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Shabbat.  Often misunderstood in America, and defined by what you can’t do.  During every Israel trip I have every been on (all 19 of them), Shabbat has focused on what I CAN do: REST!!  The week is so meaningful and full and busy and nonstop that by the time Shabbat arrives, the gift of rest is welcomed and embraced.  I fell asleep not long after dinner last night and slept without an alarm, waking up when my body told me to.  I showered and headed off to my friends Margot and Tamar’s house to have brunch with them and spend time with them and their 3 children.

The walk to their home is only about a 15-20 minute walk from my hotel and as I walked, I was completely aware of how quiet Jerusalem is on Shabbat morning.  Very few cars were on the road.  There was no hustle and bustle of an active city.  I saw many people walking to synagogue and wished them ‘Shabbat Shalom.’  It was a beautiful day and a beautiful walk.  I arrived and Margot and her oldest daughter Haleli were the only ones home, as Tamar and their sons Michael and Lavi had gone to the Arab village of Abu Gosh to get more things for brunch.  Abu Gosh makes some of the best hummus in the world, so I was excited for them to come back.  Haleli is 7 and she did her reading assignment with me (she has to read out loud and then the person listening has to sign her sheet).  Her reading was amazing, and I followed along since I can read Hebrew but don’t understand most of it.  I got to be the first person to sign her sheet this week!

When Tamar, Michael, and Lavi returned, they had wonderful goodies.  Margot had made shakshuka, so we ate wonderful food.  Lavi couldn’t wait to get his hands on the fresh falafel balls and ate two right away.  The day was filled with relaxation, fun, family, friends, and connection.  We played with a magnetic building kit and laughed and had fun.  Lavi took a nap and Haleli and Michael put on their costumes and paraded around as Queen Elsa and Spiderman before changing to a different Elsa costume and Batman.  It was so wonderful and fun and meaningful.  We watched Gnomeo and Juliet (since my kids are 19 and 22, this is not the type of movie we watch any longer) and they sat on the couch with me, eating popcorn, laughing, and having fun.

Keith with Margot and Tamar’s family.

One of my favorite things about Israel is the people and the friends I have here.  This trip alone has given me the chance to spend time with Daniel, Adam, Hallel, Irit and Avi, Margot and Tamar and the kids, plus time with new friends like Rachel and Fleur, and there are more I hope to get to see.   Israel truly is family.  The Rabbi at the Kotel knew Rabbi Lipskier and that’s not the first time the Rabbi I met at the Kotel has known somebody where I live.  Walk around and talk with Israelis and you will get more Shabbat dinner invitations than you can imagine!

As strange as it may sound, today is my favorite day of the trip because it allowed me to be Keith, visiting friends in Israel, playing with their children, catching up on life, eating great food, and just being a human being.  I think that is the essence of Shabbat—step back, relax, look at the world around you and appreciate the amazing beauty that exists not just in the world, but in our lives.  It’s so easy to take it for granted.  I look forward to getting to spend more time with Margot, Tamar, Haleli, Michael, and Lavi.  I can’t wait to see the amazing things happening for Margot and Tamar, watch their children grow up, and see how they will change the world.  They are my family and I love them, and getting to be with family in Israel is amazing.

There is more activity as Shabbat ends.  Havdalah.  The Old City for the Sound and Light show (which is truly amazing), and a delicious dinner with friends.  But nothing will beat Shabbat spent with my friends and their children.