By Robin B. Zeiger
Music can often bring me to a very spiritual place. Perhaps it is a glimpse of Gan Eden.
In the year since our family's Aliyah, I have found myself eternally grateful for all of the music surrounding us. Upon our arrival, our first community event in Emek Hefer was happening upon an outdoor sing along in our village. The music hasn't ended since then. A week later we heard Yehoram Gaon. We attended an outdoor free concert overlooking the sea in Netanya. We attended a cantor's choir singing Kabbalat Shabbat. My husband and I ran away to a "hippie" Carelbach retreat weekend. And the list goes on.
The Jewish holiday s this year were filled with music. Most of it happened in Emek Hefer. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayer services were filled with some deep; and meaningful singing in synagogue in the K'far (village). My husband even served as cantor in the near-by village of Hogla. And of course, I ran into one of the visitors from Richmond, Madelene Schnur who is here with Otzma.
The holiday of Sukkot was the best. During one of the intermediate days of the holiday, we were invited to a community-wide out-door musical event in K'far Haro'e sponsored by our village. A talented musician, Rav Odad David played the electric guitar and told stories. At least 50 people showed up. As I sat under the stars and sang, I felt overwhelmed with the moment. Sukkot is the holiday of simcha (happiness) and the music and sense of community brought me that simcha.
I am always a bit sad to see the holidays end. My oldest daughter, Eliana, helped me with this problem this year. She invited eleven guests to K'far Haro'e for the Shabbat after Simchat Torah. They were an interesting and eclectic collection off people. Some were students from American studying abroad for a year in seminary or Yeshiva. A couple of them had made Aliyah. And one was a "lone solider" who came from America to volunteer.
Students studying abroad often don't make it to Emek Hefer. It is a bit off the beaten path. They are more likely to visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Safed, and Masada, typical tourist sites. But somehow, courtesy of my children, we have increased the foreign visitors to Emek Hefer one-hundred fold. We do our best to show these young ladies and gentlemen what real Emek Hefer hospitality is like. My children laugh at me, but I like to show the guests around pointing out the chickens and cows and horses and orchards. In addition, because our home is modest, it "took a village to help with housing.' This time friends slept at four different houses here.
Most of all, we showed these guests our treasured music. Friday night, we organized a women's Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony on our rooftop. It is b beyond words to communicate the meaningfulness in welcoming the Shabbat while watching sun set over our village.
Saturday afternoon continued with partaking of the third Shabbat meal (Seudat Shleshet) on the roof. Once again we sang. However, the grand finale came about quite spontaneously at the end of Shabbat. My dear friend Leah Yarchi showed up for Seudat Shleshet. She is a very creative graphic artist. She helped create a beautiful Israel Independence Day Haggadah for Zayit, a Jewish cultural organization in Emek Hefer. Leah is also a very talented musician and has a very musical family. She is also a warm, caring, and spiritual person...And, of course, it is a small world. She is the cousin of one of our guests.
Leah was the impetus for the finale. Saturday night, we converged upon Leah's house for a musical Havdalah ceremony. - That is all 17 or us plus her family in one small living room. The sound of drums, guitar, flute, a tambourine, and a harmonica filled the room. With simplicity and genuineness, Leah welcomed us all into her home.
In these moments, tears come to my eyes. I look around in wonder. I can't believe I am finally here in Israel. I can't believe I am living in an agricultural village in Emek Hefer, surrounded by trees and greenery. I can't believe I am surrounded by friends. And most of all, I can't believe the music. It is truly a taste of Gan Eden. Come visit us. I will show our roof and I will introduce you to Leah.