Our tour guide Zvi is both an educator and philosopher. As we left Galilee for our final destination in Jerusalem, something he said resonated with me. "Christians come to the Holy Land, Jews come to the Homeland." Perhaps that's one reason I felt so strongly about making this trip a second time. My sense of reflection was perfect for our first stop - the mystical town of Tsfat.
The history of Tsfat dates back two thousand years, but it wasn't until the 16th century that Tsfat became the center of Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah, the ancient spiritual wisdom that empowers us to improve our lives, and discover our purpose. We visited Ashkenazi HaAri Synagogue and learned more about Tikkun Olam, A jewish concept defined by acts of kindness to repair the world.
Of course Tsfat is also known as an artists' town, so we did have some time for sightseeing and shopping!
Sticking to our schedule, we continued through the northern region of Israel, driving to Tiberias and the nearby Galita Chocolate Factory for a chocolate workshop - a big hit with the entire group!
We made one unscheduled stop before reaching Jerusalem - the ancient synagogue at Beit Alpha.
A surprising discovery was made here in 1929 when members of Kibbutz Beit Alpha were digging irrigation channels for their fields - a beautiful mosaic floor of a synagogue that dated back almost 1,500 years! Later excavations showed the synagogue had stood in a Jewish village during the 5th century.
Our final destination was 2 hours to the south. We drove through the West Bank of the Jordan River and saw the high security that included sensors, cameras and mines. Not once during this drive did I ever feel unsafe.
We went through the border check into Jerusalem with no issues. The city was mesmerizing; we couldn't wait to embrace it.
We pulled off the road at Mt. Scopus, overlooking the Old and New City. Rabbi Max asked the first time visitors to start the traditional "shehechiyanu" blessing - the Blessing of Praise.
Sweet Jerusalem - it's good to be back. Tomorrow we explore.