Where to begin? And keep in mind that I think this story is better told live, with facial expression and hand motions.
This morning, I was at the airport and decided to call and say hello to Rabbi S, our Chabad rabbi from Milwaukee, who I knew was in Israel. After the arrivals, I didn't have much to do for the day, so when he said he'd pick me up, I said ok.
He picked me up and said he was going to show me around Kfar Chabad. I had on capris (remember I'm short, so they weren't quite as long as pants, but stilll...) and a t-shirt. When I mentioned that I wasn't sure if I was appropriately dressed for the visit, he said, "don't worry, it's Chabad". Okay....
So first we drive around Beit Rivka, I think mainly because he made a wrong turn on the way to Kfar Chabad. Beit Rivka is where all the girls go to school. Dorms, a gym, a synagogue - not much to see.
Then we wound our way to Kfar Chabad. I think I was the only woman within miles wearing pants. If he was okay being seen driving me around, I was okay wearing pants, but it was still a little strange. I think I was also the only married woman within miles not wearing a wig.
First, we went to the house of a woman whose husband runs the Chabad at the airport. According to Rabbi S, he's a good person to know. I didn't meet him, so I won't find that out. His wife however was lovely, offered me Moroccan sweets (they were quite tasty), and invited me to her daughter's wedding. Their home was surprisingly normal, if you consider that the living room was bookshelves floor to ceiling on all available wall space, save the windows, although they could have done that and I wouldn't have known. There were cookie jars in the kitchen, loaves of bread being stored in the double oven (well, I guess that's not so normal), and a fridge full of half bottles of soda. There was a picture or two of the rebbe, but not as many as I've seen in Rabbi Samuel's house.
When we left her house, we went to 770. Really bizarre. The place is an exact replica of the Rebbe's office in New York. We went in, but not before I asked if I was really allowed. Evidently I'm far enough off the path of righteousness that he thought I could be helped by going in. That, or the answer was actually yes. You know what, there's nothing to see there. I mean, the Rebbe isn't there, and everyone else is studying.
In the basement, they have their book empire. There are copies of the Tanya (the book on which the Lubavitchers base their practices) printed in every country and city in which there are at least 10 Jews. Rabbi S told me that he had them printed in 40 towns in Wisconsin. Including Peshtigo. There were 10 Jews in Peshtigo, Wisconsin (see, inflection and hand gestures would be used emphatically here)?!
After looking at the book of shluchim (shlichim, or emissaries to all but those who speak Yiddish), we left. Note to anyone who tries that again - don't. It's boring, and it's like looking at someone elses family pictures where you have no connection in any way, shape or form to any of them.
But I digress.
So we get back in the car and Rabbi S offers me kichel. It's 1pm, I've had nothing but a handful of peanuts and a lot of coffee, and he offers me kichel. Note to anyone who tries that again - don't. No explanation needed.
We head to the highway East toward Tel Aviv and Rabbi S says were going on the next part of our tour. Okay. And then we head North, and I politely asked where we were headed. His answer stunned me. He said, "Haifa".
I told him I wasn't so interested in heading to Haifa. He said "oh, that's just a stop I have to make, and then we'll head on the real tour up North."
Can you say kidnapped. Seriously. Trapped in a Kia van with Rabbi S and our only non-spiritual sustenance was going to be kichel. Not cool at all.
He wanted to show me Amuka. Thankfully, I'd been there once, and heard enough about it from friends to fake my way through convincing him that I'd been there. So then he asked where else I'd been. I do birthright trips nearly three months a year, if it's touristy, I've been there. So I said, you name a place and I'll tell you if I've been there.
[i'm not sure what happened to the original post - i'm rewriting here...]
At some point, he figures out that I really don't need to go up north with him. And yet, there I am, still in the van with Rabbi S. and some kichel. And then, a divine lightbulb exploded in my head. "Rabbi S. - the friends that dropped me at the airport this morning are in Haifa. How about if I drive with you to Haifa, and I'll go back with them?"
Long story short, he agrees, and after finding a bathroom at the train station (think passwords and secret staircases to get there) I ultimately made my way to the new Haifa Hillel to meet Sarah and Esther to take the train back.