Thursday, April 14, 2011

Getting lost in Tzfat

Rolling hills surround Tzfat
I got lost in the Old City of Tzfat.  It's pretty easy to do...or so some sympathizing soul told me.  I left the house early that morning to catch the bus.  It was the first day at my new job, and half an hour before my alarm went off I was already wide awake.  Before the bus came, one of my neighbors drove up in his car.

Red clover is delicious
"Do you want a tremp?" he asked.  Tremping is hitchhiking and is especially common where we lived before coming to the north.  In Tekoa it was considered a more reliable form of transportation than the bus, which only came every two hours.

Chamomile can be white or yellow
and often grows around
"little pokey things"
It took two tremps to make it into Tzfat, but when I got out of the car I realized that the bus may have been a better option after all.  The view was gorgeous, but I was at the bottom of a long hill and not exactly sure what would be at the top.  Dragging my wheeled shopping cart behind me to carry home the fruits and vegetables I would buy after work, I slowly made my way toward the top.  I stopped along the way, picking red clover and chamomile, slipping them into my pocket to save for a mid-morning cup of tea.

"Give me a sign!  Oh..."
I finally reach the maze of stone streets and centuries-old buildings, some beautifully renovated, some buried under dust and dirt, which make up the Artists' Quarter.  I would have turned in circles many more times than I did, if not for the signs.  There are definite advantages to working in a place that also has a visitor's center for tourists.
 
"Come here and give me a big hug,"
said the stones
I become aware that I am walking on a work of art.  Thousands of hands smoothed out ancient alleys and repaved them with stones and proper drainage.  Buildings which were buried in earthquakes and the passage of time are uncovered with buckets and brooms.  I pause to drink in the laughter of children in a park and open-air theater that were also created by energetic, young adults who came to their homeland for hiking and fellowship, wanting to do something nice for the residents during their stay in Israel's other Holy City.  It feels like the theater is opening its arms to me, embracing me.

Beautiful Birya
On the way home, I see Birya, a cozy yishuv nestled in the forest with larger plots than you'll find in the city.  Many people live here and make the five minute commute into town.  How did I ever live in the desert?  Well, I must admit that it does have its own form of beauty, but my spirit thrives on green.  I start humming a tune from childhood that my mother used to sing; green, green, rocky road...promenade in green...  I don't know if I've ever heard anyone else sing this.  Did she make it up?  What songs will my children remember from me?  Do I sing to them enough?  The forest is a great place to let your mind run free.