Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cherry Picking My Way to Calm

Last night, after returning from an exciting weekend at the Cherry Festival in Gush Etzion and a Shabbos in Neve Daniel with @tripnmommy and her band of merry munchkins, I wrote a really long and, what I thought, emotional post about the weekend. And then? Well, my computer went wonky and the app quit and my work was lost to the annals of time. So here we are, again. Let me try this one more time.

The great thing about Israel -- or maybe the Jewish community in general -- is that in an instant everything can change. I'm not talking anything philosophical here, but merely the fact that what I had planned for Shabbos fell through and I ended up opting (at the advice of a few folks) to go to the Gush for the Cherry Festival and then staying in the environs for Shabbos.

@freeves and I schlepped out to the Gush together, and when we got there we made a b-line for the Chocoholique booth so I could drop my Shabbos bags and to meet my meal hosts. Yes, I managed to land meals with the folks behind probably the most delicious chocolate liqueur on the planet. The funny thing is that I knew about this liqueur before going to Israel. See, when we were in Linden, NJ, for a Shabbaton, the rabbi there filled us in on the glory of spicy chocolate liqueur and said that he'd hook us up when I went to Israel. Of course, that conversation happened and was forgotten, so imagine my surprise when realizing that not only were my meals by the makers of Chocoholique, but that their next-door neighbors were related to the rabbi back in New Jersey. (Cue "It's a Small World After All ...)

You can only buy this in Israel, but it's worth having someone schlep back. Any distributors in the house?
After dropping my things, we traversed the booths, which carried every ware from falafel (if that's a ware) to tableclothes to mitpachot (head coverings) and more. It reminded me of everything I love about Middle America, actually, in that it felt very small town and quaint. Families sat around under gigantic shade tarps and ate lunch, kids crawled around and devoured gigantic cones of cotton candy. And the cherry picking itself? Wow. Now that was quaint. It reminded me of apple picking in Connecticut, but to a much more awesome level. Children and adults alike were up in the cherry trees dropping down handfulls to passersby, and babies were covered in cherry juice. People plopped down under the shade of the cherry trees and simply relished in the communal experience of harvesting cherries.

I walked away from the festival with some mitpachot, some of the delicious Espresso and Coconut @Chocoholique, as well as some Honey Liqueur (sorry Gottliebs!), which I had never before seen. I had about a pint of cherries in my possession, not to mention the countless cherries I ate while scrambling around the grove, and I was prepared to do something that I had never had the chance to do before: separating terumah and ma'aser.
Halachah requires the separation of terumah and ma’ aser from Israeli produce. When the Temple was extant, these separated portions were distributed in a specified manner to the Kohanim (Priests), Leviim (Levites) and the poor, or eaten in Jerusalem. While terumah and ma’ aser are no longer distributed or eaten in Jerusalem, the requirement to separate and designate them is still in effect. 
After the festival, we rushed back to Neve Daniel to prepare for Shabbos. All I can say about the experience of Shabbos with the @tripnmommy family is that it was outstanding. The kids treated me like a big sister and the peace the hovers over the community could be felt at all times. And the view? Well, the view was killer. 

There's something about Israel that I can't really explain to those who haven't spent a good deal of time here, and maybe even Israelis will think I'm nuts, but it's what I love most about this country: an overarching sense of chaos that breaks down at ground-level into complete peace. While standing outside in Neve Daniel, looking out over the communities in the distance, I felt calm. The kind of calm that makes you want to cry (and even as I write this, I feel surprisingly emotional) because you've reached this point of happiness, as if HaShem is walking with you, near you, around you. I felt this more on the mountainous Yishuv of Neve Daniel than I often do in many places in Israel, so maybe that is saying something. I really think that the location seems perfect for Tuvia -- him being a "country mouse" and all.
Residence in Israel is equivalent to the observance of all the biblical precepts.                           
Elazar ben Shammua, Sifre #80 to Deuteronomy 13:29
More photos? Of course!

And, don't forget, I'm in Jerusalem until late Thursday night, so if you want to grab a nosh or coffee, just let me know!

Note: If you haven't already considered it, think about donating to the Barry Shuter Family Trust, which I blogged about recently. If you hadn't put two-and-two together yet, Amy (aka @tripnmommy) is Barry's wife. Their kids, I can tell you from first-hand experience that hold a powerful light within themselves, and they should know only happiness and success in this world. My own father lost both of his parents before the age of 12, and he struggled with the help of those around him. Losing a parent and a husband is impossibly difficult, but there is so much that we can do to make life easier for the family.