Written by Jill Horing '15
For our fourth day we visited the holy city of Tzfat. Before Tzfat many of our learning experiences centered around the history and current political and militaristic situation of Israel. We visited ancient ruins and bunkers and the borders with both Lebanon and Syria. We furthered our understanding of the military conflicts when our group was joined by eight Israeli Defense Force peers. While I learned a lot from these days and enjoyed all of our visits, Tzfat offered something that I felt was previously missing- a glimpse into the spiritual side of Judaism. Israel serves as the holy land for the Jewish religion and a visit to a contemporary Kabbalistic art gallery helped me feel how my religion connected me to the history and conflicts of this otherwise foreign land.
Our arrival in Tzfat was greeted by a terrible rainstorm and while we were unable to walk around and fully take in the beautiful city, we quickly took refuge in a very interesting sort of art gallery. The artist, Avraham, told our group his story of growing up in Michigan and finding meaning in his religion through the study of Kabbalah. He explained to us some of the core concepts, including the belief in a higher being, the idea that everything happens for a reason, and the importance of controlling your mind in order to control your emotions. He spoke of the value our religion places on giving rather than taking. His life work was to create art to represent the propositions of Kabbalah. He explained a few of his paintings to us and gave us an opportunity to buy replicas.
After leaving Avraham’s gallery, we visited two synagogues in Tzfat and heard anecdotes about Judaism that furthered our understanding of the core belief in kindness and giving. These experiences reminded me of the pride I felt in being Jewish and allowed my religion to connect me to those in the holy land. Avraham’s compelling and passionate explanation of Kabbalism and his visual representations of it have inspired me to want to learn more about the spiritual side of Judaism rather than focus on how it manifests itself in politics and the news.