Sunday, August 28, 2016

What a Vacation Should Be

A vacation can be a group thing - sometimes a family thing, sometimes a romantic couple thing, sometimes an individual thing. Sometimes it's meant to help you find something you've lost or are missing - time with your spouse, moments with your children, who you really are deep inside the person you show the world. It helps sometimes to stop your normal routine and simply contemplate. Or not. That's the beauty of a vacation. It can be what you make it.

Sometimes, it's about seeing exciting places, new and different from what you see every day. It always amazes me when I go away that this exciting thing I'm experiencing for the first time - is someone else's every day reality. And the reverse. I meet people all the time, so enthralled with being in the holy city of Jerusalem and while I still and hopefully always will be enthralled myself, without question I take it for granted to a certain extent.

Not its beauty, never its beauty or the kindness of the people. Never the holiness, nor the fact that it is mine and an integral part of my life, but the fact that I believe it will be there tomorrow...and next week, and next month and next year. At some point, I won't be, but Jerusalem is eternal as no other city on earth can be.

I've gone to Jerusalem on vacation but somehow it's harder to relax because it is so connected to my daily life and so vacation is something more distant, less familiar.

Some people dream of a vacation in Jerusalem, others in the Judean Desert near my home, the Dead Sea just 20 minutes away. For me, different might mean traveling a few hours away. Often the north - the Golan, near the Sea of Galilee, or the coast. Sometimes Eilat with its coral reef, beautiful sea and vacation atmosphere.

And once in a while, Safed - Tsfat. It is a holy place, a mystical place, friendly people. People walk through the streets and bless you; sell you pizza and bless your child (or grandchild).

They stop you in the street as if you are a long lost friend, and you answer, because, of course, you are.

Sometimes, a vacation is just about resting, relaxing, reading, writing, walking, swimming. Not being a tourist exactly but having fun. For someone who is connected to the computer, it's such an amazing experience to unplug yourself from it. I do that regularly each week for 25 hours over the Jewish Sabbath, but to to it for a few days is just heaven.

So, we went north, my oldest child and my youngest. My son-in-law, two grandsons, my husband and my sister-in-law, who is visiting. We went to Tsfat (Safed) and did...nothing. Really, nothing. We rented a house. Someone's home that became our vacation getaway. Each morning we had breakfast; at some point, we went into the small pool. At our most energetic, we walked within the old city of Safed, ancient alleyways and beautiful synagogues and wonderful,

It was a lovely time - with my husband, my older daughter and her family, my younger daughter and sister-in-law. What was missing was on my mind - my three sons. One was still in the States visiting his dear and wonderful in-laws; one is..well, it's complicated; and one lost the chance to be with us when the army switched his break time. It was so hard not having him there after switching the dates specifically so that he would be with us.

Many times in the days before the vacation, I kept thinking it would work out and something would change. It didn't. During the week, I kept expecting him to call to say he was on a bus and coming to join us. He didn't.

So it was a vacation in which I focused on who was there, rather than who wasn't. It was a time to hug grandchildren. Aliza learned to swim after years of wading in pools and avoiding the deep end. It was the perfect pool for that - just deep enough to swim, with the ability to quickly put feet down if needed.

When we arrived, the family told us about a little surprise awaiting us below the house. The city of Safed was nearly destroyed by one massive earthquake on January 1, 1837 and then, after being rebuilt, was damaged once again on November 7th, 1927. Amazingly enough, under the house where we stayed, were another two floors of old housing.

We didn't tour extensively; we didn't see many things. We didn't go kayaking, as we have in past years. But we ate, we slept, we swam, we relaxed.

Sometimes, you can't ask for more.

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