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And the winners of

free copies of “Forty Days and Forty Nights, Rain, Rain, Rain” are:

Michele Jaquays, Teresa Young, William Festa, Candy Hedden, Diane Stedner, Bella Festa, Valerie Allison, Debra Cohen, Frances Namuth and Michelle Harrington. I am looking forward to their reviews of the book. Three hundred and twenty seven people entered to win.


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Part 3: Golan Heights

…and there was MORE FOOD – a huge picture-perfect baked salmon surrounded by fruits and vegetables, pancakes stacked high, maple and chocolate syrup dispensers, French toast, spaghetti and other goodies that you normally don’t find in Israel.

Almost too full to move, we attended havdalah services and then were entertained by a singer/guitar player. Soon everyone was packing and saying their goodbyes.

For us it was sort of a hello. Avi and Leah, whom we know from Cincinnati, had found someone who would drive us to Katzrin and then we would go with them to their home in Yonatan. We were quickly introduced to Joseph and when we got into the car with him and his teenage son, he turned and asked, “Should we take the Turnpike or I-75?” This question so discombobulated us that it took a few minutes for us to answer him, but we understood immediately that we were in for an interesting trip.

Joseph, we learned, had been a journalist for a liberal newspaper in South Africa, then a book publisher. He regaled us with great stories including the period of time when left-wing Jews were thrown in prison for working with the ANC. Those prisoners were given a choice of prison or immigration to Israel. Wonder what they chose.

From South Africa Joseph went to Florida where he resided for 18 years and established another book publishing company. He recently moved to Katzrin and conducts his business from there. Mick and I hope to met up with him again and hear more of his stories.

We tried to get out of Peki’in. It turned out not to be so easy. After making a series of wrong turns on narrow streets, we dead ended and there we found Avi and Leah who had left 20 minutes before us. Joseph backed down the steep twisting hill. Avi wasn’t having any of that. Leah was out of the car trying to coax him into backing up so he could turn around at the tiny cul de sac. Avi did not believe that the room existed that Leah wanted him to back into.

Joseph waited at the bottom of the road for a very long five minutes. Every passing car that squeezed by honked irritably at us even though Joseph hugged the rock wall as tightly as possible.

Between Joseph’s GPS and his son’s phone GPS plus a little intuition, we were on the highway. I was torn between watching the road (as though my vigilance would keep us from careening off at each pitch black, rollercoaster-like turn) and keeping my mouth from gapping at the beauty of the lights spread below us, everywhere the eye could see, like shiny yellow flowers.

Avi followed us until we got right outside Katzrin and then he pulled ahead of us and to the side of the road and told us to do the same. There we became outlaws. It is strictly against the law to have more than five in a car.

Leah gave Mick her front seat and moved into the back seat, embracing Dovid on her lap, and I maneuvered in next to her with Benjie on my lap. Bunchie remained in her car seat.

Avi was the amiable host pointing out where the chickens and cows were but we saw nothing in the dark.

We were surprised at how big and nice their rented house is. There was even a bathtub!!! Everywhere we go there are beautifully tiled showers but never any bathtubs. Leah walked in, picked up a remote, and tried to get the heat on. Nothing happened. “This is a tragedy”, she declared. I laughed. This was the third tragedy in our trip so far. (wink, wink)

Avi, a pediatrician, works at four clinics spread out around Lake Keneret. His schedule is different every week and gets changed on minutes notice but he discovered he was free to spend Sunday morning with us. We dropped Bunchie off at nursery and toured the center of the moshav. (The boys were picked up by a school bus). I was delighted at the art work, which is ubiquitous in Israel. On the outside of the kindergarten are beautiful tiles, each tile representing a family on the moshav. In this tiny square was the synagogue, a large playground, administrative offices, the post office and the kindergarten.

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Hand painted tiles representing Moshav Yonatan families

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Avi, a pediatrician, works at four clinics spread out around LakeKeneret. His schedule is different every week and gets changed on a minutes notice but he discovered he was free to spend Sunday morning with us. We dropped Bunchie off at nursery and toured the center of the moshav. (The boys were picked up by a school bus). I was delighted at the art work, which is ubiquitous in Israel. On the outside of the kindergarten are beautiful tiles, each tile representing a family on the moshav. In this tiny square was the synagogue, a large playground, administrative offices, the post office and the kindergarten.

Avi next dropped Leah off at ulpan. We had declined their offer of breakfast so we could treat Avi to his favorite restaurant in the Katzrin Mall.

We then went to see the 2000 plus-years remains of the synagogue and houses there. The historians do not know what  area was named or what happened to its residents.

