I am in Safed, a small Israeli city 3 hours north of Jerusalem. The picture in my mind of Safed was pretty different from reality so far. The picture above is where I am staying. As a center of Jewish mysticism with hippie-ish sensibilities, I expected a city that would feel loved and welcoming and in tune with the natural state of things. You know, like Berkeley before the iphone.
Sadly, my initial impression is that the local culture is one of unhealthy food, cheap consumer goods, trash and rubble. Part of the old town is beautifully restored and full of artists’ galleries but, except for the synagogues and Hassidim, the neighborhood seems all but abandoned.
Well there’s that and I learned last night that the whole city is shutting down for Rosh Hashanah for three full days beginning tomorrow at sundown. No restaurants, no markets, no public transportation. And unlike Jerusalem, there are no Palestinians here selling falafels and running buses. My studio apartment doesn’t have kitchen facilities — not even a fork — except for a tiny refrigerator and a small container that heats water.
When omnivore Emily cooks vegan food, she says “I like working with constraints.” This morning after much teeth gnashing I committed myself to this approach. I started by running some errands so I would at least have a false sense of empowerment. The picture represents a cross section of my efforts. A bar of hand made olive oil soap so I wouldn’t have to use the harsh stuff in my room that you can smell down the block. A sink stopper so I can wash some of my clothes. Some nectarines representing my upcoming three days of unprepared foods. A pair of sandals because my flip flops are on their last leg (so to speak). And a new corkscrew because I can’t take the chance that the old one will bomb out on me before Sunday.
I am also trying to connect with some of the local community so maybe I can share a holiday meal or at least have someone to talk to once in awhile. More on that later….
Just you don’t think I am desperate or depressed, here are some hopeful pictures:
And I am sure that in one way or another there is something important here that I just haven’t found yet.