Zohar invited us to stay at his kibbutz -- a communal village, population 650 -- in northern Israel.
We leapt at the prospect of seeing a communal village, although Laurel was a little hesitant. Should she spend Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, at the kibbutz? Or should she try to spend it with Israeli relatives she's never met before; family with whom she shares a common great-grandfather?
Thanks to strange serendipity, she didn't have to choose. As it turns out, Laurel's relative lives on the same kibbutz. In fact, he's Zohan's next-door neighbor!
This relative, Yani, is extremely friendly. He wholeheartedly greeted Laurel when she knocked on his door, and he hosted us for three consecutive dinners. Today he and his wife drove us to Mt. Carmel, took us to a Sufi market, and bought us an amazing hummus, dolma, and lamb kebab lunch.
Devout Jews fast on Yom Kippur, but the kibbutz is populated with kids in their early 20's who care more about fun than fasting. We spent The Day of Judgment hanging out at a campfire with about 25 Israeli youth. We cooked pizzas over the fire, munched on cookies, and enjoyed an unconventional, fasting-free Yom Kippur.
In general, we're better-fed in Israel than we ever were in Egypt. During Ramadan in Egypt, there simply was no food available. We'd get hungry, and climb onto the roof of the hostel, and shake a palm tree until dates fell out. We'd munch on the dates and call it lunch.
We were poor and hungry, and we all lost weight. Here in Israel, we're promptly putting those pounds back on, one scoop of tahina at a time.
The landscape here looks dry -- rust-colored soil, stone settings -- but amazingly, this kibbutz is brimming with fruit. Our days consist of picking pomegranates out of trees, watching quails, walking past the sheep pastures, picking wild herbs to make tea.
We're returning to Tel Aviv tonight.