Mick and I sat alone in the ruins listening to a piped in Rosh HaShannah service with music. While Avenu Malkanu (Our father, our king), was chanted, Mick declared that he was certain he had been there in another life.

OlivePress Leah and Avi Politzer and me in front of a grape press at Katzrin archaeological park. (I’m the old one.)                    

After Avi had dropped us off, he had picked up Leah who was on her ulpan break. They rejoined us as we looked at old olive presses and went into a tiny store of a resident wood carver.

Avi took Leah back to ulpan, picked us up and then it was off to the Katzin museum.


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Part 2: The Golan Heights

Our tour of the Village began after prayer services followed by another huge meal. We trekked up the narrow winding streets that we driven on the previous day, until we came to the main square: the center of activity. The square is lined by tiny shops and cafes, steps go down to the pool in the center, fed by a mountain stream. This was the main source of water for drinking, washing clothes and bathing, and the power for their flour mill until the 1950s, when the Village got running water and electricity. Two statutes loom over the pool representing two Druze heroes, leader Sultan Pasha al-Atrash and Kamal Jumblatt.”

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These photos were taken on a previous trip to Peki’in

Our guide, Naem, explained that only religious Druze are allowed to know the secrets of their religion. And, the Druze religion does not allow converts. However, all Druze are commanded not to imbibe in alcohol (a good thing considering the roads in the Village), belief in reincarnation (when a baby is spanked into life that is the moment a dead soul has entered the baby) and that the Druze, as are Jews, instructed to respect and obey the laws of their resident country. Since Druze believe in reincarnation they do not have great respect for the bodies of the deceased and families are buried together in one grave. The Druze claim to be descended from Yithro, the father-in-law of Moses.

We next hiked up a steep hill and stone steps to see the cave where Shimon bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon hid out for 13 years, fearing for their life because they had dared to make a derogatory remark about the Roman ruler after the Romans put down the Bar Kochba rebellion.

The cave is extremely shallow. Three people could barely get in at the same time and anyone of normal height had to hunch over. There is a debate as to whether or not this cave had been larger at one time but had been closed off by a rock slide. The carob tree that fed Shimon Bar Yochai and is son still stands outside the cave.  When it was finally safe for them to come out of hiding, God ordered them back into the cave for another year as punishment because the anger flashing out of Shimon Bar Yochai’s eyes killed a man.

I was amazed to see three year old Baela (the youngest of a family that had moved from Cincinnati to Yonatan in the Golan) keeping pace with all of us as we trudged up and down the hills and steps of Peki’in.

There were other children there and each time we stopped, they zealously climbed up rocks or hung off of trees. One fell over the embankment near the cave and this time there really almost was a tragedy as the boy clutched a rock until someone grabbed his hand and brought him back to safety.

Nest stop: Peki’in synagogue. Margalite, an elderly woman, is the keeper of the keys, family history, and starling tales relating to the synagogue there and her family’s history. When she was a young woman, Arabs invaded this peaceful village and grabbed her father. Their intent was to kill him. While they argued about whether or not it was worthwhile to waste a bullet on a Jew, Margali’s mother gathered up some other Muslim men who offered the invaders a sheep and suggested that instead they kill the sheep and make a feast. They did. Margalit Zinati enjoys her friendship with the other women in the village and gives lectures about the Synagogue (which contains two carved stones from the SecondTemple) and was built in 1873 on the site of an ancient synagogue. Next door is a museum and Margalit usually shows a film about the history of the Synagogue. However, since it was Shabbat the film was not shown. Before we departed from the synagogue, Margalit pointed out places where the roof was allowing recent rains to invade the building. Before we departed from the synagogue to her home/museum showered us all with blessings.

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Our last stop was at a monument from the Israeli government recognizing those Druze young men who gave their life serving their country. There are about 100,000 Druze in Israel, one million in Syria, and another 900,000 spread out mostly in the Middle East. Naem then voiced the opinion that Druze do not have equal opportunities at jobs, and housing in Israel. This statement seemed to contradict the claim in the film we saw that Druze women are smart and highly educated in Israeli universities and that many have jobs as doctors and accountants here. Also, at the beginning of our tour, Naem pointed out a colony of new houses that he said were awarded to the Druze that had served in the IDF. I know many Israelis who have served in the IDF but I never heard of any who had been given a gift of housing at the end of their service. Also, Wikipedia quotes an article from the Jerusalem Post that in 2011 the Israeli “government approved an aid program of NIS 680 million ($184M) for housing, education and tourism upgrades in Peki’in and other Druze communities in northern Israel.”  As everywhere, people have their own views and agendas, and it is up to us to learn more before arriving at a conclusion. The Druze are famous for being friendly and hospitable. In our experience, this is true. Their hospitality, combined with the charm and Jewish historical significance of the Village of Peki’in, make this a great place to visit.


