined shop windows. Israeli shop keepers shouted from their stalls, “Freshly made shwarmas, falafels, delicious fresh pomegranate juice!” in thick Israeli accented English attempted to be the most appealing to the 90 IST tourists that were let loose in the beautiful markets. We spend a while searching for the perfect shwarma, to be adorned in wonderful Israeli rings and necklaces, and to find gifts for our families back home.We then had to rush back onto the bus despite much argument due to the unseasonably early arrival of Shabbas that was to come. We were ushered back onto our respective buses to face the Shabbas preparation rush.