I came to Tzfat on not much more than a whim. Nestled in the north of Israel, Tzfat is a 2,000-year-old city, with amazing history and stories hidden beneath it’s cobblestones. Tzfat is often described using elusive adjectives such as “mystical,” “magical,” and “spiritual.” All of these are accurate descriptions for this very special place.
A short story about Tzfat: it is one of the four hoy cities of Israel. My favorite part of this lore is the association with the elements. Jerusalem is the city of fire, Hebron is the city of earth, Tiberius in the city of water, and Tzfat is the city of air. And you can feel it in the air around you, see it in the faces of the people who live here.
I came to Tzfat on not much more than a whim. On the cusp of graduating college, I was applying to every applicable job I could find, and I have the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to prove it. Scouring the Internet, I applied for countless positions. Most were out of my reach. Some I got very close to attaining. But, as they say: close, but no cigar.
My friend and rabbi Danny Wolfe, the flyest rabbi on this side on the Kinneret, tempted me with potential programs to return to Israel, but no, no, no, I waved him away. I will stay home and find a nice job and start working and saving money, like all responsible young college graduates.
But then, something happened.
A good friend of mine from UAlbany told me her summer plans. She would be hiking in the mountains in the north of Israel, and interning or volunteering in the beautiful city of Tzfat. While in the back on my mind I knew that I wouldn’t be returning to Israel, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy.
Gee, that sounds fun.
So the story goes:
The organization is called Livnot U’Lehibanot. To build and be built. You’ll soon find that in Israel, there is so much behind a name. I filled out the first form online, just to put some feelers out there into the universe.
No, no, no, I’m not going to Israel.
Within a week I was accepted into the program. Now mind you, this is early May. The program, which is six weeks, began June 2, and the initial deadline was way back in March. So a mere month before, I was trying to worm my way into a place that I didn’t necessarily want to be, and that was supposedly closed to applicants.
Better late than never, they say.
So now I had a real problem. I was accepted into the program, but I still wasn’t going to Israel. But thinking it over, I sat down, and had a nice long chat with me. I also consulted parents, friends, and strangers who were drinking at the bar I waitressed at in Albany.
The final conclusion on the matter was: Well, why not?
So I paid the minimal deposit, and finished filling out the forms. But I still wasn’t completely convinced. I was scared of taking a chance on something so uncertain. What if my dream job answered while I was away? What if they wanted me to start next week and I was in the mountains of the Middle East? What if my friends move on, and I come home and am stuck left behind?
Those were my fears. And in the end, I threw them in the trash the day I bought my plane ticket.
Yes, yes, yes. I’m going to Israel. In two weeks.
It wasn’t much time to prepare. But I knew I had made the right decision. So that was how I came to land in Tzfat, the mystical city associated with the start of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.
And, as they say in Hebrew: Sebaba.