Impromptu spelunking, House shopping, and Falafel

I had been hearing about a cave for 2 years that was somewhere near Givat Eden in Zichron Yaacov. This cave was supposedly written about over 2,000 years ago in the Talmud and when I got an invite to check it out with a friend from work, I jumped at the opportunity. After work and before we left I had a few minutes to ask a Rabbi friend of mine what the actual pusach was and he quickly checked it out on his tachnun macshev (computer program) and told me it was in the Talmud (Ha Maiish I think). OK, so now I need to wait for my hevrusa (learning partner) to get back from the States to look it up at the Yeshiva (safe travels and be well Moshe) so that part of this tale will have to follow. What I do know is that when a very high ztadik (holy wise man) moved to the Olam Haba (world to come) his body was sometimes buried with a seed in his mouth which, as you can imagine, eventually sprouted into a tree from cracks in the ground and because of water erosion, opened a new cave that joined the cave below. This was evidently the case in this cave but since it was 2,000 years ago that the tree first grew there, the tree that I saw was in all probability a different one.

My Son Josh came too and we met up with my friend who brought two other friends as well. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing when we got there because he kept rummaging around in the van but eventually emerged with headlamps, hardhats, backpacks, and more. We loaded up and made our way past some concrete construction projects, down a path by some big fancy houses, and into the brush beyond. It was about a 5 minute walk to the hole in the ground with the tree growing out of it and beyond that a little ways down the hill we found the entrance to the cave. It was a smallish opening but once inside we walked about 40 meters back to a very large cavern. We traced the opening up to the tree and explored it a little before my friend the madrich (guide) slipped on a fake beard and broke into song! (Remember a blog a ways back that had the title ‘singing in the halls’ in it?) Well this was better. Thanks Phillip!

As far as house shopping, (bad segway, sorry) a few months ago Adele and I started looking for a house to buy in our quaint little town of Zichron Yaacov, Israel. We searched high and low with about 4 different real estate agents. It was a great way to learn, not only our way around town but, the way of the big deal and the hard sell as well. The first house that we loved so much that we brought the extended family to tromp through the same day, turned out that in the end the seller just wanted to see what he could get for it so he could start looking for something else himself. needless to say, we were crushed however we bounced back with a different real estate agent (they kind of grow on trees around here but not the kind from caves either) and found another house that was so great we, once again, brought the extended family to check it out. We all shuffled through about 3 separate times and in the end, due to a couple of minor things like the house wasn’t really legal because of some back alley deals that weren’t (as of yet) finalized and the minor issue of the backyard literally falling off and down the hill, we decided to pass.

We must have seen about 20 houses including one that would have been just fine if it was designed for one family instead of three, one that had maximized the lot so perfectly that it was literally impossible to actually live in, and one house that would have been great if only whoever built it wouldn’t have in the first place… ma la a sote, (what is there to do?) right? So we kept looking and eventually found a house that was, as our new real estate agent took every opportunity to tell us “meode yaffe!” (very beautiful)

At first Adele loved the house and I thought it was too expensive. Then Adele thought it was too expensive and we both agreed to look some more. We found houses that had amazing views of the mosquito ponds down the hill, houses that had whole apartments in the basement that were essentially illegal, and houses that were, you guessed it, better off not having been built at all. Eventually we came back to the overly expensive albeit meode yaffe house. And with some fancy foot work, Angels working around the clock, the tremendous help and advice from Adele’s family that we received, (thank you, thank you, thank you!!!) and many, many blessings from Hashem, (Baruch Hashem) we decided to move forward with the purchase.

So today we met with the lawyers and the sellers. In Israel there is no escrow. You just sign a contract (that was all in Hebrew that neither one of us could read) and give the lawyers and the owner very large checks. Sound simple? Ha ha ha… so we walk in to our appointment almost right on time (Adele almost ran out of gas on the way and stopped briefly to refill) and the owner’s lawyer was still haggling with our lawyer. We had time to get a bite to eat and checked out the new kosher pizza place down the street. (I love Israel!) when we got back they were just getting into the thick of it so we sat down to be joined shortly by the owner, his cablan (contractor), the real estate agent, and eventually the owners mother (I guess she really owned the house since in the end she did all the signing), but I am getting ahead of myself.

About halfway through our meeting, the energy began to rise. This is something we heard about and were fully prepared to just turn and walk away from the deal if need be. The cablan was yelling about how the house was perfect, the other lawyer was yelling about how he needed another installment of money before the end of the term of the month, and the owner was yelling about how he was giving us such a good deal and to just take it as is. Our lawyer was yelling too and Adele and I just mostly listened and tried to understand what was being said. They all left at one point and were yelling in the hall while smoking cigarettes and when they came back in, we were almost instantly all settled, made the necessary changes to the contract, and started passing around papers and forms to sign, at which point the other lawyer started getting really animated about some kind of amazing falafel in Ramat Gan or someplace. He was going on and on about how the line was an hour an a half long and went clear around the block. Everybody in the room seemed to have this little knowing smile on their faces like… yup, that is really the way you finish a deal in the Middle East… falafel… I guess someday I will get there. All I know is that both Adele and I left with a stomach ache from the combination of adrenaline and angst and were not in the mood for falafel. The last thing I heard was the real estate agent saying, “meode yaffe!” you know what? It is a meode yaffe house, we got a meode yaffe deal on it, and in time I think we will start to feel meode yaffe… really! Wish us baatstlacha! (Not luck, but success as referenced in a previous blog) We can save mazal tov until we actually move in, Baruch Hashem, sometime towards the end of next month.

Lahetraote kulam

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