And what a home it was. The landscape is so lush and green you'd think you were teeing off rather than sleeping in (not that we slept in!). Palm fronds rustled in the evening breeze as we checked in and then were escorted to our suites. Yes, I said suites. Guest suites made up of living rooms with little dinette areas, a small kitchen, a nice double bedroom and a bath. At the entry way to each suite was a picnic/patio area. One could conceivably kick back and with friends and listen to the ripples and waves of The Sea of Galilee not more than a few yards away.
That evening we were dining at Decks. YES!!! DECKS!!!
So, why the excitement, you wonder. Well, I'll tell you. Everyone who travels to Israel has a favorite.
Favorite hotel ... kibbutz ... hostel. Favorite food.
My favorite site -- well, I'm torn between Tel Hazor and Ein Gedi. Favorite guide. That's easy. Miriam. Favorite moment -- which time? First time was when I fell in Tel Hazor. Second time was watching a Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall. Third time was a fleeting moment when I realized two of my dearest friends had experienced a healing from their emotional wounds.
Favorite hotel ... has to be Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Favorite kibbutz -- well, I'm torn there too. I love Ein Gedi. Nof Ginnosar, and Maagan. Each are unique in their own way. My favorite food in Israel is the pita bread with hummus. Hands down. You can't get it like that anywhere else. Not to mention the fruit. Fresh squeezed juices.
Favorite restaurant?? Decks, in Tiberias.
My first trip to Decks was in 2002 during my first visit to Israel. During my second trip, I insisted that we return. Miriam called ahead and told the owner, Vered, that I wanted to come back ... how much I'd enjoyed dining there. I expected that Miriam and I would dine quietly on the beyond delicious food. But instead, we were wined and dined and personally entertained by Vered and her wait staff. At one point, four of the servers came in and danced to We Are Standing On Holy Ground. (Okay, so this is my other big moment during my second visit.)
So, I couldn't wait to go back! I told everyone with me (and Joe concurred) that they would never have food like this ever again in their lives. (I bet they'd tell you I was right, too!)
And so we went. There was a possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu would be there, so security was tight. Pretty interesting having to answer intense questions just to go eat! (Turns out he was at the restaurant next door eating Chinese food!)
We were served by -- I am not kidding you -- the prettiest thing I've ever laid my eyes on. I'm talking one BEAUTIFUL Middle Eastern gal. There really are no words to describe her. The food was -- as always -- out of this world. I kept telling our group to pace themselves. "More is coming," I said.
And then more did.
The joy of my night came when the lights were dimmed. I stood. I knew (or at least I thought I knew) what was about to happen. Larry was standing now, too ... on the other side of the table. I motioned for him to come to where I was. I pointed out. Out over the sea to where fireworks were going off. Then, up to the outer porch came a boat, lined in tiny white lights. Men stood on the outside and -- in the utter darkness -- set off sparklers as, inside, a woman announced a welcome to Israel and to Decks.
Then she mentioned several folks who were special guests. This person. That group. Applause went up all around us. And then I heard my name. My name in Israel. As fireworks exploded and people applauded ... Israel was speaking my name. They were calling me "a friend."
I burst into tears. Larry wrapped his arm around my shoulder, then Joe came up and I sobbed, "I love this country so much!"
Someone took our picture ... then one of Joe, Miriam, and me.
It was a night I would never forget. Will never forget. I will never forget Israel. Her name is forever in my heart and on my tongue.
And now, they also know my name.