When we moved to Israel, our daughters understood that when they finished high school they would be called upon to serve their country in some capacity or another. They understood it and they embraced it. This is a huge source of pride for my husband and myself. My oldest daughter has long since finished her National Service and I do believe she received as much as she gave.
My younger two daughters are still in the midst of their service; both of them chose to join the Israeli Defense Forces, with the older one being drafted into the Air Force and the younger into the army.
Being a soldier in the IDF does come with its challenges. Most jobs are not very glamorous; at the end of the day, these kids are kids. And they have to learn to deal with other kids of all different kinds of backgrounds, to deal with authority; and to face situations very unlike they have faced until now. Sometimes it gets to them.
When my daughter called from Tsfat (Safed), where she is stationed, to say she was freezing to death and unhappy with some other events, I felt the need to rearrange my and my husband’s schedule so we could pay her a middle-of-the-week visit.
A two and a half hour drive from our hometown, Tsfat is located in the Galilee mountains and is the highest city in Northern Israel. It is a city of breathtaking views, a mecca for artists and a known center of Kabbalah, or Jewish Mysticism.
We arrived bearing blankets filled with down and groceries, and noticed the difference in climate as soon as we opened the car door. The air was cold and crisp, with a biting wind cutting right through us. The blanket arrived just in time and our daughter was ever so appreciative.
To show her appreciation, she invited us to take her to dinner.
We were happy to oblige.
We were expecting a simple cafe, perhaps something like Greg or Landwer, but instead she took us to an old Tsfat structure. We entered a gate that opened up into a courtyard garden, probably better enjoyed during daylight hours.
When we entered the actual restaurant, I was immediately charmed. As the old wooden floorboards squeaked beneath our feet, we were greeted by a large stone fireplace and a fish tank with stone mermaids entertaining the fish. The walls of the eatery were covered with art, both quirky and serious. I particularly like the painting of Moses a la Charlton Heston. Isaac liked the paintings of babies. Turquoise and burgundy paint covered the walls, and there were nooks with couches and low tables, as well as bookshelves with assorted tchotchkes and knickknacks. And there was a small stage where there is an open mike and anyone can belt one out; I thought my daughter was going to have a heart attack when I told her I was going to sing.
This place is so captivating that the food could have been horrible, and I still would have told you to go to experience it.
But it wasn’t.
With a varied menu it was hard to decide what to order, but we were all happy with our choices. My husband had the chumus with fresh mushrooms. The chumus was so smooth, it look like wet pottery on a spinning wheel. Its creamy texture melted in our mouths, and then was followed by chunks of sauteed, earthy mushrooms. My daughter’s linguine alfredo was rich and velvety so much so that she could eat only half of it. My own shakshuka was covered in kusbara, which I love, and topped off with fresh basil, giving it a distinctly italian feel.
Dessert broke me.
After being [mostly] off sugar since late September, I just needed to have a taste of the caramel mousse covered in chocolate ganache and the crembo cake, with a flaky chocolate base, moist chocolate cake with a marshmellow filling, all covered in hard chocolate goodness.
Just a couple of small spoonfuls. Heaven.
It was just the right atmosphere for us to be brought up-to-date on what our daughter’s army experience has been like. She didn’t so much need advice, but rather needed a space to just talk, and to be heard.
It was a really good evening.
Cafe Michael does not have a hechsher. All its food is mehadrin kosher and they are closed on Shabbat. The owners feel they can provide better prices and service without the intervention of the rabbanut.
Our visit to Tsfat accomplished what it was supposed to. We provided our daughter with the warmth she needed–in every way. While it was hard to say good-bye, it felt good to be able to support her and show our love when she needed that extra TLC.
And she picked just the right place for that.
Cafe Michael is located 14 Jerusalem St., Tsfat. Phone number: 050-866-3872. Average price, which included a main dish, a cold drink, a hot drink per person, along with two luscious desserts was 74 shekel (about 19 dollars at today’s exchange rate).