|With brother Barry at the Kotel|
I just finished a two day trip up north to the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights with my brother Barry.. We hit four wineries (Golan Heights Winery, Galil Mountain, Adir, Na'aman), each of which was interesting in its own right. Golan Heights is Israel's second largest winery, after Carmel, and produces about 6 million bottles a year under three different labels: Golan Heights, Gamla, and Yarden. Galil Mountain Winery is the primary business of Kibbutz Yiron right near the border with Lebanon, and they produce about 1 million bottles a year. They have two bordeaux style blends called Meron and Yiron which we found to be particularly good. Adir is a very fancy boutique winery which produces about 20,000 bottles a year, and they also have a gourmet dairy. The last Na'aman produces only 10,000 bottles a year, and the former filmmaker turned wine maker blends bold red wines that he names after rock groups or songs: Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Bob Merlot, and more. It was great fun.
We also chanced upon this unbelievable jam maker named Sarah, who makes about 100 kinds of homemade jams. It was hard to decide what to get, but we bought sun baked apricot, pear cinnamon, strawberry raspberry, and chocolate orange. Other highlights were a great Kosher steakhouse in the Golan Heights called Bokrim and a trip to a restored Talmudic village in Katzrin. It was also great to spend some quality time with my big brother.
|I'll take Sara's over Miss Pearl's any day.|
|In front of ancient Katzrin Synagogue|
Shabbat this week was very special, because we got to see not only my brother, but 5 out of 6 Schackers, Sarah Levine, Melissa Werthan, and Aliza Zangwill. It was wonderful to spend time with each of them, bringing together the holiness of Jerusalem with the warmth of friendship. Sarah and Melissa did not stay with us through Havdala; thus we did not get any pictures of them. Services were not quite as good this week.
|Neighbor and Friend Aliza|
|How many Schackers does it take to light a Havdalah candle?|
We spent Friday night at the Western Wall. There are many minyanim at once going on there, so we tried to find one to stick with, but it was very hard to hear. What we did enjoy was seeing a large group of Israeli soldiers dancing up a Shabbat storm and singing songs on both the mens' and womens' sides. The release of joy for such hard working young men and women whose mission is to protect this holy place was joyful and inspiring. Saturday morning was spent at the Hurva Synagogue. Architecturally, it was amazing. Spiritually, it was lacking. The Hurva is in the Old City of Jerusalem and was rebuilt to its full beauty just a few years ago. It was destroyed by the Jordanians immediately after the 1948 War of Independence sort of gratuitously. Only the arch from the large dome-like structure still stood. When the Old City was recaptured by Israel in 1967, the original decision was just to leave the arch without rebuilding. Eventually, some U.S. donors decided to restore it to its former glory. It is certainly a beautiful synagogue, but the service was almost all Ashkenazic mumbling. The participants are the black velvet wearing kippa crowd, and not a soul talked to any of us. They also do not do the prayer for Israel or the Israeli army. It's almost a non-'Zionist relic stuck in the middle of Jerusalem, very strange and unsatisfying to us. Fortunately, all the people we spent Shabbat with later in the day made it holy instead.
The boys switched camps from a camp called Shelanu in our neighborhood which had very little int he way of activities to the All Star Sports Camp. They are ecstatic. They play all kinds of sports all day long at Kraft Stadium, which was built by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and thus contains the Patriots' logo in the center of the field. The boys are in heaven and making friends, and we are very, very happy for them.
End of Hartman
Also this past week, I finished my studies at the Hartman Institute. The highlight was a guided trip to the Israel Museum, where my group concentrated on modern Israeli art. We also took a Bible Highlights tour into Bet Shemesh and a few other places that were significant to King Saul, King David,, Samuel, and Saul. We also got to eat lunch at the Ella Valley Winery. All in all, it was very intellectually stimulating two weeks, but two weeks with only rabbis is a lot for me. It is not something I plan to do again in the near future, but I am thankful I had the opportunity.
Wine of the Week
Besides all the tasting, we opened a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Yatir, which is my favorite brand in Israel. Pure, rich, oaky Cabernet, about a 93. The wine comes from the Negev, believe it or not, but specifically from the Yatir Forest, which has a very high elevation. I've got to find a way to get some of this brand when I'm back in the U.S.