Shabbat baboker, yom yafe. Ima shota amon cafe. Aba kore amon iton, amon iton. (Click here to listen.)
After 9 months living in Israel, it’s easy to get distracted by the natural beauty that this country has to offer. But, it’s moments like these that make me stop and realize the immensity of what we are providing for our children by living in Israel for the year.
After waking the kids up early on Friday morning, and letting them skip school, we headed north for another weekend adventure. Our first stop was the charming Zichron Yaakov. North of Caesaria, but south of Haifa, Zichron sits atop a small mountain just off the Mediterranean coast. Yet another place founded by Baron de Rothschild. The last time I had been there was ten years ago, during my honeymoon. I had fond memories of this small town with a Main Street akin to Tzfat. Of course, ten years later the place is now booming. Ten years in Israel is like fifty anywhere else.
Derech Hayayin is now full of beautiful restaurants, cafés and shops. The streets are full of people enjoying the mountain air, street music, good food and better ambience. After eating at the Tishbi winery restaurant in town, and buying some random chachkes we headed north to the northwest corner of the country, Rosh Hanikra.
It’s amazing to me that although I’ve been to Israel over 20 times, I have never been there. Rosh Hanikra is a geologic formation of a large rock with natural grottoes throughout. The bright blue water of the Mediterranean makes its way through the rock, and as we walked through the tunnels, we were simply blown away by the beauty. It is not dissimilar from going to visit the Faraglioni in the island of Capri in Italy. You can guess which I think is nicer!
After taking the cable car down to the grottoes and back up to the mountain top, we sat along a ledge, overlooking the Mediterranean and eating mint Popsicles — we were lost in the beauty that this country has to offer.
It was actually easy to forget that we were actually on the border between Israel, and our good friends to the north, Lebanon. The young soldiers walking around, patrolling this tourist spot, seemed to be on high alert, patrolling in large numbers. Yona, my 7 year old, tells me “these soldiers are protecting us and Israel, right?” I said “Yes, just like your uncle Shmulik, here everybody, boy or girl, becomes a soldier when they become 18 and take their turn protecting our Jewish state.” Of course, she says “I know Pa!” Of course she knows. Just a few weeks ago, she went with her first grade class to the Western Wall to say a prayer for the soldiers of the IDF, and their teacher told them “Today we are here to pray for the soldiers who protect us. In a few years you will all be soldiers in the IDF, and there will be first graders from your school, who come to the Kotel to pray for you.” This is Israel. In 9 months, this has already become commonplace. A fact. Part of life. She understands it. So, we went back to enjoying our Popsicles and the incredible view.
We spent Shabbat dinner at an amazing tzimmer — a home which we rented in a Moshav, close to Rosh Hanikra. The home was in the middle of a clementine grove, and had its own private pool and jacuzzi. After eating a delicious Shabbat dinner, which we had brought with us, we called it a night.
At eight in the morning, Saturday morning, I was sitting in the pool, with my three girls running around, drinking my coffee and reading the biography of Rav Kook — considered by most as the father of religious Zionism.
The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze, and yes, literally, birds were chirping. I was lost in the beauty of the place. Suddenly, my girls started singing a song, which I had never heard of: Shabbat baboker, yom yafe. Ima shota ammon cafe. Aba kore amon iton, amon iton. “Shabbat morning, on a nice day; Mother is drinking a lot of coffee, Daddy is reading the paper.” The melody is beautiful. Listen to the song, and you will know what I mean. I learned, from my wife, that this is a song by the famous Israeli singer Arik Einstein, who passed away in November.
And, this beautiful Shabbat morning, sitting by the pool just a few kilometers from Rosh Hanikra, in an amazing tzimmer, surrounded by clementine trees, with my 3 beautiful daughters and my beautiful wife, suddenly became one of these “aha” moments when I again realized the immensity of this experience. It is, as my rabbi, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar says, “Over the Top!” My kids, who spoke almost no Hebrew, now speak to each other almost exclusively in Hebrew, talk to me all of the time about our Jewish state, and even have the presence of mind to appreciate how beautiful Shabbat morning is in Israel, by singing a song about it in Hebrew. In the State of Israel, all of the books, the scrolls, the songs, the holidays and the culture, are part of everyday life. No one knows this better than my little girls.
Am Israel Chai