My grandfather was in love with my grandmother, smitten like a school boy, and the story goes that after any meal she prepared, he would declare that the food was delicious. “Better than the best restaurant,” he would say.
It was sweet and romantic, and for some reason my uncle could. Not. Stand it. After hearing Papa say “better than the best restaurant” one too many times, he famously exploded.
“You have not even been to a good restaurant, how on earth would you know her food is better than the best restaurant?”
Well, just as my grandfather never ate in a great restaurant, I have never been to Tuscany.
But I recently went to Rosh Pinna, a quaint village nestled on the slopes of an upper Galilee mountain. Vine-covered stone houses, old farm tools leaning on wooden gates, cobblestone streets, and everywhere fig trees, giving off the gentle sweet smell of their young fruit.
We were based in a charming Tzimmer guest house for three nights, taking jaunts to check out the trippy art scene in Safed and sweat in the simmering sauna of Tiberias, and return — gratefully — to the laid-back air of Rosh Pinna.
Residents of this small face-to-face community amble up the steep road greeting each other, and I too am marching up the hill, earphones in, to catch a bit of exercise and find a view of the nahal river valley. And as I reach the scenic outlook, even before my head has made sense of the scene, my eyes water up.
Sweet music is playing, and town residents are gathered, and a row of giant plaques with photos of the community’s fallen soldiers tell me that I’ve stumbled upon the annual memorial for a son of Rosh Pinna, killed in the Second Lebanon War. A young man who loved music and wrote poetry, and whose family and neighbors are smiling sadly, shaking their heads and embracing each other.
And as I leave, I can not make any sense at all of the program in my ears, in which Noah Efron is parsing the nuances between J Street’s Facebook campaign and their formal position on the matter and my phone pocket-calls in rapid succession both my kids, both of them soldiers and I am sure my head will explode any minute, when my husband calls to tell me there’s been a stabbing at the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem.
And this is not at all charming.
But this is as real as the old cobblestones and the sweet smell of figs that will ripen in time for us to bless them on Rosh Hashanah.
And this is my home.
Thanks to Noah Efron for having me as a guest bloviator — including reading this piece — on this past week’s Promised Podcast episode.