crocodile's eye

When we were having our three day break up North, we decided to spend a couple of hours at the Hamat HaGeder hot springs.

HERE‘s their official website, snippet below:


We went the day after the mini-hurricane up North, so I was hoping it would be pretty empty.

It wasn’t.

It was packed full of old people with health issues, a bunch of Arab ladies wading in in full jelabiya swimmies and headscarfs (honestly, good for them!) – and a smattering of IDF soldiers, many of whom were toting their machine guns around the place.

I was trying to figure out how you could visit the hot springs AND keep your weapon under your control the whole time…

I still don’t know.


Long story short, it was the least enjoyable part of our break – as well as being the most expensive.

We stayed for an hour (it would have been way less, but it was hard to get a turn under the hot spring ‘shower-thingy’, pretty much the only bit we liked about the place.)

And then we went to look at the crocodiles in the crocodile park, which was kinda cool, but also kinda of lame.

So, we blew the whole ‘shmirat eynayim’ thing for that?!


Back in the car, I realised how so much of what I think is going to be ‘fun’, and going to be ‘good’ is still affected by all the PR, manipulation and brainwashing I’ve experienced about what ‘a holiday’ is actually meant to be.

Not for the first time, I realised that the walk around Tsfat and watching the sun set over the ancient cemetery there; the evening spent playing my guitar as my husband tried to sing along (bless him…); the shakshuka I cooked for us both on the simple gas range; the good books I read, the visits to the kivrei tzaddikim, to the Rashbi- this is what really made me happy.

This is what really made me feel as though I’d had a holiday.

That I’d done something useful with myself and my time.


Then I thought about all those poor people in Hamat HaGader, for whom that place was meant to be ‘the pinnacle’ of their holiday experience.

Or the people who spend their time in Disney Lands, or ‘holiday resorts’, or jetting all over the place trying to grab on to ‘the next big thing’, the next ‘once in a lifetime experience’ – and how empty it actually all is.

It looks like heaven, but it feels like hell.


Back home, I opened up ‘A Bit More Advice’, and I got to this, No: 52:

You – and every one of us human beings – must know that all the pleasures of the world, all the honor and glory, and all the cravings in existence that were satisfied are, in reality, nothing.

None of them has any substance whatsoever. Because at the end, nothing of your pleasures remain….

Even if the bulk of your life is devoted to serving God, but you don’t quite succeed at it, know and never forget that the only true benefit in life is to constantly yearn and long to  live for the eternal purpose.

Even the yearning and longing for the ultimate truth is greatly precious and dear to God.

Truth is, the desire is the most important thing, especially if it leads to actually doing, whether Torah study, prayer or other good works….

The most important thing is that whatever good things you do, your intention should be for the sake of Heaven, without any bluffs.

Because that good is all that will remain of you for eternity.


I was talking to one of my family members in the US a couple of days ago.

She has a good job in hitech, her husband is a doctor.

They have two gorgeous kids, everyone is healthy, BH.

But, she told me that they are trying to stuff as much money as they can into their retirement plans, so they can retire as early as possible.

They both hate their jobs, even though their jobs pay pretty well.

And even though they both have good jobs, they are still struggling with the cost of living in the US, and can’t see any way of being able to buy their own home, without totally moving out of ‘the big city’ – something they can’t really do, and find the sorts of Jewish schools they currently want for their kids.

I thought of Rabbenu’s words above, and how so many of us are trapped running after things and jobs that don’t even fill us up, and make us feel ‘happy’.


[A]ll the pleasures of the world, all the honor and glory, and all the cravings in existence that were satisfied are, in reality, nothing.


We live in this world where appearances are totally deceptive.

If you ever go to the prayers down by the Rav on Ido HaNavi Street, you’ll be struck by just how shabby and kind of filthy the area looks.

There’s very little money in the community, as every penny is still being squeezed out of the kehilla to pay the astronomical fine landed on the Rav, for the crime of daring to give blessings to sick people.

A lot of people stand the whole hour, because there are not enough plastic chairs for everyone.

Externally, the whole scene kind of looks bonkers.

And yet, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been down there, and I’ve arrived feeling ‘constricted’, anxious, angry, upset – and left feeling so, so much better.

The appearance is the exact opposite of the real, felt experience.


So, unless you really like the smell of sulphur and hanging out with a bunch of elderly Arab men with massive stomachs, Hamat HaGader may not be your ideal holiday destination.

In this upside-down world, you find the real ‘diamonds’ precisely in the trash.

And those spiritual gems stay with you forever.


You might also like this article:

3 replies
  1. Jeremy M
    Jeremy M says:

    Glad to say I turned down the “opportunity” to visit Chamat Gader recently…based on what you write, I didn’t miss much.

  2. Simon
    Simon says:

    I have a rabbi Berland miracle story:
    I have been looking over the past several days on how to ask advice from the rabbi, emailing and phone-calling, and tonight I went out with five dollars to give to charity. I ended giving them to homeless people (plentiful like dirt here in Los Angeles), and on the way back, I saw two men — in the valley in Los Angeles — and one was holding a bag from an organization “Banim” (it turned out it was a childrens’ store in Israel with no connection with Shuvu Banim, another miracle that I interpreted it as Shuvu Banim), and I walked up to them, and they turned out to actually be students of the rabbi traveling to LA for a week!!
    Blessed is God for all his awesome signs and wonders!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.