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By Jacqueline Mai

I’ve spent nearly 3 weeks in Israel, and each Shabbat experience has been different. After the first week, my roommate invited us to a Shabbat dinner on the lawn of a Hebrew University dorm, and I spent that Saturday walking around Jerusalem’s Old City and praying at the Western Wall. The following week, a few classmates and I embarked on a weekend excursion in which we explored Nazareth, Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, Tzfat, Masada, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea. We ushered in Shabbat in Tzfat, making shakshuka in our small Airbnb kitchen. The next morning, we raced down the country to make it to Ein Gedi—a nature reserve—and Masada before both parks closed.

Though both weekends were memorable—in that they allowed for the fostering of friendships and exploration—they lacked the restfulness that is commonly associated with Shabbat. I realized that I craved time and aloneness for introspection, so I decided to spend my last Shabbat in a way that would make those things possible. Though I had only spent a very short amount of time in Tzfat—enough to walk around the Old City—I realized how much I liked it, and vowed to return. There was still so much to see. I also understood Tzfat to be a very spiritual city, home to respected Jewish mystics from centuries ago. As a person in the process of converting to Judaism, I felt that it would only be right that I spend the holiest of holidays in the one of the holiest of cities.

I arrived in Tzfat a little after noon on Friday, and checked into my hotel. My partner had suggested that I find a nice place for myself in order to feel some semblance of a vacation, so I opted for the Rosenthalis Hotel, which lies on the edge of Tzfat’s Artist Gallery. My room—which was atop a series of cobblestone steps, allowing me to see the rolling hills of the Galilee—contained curated paintings by Moshe Rosenthalis, an 20th century Lithuanian-Israeli abstract artist.

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