The following is a recent blog post I did for Chabad on Campus about an experience in Israel two years ago.
Anyone who’s spent a year in Israel knows the challenges of finding a host for Shabbat every week. One week I got hold of a phone number from a classmate, and I called them to request if they could host two friends and me for Shabbat. We were warned to bring casual clothes and sneakers, but nothing could have prepared us.
When we got there, our host showed us where we would be sleeping, which was, believe it or not, in a dusty old freight container, near the main house. We looked around, and finding ourselves surrounded by rugged wilderness with a donkey and a couple other trailers, began to panic. We tentatively ventured into our host’s main house, which was no bigger than a large shed, with a bathroom, bedroom, and a small main room for the kitchen and dining area. Fly tape graced the window above the kitchen sink.
As Shabbat arrived, it started raining, and we walked up the hill in the muck to the tiny shul, which didn’t have a minyan. During dinner we sat on thin Israeli mattresses on the floor in lieu of chairs.
The next day, we took a long, guided hike through the area, and saw the compost that neighbors created, as well as the lodgings that they had constructed with their bare hands.
We learned that originally, soldiers had camped out there, and the land turned into an outpost. It never took off as a city, but was still inhabited by a few close-knit families. Near there, Koby Mandell was brutally murdered by Palestinians. These families are committed to living out their lives there to maintain our land, despite the nearest grocery store being miles away. When my friends and I learned that, our perspectives reversed. They are our real heroes!