Tuesday started off rainy but still beautiful in the Galil. After another incredible Israseli breakfast buffet at the Pastoral at Kibbutz Kfar Blum we set off for Tzfat, where we trekked between rain drops to the Karo and Luria synagogues, and had a short visit in an artist’s studio. Of course Jewish geography played a role as it always does in Israel, and it turned out that the artist is originally from Denver and knew Rabbi Steve Kaye from childhood.
We then headed down to Tel Aviv and grabbed a quick lunch at Aboulafia in Yafo, a nostalgic visit for some members of our group. From there we had a great tour of the Levinsky Market, where we met with different shopkeepers originally from Salonika, Turkey, and Georgia to name a few. We heard the stories of their families and their businesses, and happily tasted their wares: pickles, cheeses, burekas, lemonade, a yogurt drink, and spiced couscous. At one shop we also got to touch and smell ambergris, a form of concentrated whale musk, apparently used as a homeopathic aphrodisiac (who knew?).
From there we went to the newly redone Independence Hall, speaking about the history of Tel Aviv as we walked over there. Once there we got to sit in the actual Hall where it all happened, and hear a recording of Ben Gurion reading the Proclamation of Independence in May, 1948, followed by the singing of HaTikvah. It was a surprisingly moving moment for some of the group.
After we checked into our hotel in Tel Aviv, we met with Gershon Baskin, the co-chair of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information (an Israeli- Palestinian public policy think-tank) and columnist for the Jerusalem Post. He provided an interesting, and at times challenging, perspective on the recent situation in Gaza, including his sense that recent events have only empowered extremists on both sides rather than helping foster moderation, bringing about, in his words, “a mutual hurting stalemate.” He also spoke about the Area E-1 controversy, and on the interdependent relationship between Israel and the West Bank Palestinians, giving examples of economic partnerships happening beyond the headlines. He also spoke about his role in the securing the release of Gilad Schalit.
We ended the day with a delicious dinner at the Yemenite restaurant Maganda, and little socializing before crawling into bed, exhausted.