You wind down through olive trees and end up parked outside a small fenced in garden. You walk through vine rows and end up at a small, one room house, where a jovial family greets you, the hippie father wearing his kippah, various children milling around, the wife giving you a hug and a kiss. The family with ten children live in this one room stone house, where there is no furniture, and there is plastic sheeting covering the windows. Today it is very warm, so the stove is not going.
The candles have already been lit, the sun has set and now no fire will be made until sundown on the following day. No electricity is used on Shabbat. You are waiting for some more friends to arrive so that you can begin the Shabbat celebration. Four of the children arrive, having walked from synagogue.
The father begins to welcome in the day of rest, the day mandated for Israel in the Bible, and he begins with sung prayers. He squats in the light of one of the candles with his book open. His voice rises and falls as the candles flicker against the walls. Everyone around the room sits on the floor and lets the Hebrew prayers wash over them, occasionally joining in. The kids rest on the laps of their mother or sisters and brothers.
The wine is passed around, and the father lays his hand on each of his children's heads, blessing them. Then the bread is dipped in salt and broken off. The teenage son rushes to pick up pieces of bread and pass them to people around the room. The song becomes joyful and light, with clapping. You are welcoming the Shabbat as the groom welcomes the bride.
Now the food is set out. Everyone fills their plates with food and eats. After you are almost full, you are informed that more is coming, a Yemeni traditional Shabbos food, a baked dense pastry bread which is dipped in tomato sauce and then spicy sauce. Everyone becomes full, and you drink tea as your children fall asleep on your lap and on the cushions on the floor. The teenage son reclines on his father as you sit and talk about beautiful things, about scripture, about the ancient Jewish tradition, about the Messiah.
The family switches back and forth from English to Hebrew- Hebrew when they need to communicate a thought very quickly to each other.
Before the night is over, more children are sleeping on whatever they can find. You pray together in Hebrew and English, your small son is now curled up against the back of the teenage boy, who has also fallen asleep. Everyone picks up one of your children, and you make your way through the dark, through the vineyards, under the stars to the olive trees where your rental car is parked. The sound of it starting is loud and strange, and you drive out through the night on very quiet streets, around the Sea of Galilee to your temporary home, the car heavy with sleep.