Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Denise, Earl and living the good life in Zichron

After doing my volunteer thing with Sar-el recently, I wanted to spend a few days checking out another region of Israel where I could rest, relax and pull myself together for yet another 12-hour flight back home. That’s how I ended up in Zichron Yaakov, a small resort community just south of Haifa.

Denise and Earl, friends who once upon a time lived here in the Land of Cotton, moved to Zichron about a year ago. They were gracious enough to put me up for a few days and schlep me around a bit.  Zichron is a lovely community built across and atop a mountain range that gently slips into a valley along the Mediterranean.

It offers up world-class views in all directions – a patchwork of cultivated land in the valley, giving way to a maze of lush and lovely vineyards on nearby hillsides; twist about and the Mediterranean quietly roars to life in the far distance, the perfect spot for each day’s setting sun. This might be heaven!

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges in calling this place home. Denise and Earl – their children Reuben, Levi and Gabi – are mostly living the good life in the Jewish homeland. They’ve been warmly welcomed, are members of the local Masorti synagogue and community, and have friends who are warm, caring and helpful.

But like most olim, there’s a steep learning curve that involves mastering the language, the customs and dealing with the high-cost of just about everything. I’m delighted to report that Denise and Earl are still smiling, even as they go through the cosmic effort of finding and buying a home.
Spending time with them and visiting Zichron was a perfect way to end my trip, a chance to see up close and personal how Israelis go about their daily lives. We took a few small road trips to area sights – a nearby resort community and, later, the ancient ruins at Caesarea. But, frankly, I found it just as enjoyable and enlightening to visit a local mall and several markets with Denise and venture out with Earl to buy a bouquet of flowers for Shabbat.

Sitting out on their deck one evening, sharing a splendid bottle of Syrah from a local vineyard, we chatted about this and that and watched the sun slowly sink into the sea. For a month or so I had been dashing about, revisiting ancient and iconic spots across Israel, in search of that elusive something that would define and stamp this trip as special.
I’m thinking there was much that was special – the spiritual secrets hidden away in the Old City of Jerusalem; the upbeat and cosmopolitan vibe in Tel Aviv; the like-minded and friendly folks I worked with at Tel HaShomer. But the quiet and calm that settled across Zichron as the sky grew dark and my soul grew light is what I’ll be remembering.

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