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Venturing into the Galilee and the Golan

Part 1

My husband and I left Naharyia Friday morning and were back on Sunday at four watching the sun begin its daily, dazzling dip into the blue and green striped waters of the Mediterranean. That short span of time encompassed 2000 years of history.

We were attending a Nefesh B Nefesh Go North Shabbaton in Peki’in where we met new Israeli citizens from places as far away as Toronto, Australia and the Republic of South Africa. They had recently settled in Tzfat, Katzrin, Yonatan and Carmiel. During these few days we enjoyed Carlebach-style Shabbat services, endless vistas of mountains peppered with olive trees, and dined on meals that looked ready for glossy-magazine photography sessions.

The Peki’in Hostel was comfortable. The room had six beds (four of them folded into the wall).

But let’s backtrack here so I can share the experience of getting there. The road began flat and straight, but soon hair-pined up mountains wending its way through an endless panorama of rocky landscapes. Finding the Village of Peki’in was fairly easy. Locating the hostel seemed an unfathomable mystery.

Ellie was driving with help from his GPS and his wife, Martine. Totally lost, Ellie called Benny to ask how he got there. “Can’t tell you” was his cheery reply. He told us of numerous turns, many wrong, until miraculously he was there. Ellie fearlessly drove over steep, one-lane roads that were not one-way. You could almost touch the sides of the houses on either side of the road from the car windows. Several times a driver coming from the opposite direction had to back down to allow Ellie the polite right-of-way. The bottom of each narrow road turned so sharply, that Ellie would have to back up and angle the car to make the next turn. With lots of shouting for help from rolled down windows, and confusing return answers, we did finally get there.

Upon our arrival, we were invited to watch a film about Druze culture. We did. The film was excellently produced. It drew you into a few hours of the life of a personable, good-looking young man who had served in the IDF. At the ripe old age of 25, (clutch your hearts, we have a TRAGEDY unfolding) he has still not found his bride. It was amusing, interesting, colorful and informative, but the main message was deceptive. It declared that this village of 5,200 people, Druze, Muslims, Jews and Christians all get along very well. The village is approximately 70% Druze, 28% Christian, 2% Muslim with one Jewish family plus Margalite, the remaining descendant of a Jewish family who had lived in Peki’in for centuries.  The film failed to mention that when some young Jewish families moved into Peki’in in 2007, they were frightened away by having their homes burned. More recently one Jewish couple, new immigrants of Dutch birth from England proudly who display a Mogen Dovid on their gate and entrance way, have moved there. They live steps away from the cave where Shimon Bar Yochai (the author of the Zohar) and his son hid for 13 years.

Zipping ahead, dinner was served family style. The tables were covered with salads. One of the approximately ten salads served consisted of sweet potato noodles that were crisp and spicy. While I helped myself to a third serving and wondered how I could recreate that salad at home, a woman seated across the table announced that she felt faint. As she was falling over, helping hands eased her to the floor and a cry for “Doctor, doctor,” reverberated in our immediate area. One of the guests at our table turned out to be a doctor and he was already kneeling by her side and another offering his help by the time the woman finished her descent to the floor.

During the hullabaloo the waiters went about their business, bringing out platters of schnitzel, stuffed chicken and sweet potted meat which appeared as if by magic on the table. I couldn’t do anything for the woman on the floor and my gastric juices were percolating from the smell of the food.

We nibbled slowly, not wanting to look callous but the food was in front of us 🙂 and the woman was being attended to. Finally, the doctor declared his verdict. She was declared “okay”. Her blood sugar had temporarily plummeted. We attacked the food with gusto.

After a lecture, we retired early to ready for the next day.


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Win a FREE Copy of “Forty Days and Forty Nights”

Between now and the end of the month, Goodreads.com is giving away ten copies of “Forty Days and Forty Nights, Rain, Rain, Rain”.

The book is a fun version of Noah’s ark. This ark is populated with mischievous monkeys, voracious ants, battling ostriches, weeping penguins and howling coyotes. Each page is filled with vibrant colorful illustrations and the poetry is humorous. A CD containing an original Forty Days and Forty Nights song sung by Laible Blu accompanies the book. After the song Laible narrates the book against soft keyboard music. The narration helps children to read the words they don’t yet know. In the back of the book is a glossary containing interesting facts about the animals in the book which broaden a child’s knowledge and add to the fun.ImageImageR