30 December, 2008


The first leg of the journey is over. I left Israel on Sunday to head for the south of Ukraine. But first, I had to layover for 17-hours in Istanbul! So, I got to my $12 hostel at around midnight, then woke up early yesterday to see what I could of the city before heading back to the airport in the early afternoon for a short flight to Simferopol, Ukraine (even though the flight was only about 90-minutes, they served a meal). So, obviously, I didn't see much of Turkey, and the areas I did hit (Blue Mosque, Grand Bazzar)were so infested by tourists that it made the experience feel very rushed and inauthentic. What did I expect though? I had only a few hours to look around. The city however, as you know or have imagined is really gorgeous, the people are friendly, and the Turkish coffee very strong.


Now here I am in Krasnoperekopsk, Ukraine. A town of about 30,000. Jordan has a cozy little studio apt. where I'll spend the next 3-weeks (aside from the 7-8 days of travel we've sketched out). As I type, he's making us a huge batch of hummus, that will feature the tahini I smuggled here from Israel.

Oh yeah, Israel! Let me backtrack a bit. As I mentioned in my last post, the trip ended in the magically, mystical northern town of Tzfat. The birthplace of the Kabbalah and Kabbalat Shabbat. Most of the town's resident's are artists, and almost everyone in Tzfat is a very observant jew. Meaning, that on Friday nights, and Saturday's, you'll rarely see a car in motion, or a shop open.

It was so incredible and special to spend Shabbat there. After having Friday-night dinner with our group on the Livnot campus, I took a walk through the windy, cobble-stoned streets with three other guys from the trip. We were feeling especially rambunctious and spiritual as we made our through town singing the few songs we had learned earlier that day. At one point, Travis, who recently converted to Judaism (and couldn't possibly be happier about it), yelled a hearty "Shabbat Shalom" to a group of about twelve young black-hatters walking about 50-yards away. As soon as they heard this (they probably ranged in age from 8-14), they ran over to us with seemingly no hesitation and began to embrace us with hugs, kisses, and well wishes. They didn't speak a word of English, but that didn't matter at all! They formed ad-hoc circles with, and around us, and began dancing without a hint of self-consciousness. Then together we all sang "Ivdu," my new favorite song.

Ivdu Et Hashem B'Simcha
Bo'u Lfanav Birnana

The message is, basically, The service of God should be done with joy.

Which is, admittedly, a tenant of Judaism I either never embraced, internalized, or perhaps even learned. However, that night, and during many other moments of my trip, the spirit of Ivdu coursed through me like it never had before.

Birthright Mission...accomplished.


Blogger Jonathan said...

"Life was his art."

3:07 PM  
Blogger Brett Scharg said...

Sounds awesome, Zak! They were obviously chasidim! I think I know the tune, and we can sing it when you come back. I think the second part of the hebrew means something like "go before Him in faith". Keep up the good work!


8:24 PM  
Blogger Hy said...

Ivdu b'simcha...and old classic! Little do they realize, the Ukraine is weak.

1:33 PM  
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