The Neshamah Geological Survey

A trip up to Northern Israel to help its residents and soldiers

Friday, August 18, 2006

Getting to Tzefat

Rabbi Goldstock mentioned our base of operations. I need to open by thanking my parents for opening their apartment to us while they're trying to pack to go to the States. Adding our chaos to their chaotic process. (I'm sure that as they read this my parents are probably wondering why I'm bothering to thank them, given the project and the fact that I'm their son, and I thank them for that too.)

Today was a somewhat frustrating day; and yet, in a couple of minutes it was all worthwhile.

Our plan was to take much of the donated clothing and toys to Tzefat, to a food pantry run by Rabbi Eli Hecht, and then to help get food out for Shabbos. We got everything into cabs, and took them to the bus stop to Tzefat. The busses, however, have been on a reduced schedule because of the situation up north. Today there were only three pickup times. Egged would run as many busses as necessary at those times. As one filled, they would send the next one. But, we ended up getting to the stop 2-1/2 hours before the next run. And no way to get all those packages back to the apartment and the bus stop again.

All the while, back in Tzefat, Rabbi Eli Hecht is wondering where we are, and is in cellphone contact with Rabbi Goldstock. It is he who told us about the rescheduling. Or, as Rabbi Hecht put it, "Welcome to Israel!"

But at 10 minutes before the bus, suddenly the stop is full. Packed. People from Tzefat, Meron, and other places on the route, who have spent the past three weeks or so living with friends, relatives, or just kind people who opened their homes in Jerusalem. Coming home. Tense, wondering just what they were coming home to.

We didn't make it onto the first bus, but I was able to secure us three seats on the second by joining the crowd running to the depot to get on the bus before the first official stop. (Fortunate side effect: My son Aishey sat with Rabbi Goldstock, I sat next to an American oleh who has been living in Tzefat for the past decade. At least one other bus filled in behind us before we left, I don't know how many ran. You have to picture the scene: An overcrowded bus. Luggage and carriages on most of the aisle. A hot, sticky day. Whole families coming home, with children who needed to walk over and around all those packages and legs to get from one parent to the other. Crying babies. The tension of everyone anticipating a happy homecoming (but as one person asked me, "Could home ever seem safe again?") and afraid of what they would find.

I spent some of the trip talking to the fellow sitting next to me, but the truth is it felt awkward given what else he was juggling. Our conversation was interrupted by calls from friends and a daughter who had gotten home first. The house wasn't hit, thank G-d. But one said there was power, another there wasn't. He and his wife trying to pick out the lights of the city as they approach... Can we make out which one is on? They're off, aren't they...

The bottom of the bus was packed with packages. Our 7, even though they were larger than everything we sent with 5 children to sleepaway camp combined, did not stand out. So at every stop we would get out, help people unload the jigsaw puzzle of suitcases, boxes and bags, and to reload the packages of those going on. All the while trying to determine which were which.

But at 10pm, we finally did reach Tzefat and the food pantry. Far too late to help deliver food. But I experienced the sheer joy of the people working there. They saw the items are were literally excited at being able to distribute the items, at who would be right for what. And, as I said in the opening, suddenly all that frustration and exhaustion evaporated.

Rabbi Hecht took us home, fed us some of his wife's delicious cooking, and have been chatting about our plans for tomorrow. And that brings us to the present.

(Updated: As you see, we found a broadband connection, and posts are being updated with pictures.)


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