In the center of the Golan heights is Katzrin, the city for all the smaller towns along the top border of Israel area, close to Syria and Lebanon, home of the Kinneret, the biggest natural water reserve in israel and arguably the most stunning part of israel.
With 2 Chabad shuls, a Sephardic shul and a kipa sruga central shul the lockdowns and new government restrictions have changed the game, many shuls-from-home have popped up due to the demand to daven in smaller groups, and for the 10K so residents of katzrin there is only one minyan that dose not require you to wear a mask to participate.
Meet Rabbi Orian, he has successfully led his Chabad shul for many years now in these parts, and is known as a man of peace, he has many children, 3 of which have been married off recently, his wife was the administrator of the new Chabad school which opened and ran for 2.5 years but sadly closed due to lack of funding and local political corruption and community organizer's incomitance.
Back to the topic at hand, the minyan is run out of the front yard of a private home, with an improvised bima, aron kodesh, shelves for siddurim, taleisim and chumashim, and a few tables in the yard some under a roof, other under the sky, many neighbors join in the davening from their houses yards nearby, kaddish for those who passed can be heard from the distant houses, as if the heavens pray for those who have gone.
Rabbi Orian leads the davening and reads the torah in a high and clear voice so the whole block can hear, greeting everyone with a huge smile and lots of respect.
But what is most impressive to me is, he will never tell anyone to wear a mask or vice versa, even though out of respect for those who think it is important - rabbi Orian wears a mask, he does not abuse his power to dictate his opinion on others, after davening a table is set on the side walk, Kiddush is made, lechayim is raised, herring, olives, crackers and the rest are put forth for a chasidisher farbrengen.
I cant help but tell my friend "the last documented time Jews needed to pray on private property like this was in communistic Russia"...
But the wrath and fear cannot overtake all, and in the midst of bad news i - and many others who have joined the minyan seeking freedom - have a place to daven like human beings - well in the street in the winter cold like dogs, but at least without a mask.
In general katzrin is special for it's natural integration of Frum and non Frum Jews as well as Russian and other ethnic groups, political noise and incitement on the news rarely and barley make a mark on katzrin, all get along and there is a resonating harmony in the air.
there are some successful business here, like the Golan distillery by David zibel which puts out quality alcohol products of many variants, whiskey, jinn, arak and much more. many people come to take tour of the factory and taste the great drinks made here in the Golan.
We cannot talk about Katzrin without mentioning Rabbi Erez which runs a chesed operation here, giving out and distributing huge amounts of food, clothing, and much more to all who are in need, this is a day to day oporation which takes the meaning of chesed to another level.
Let's stay positive in these trying times.
I'm happy i live here, and i wish upon the geula, the Sanhedrin, beis hamikdash, the palace for moshiach and the king moshiach in israel.
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katzrin, Golan heights, israel.