We initially thought to go to Tzfat last week, but dd15 had a school commitment that she didn’t want to back out of, so we pushed our trip off for a week. This worked out to be a fortuitous arrangement, since that weekend was extremely cold and wet, and it would have literally put a real ‘damper’ on our trip!
We rescheduled for this week, but not having been here long, didn’t think to consider the consequences of planning for something around the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar. All of a sudden, all the kids had parties and trips planned for exactly these few days! I was a little dismayed, since I really was looking forward to a few days of togetherness with our family. We had planned to leave on Thursday, but pushed this off until early afternoon on Friday, to accomodate the Thursday activities, and then resigned myself to the fact that some of us would have to leave early. I miss the days of everyone being on the same schedule….
After some research and deliberation, we realized it would be less expensive to rent a van for a couple of days than pay for bus fares for everyone on the way there (some of us later took the bus home). In between the week we had been invited for originally and this weekend, dh had gotten a job and wouldn’t be able to be with us for more than Shabbos. Dd11 had a two day trip to Mt. Hermon (the location for snow activities in Israel) Sun/Mon and dd17 had a three day school trip Mon/Tues/Wed. Ds13 missed a lot of school when his best friend was here and didn’t want to miss anymore (though he decided in the end to stay on with me in Tzfat). So those kids planned to travel back home with dh on Saturday night.
It was nice being able to drive there, since we had sleeping bags and a box of food supplies that we wouldn’t have been able to take on the bus (I would have shopped at the local grocery if I couldn’t have done this). It just made everything so much easier! It took just 45 minutes to get from Karmiel to Tzfat. When we got there, our hostess served everyone homemade pizza (I told her before coming that since I know what a hectic time this can be, I was coming prepared to take care of providing this meal for us), and this was a nice treat for the kids.
After that, we unpacked our stuff. First I have to share about our accommodations, which were the first big step to our wonderful visit, and something that continued to enhance every single day there. The vacation until we had is in the first straw bale home ever built in Israel. There was a large bedroom for the children with four beds and two additional mattresses that our hosts put in for us. We brought sheets but they provided blankets and pillows, which was a huge help since those things would have been so bulky to bring along. There was a smaller bedroom with two single beds. Dh and I took the smaller room, and ds2 slept with me. For Shabbos, a couple of the kids doubled up on one bed; after that, everyone had their own bed (except me, since ds2 was happy to keep me as his familiar bed partner while we were there).
There was a small kitchenette and eating area, a bathroom, and a large covered outdoor porch, where the kids played with games and toys that we borrowed from our hosts, and where we also gathered to eat together on our last day when it was really warm outside.
While we were unpacking, the littles quickly made themselves at home. The property is at the end of a street, backing up to a mountain, and there was so much space and freedom for them to wander around the property. The view is simply amazing – they are at the edge of a cliff and all buildings are below their home, so the view is unobstructed and you can see the mountains all around you. (You can get a tiny peek of the view here – imagine that one mountain you see multiplied by them all around.) I see beautiful views often in Israel, but this one was incredible. Ds4 was walking with me on the lower level of the property, stopped and looked out at the view, and said, “It’s so boo-tiful here, Mommy!”
They usually have dairy goats, which I would have loved for the kids to see and interact with, but they were temporarily away and wouldn’t be back until the following week. I also had hopes of buying some raw goats’ milk while staying there, which obviously wasn’t possible! There was a chicken running around the front yard, which ds5 began chasing (our hostess told him he’s welcome to chase her, that the reason she’s the only one of their chickens that wasn’t killed by stray dogs or mongooses is because she’s so fast); the chicken never seemed to mind and the littles who chased her during our days there had fun, too. They enjoyed their dog, were fascinated by their parakeets and cockatiel, and when one of the littles saw the guinea pig, told me that ‘they have a rat’ in a cage.
Mostly there was plenty of time and space for them to run around, and they enjoyed meeting the children of our hosts, who they spent hours playing outside with. I knew that living in an apartment and constantly being aware of noise levels was a bit wearing on me, and while we were in Tzfat, I really recognized how much tension this has caused me – because all of that was totally gone. I appreciated this literally every time one of us moved a chair or dropped something, that I wasn’t feeling the need to monitor all of our daily life sounds.
The boys played lots of ball, climbed the mountainous cliff behind the house, and ds5 brought me ‘sour stuff’ to eat’ – he learned to identify wild growing sorrel. Yes, we did other things and I’ll share more about that in my next post, but they were pretty much outside all day long, and when it was time for bed, they were asleep within a few minutes.